Arsenal will be looking to get themselves back on track when they face Slavia Prague in the first-leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final clash at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday evening.
The Gunners, who edged past Olympiacos in the last round, saw their winless run extended to three matches on Saturday evening as they were defeated 3-0 by Liverpool.
Second half goals from Diogo Jota (2) and Mohamed Salah sealed all three points for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who barely had to get out of first gear to record a vital away victory.
Whilst it was a morale-boosting result for Liverpool, it was a night to forget for manager Mikel Arteta, who watched his side produce a lacklustre performance over the course of the 90 minutes.
However, what is done, is done. Arsenal must now prepare themselves to take on a Prague side who knocked Leicester City out of the Europa League in the last round, meaning the Czech Republic outfit are no pushovers and are well capable of competing with the very best that the Europa League has to offer.
With that in mind, Arteta could be left with a very difficult set of decisions to make in regards to his starting line-up. He may be keen, taking into account Prague’s pervious exploits, to stick with his tried and tested players, or opt to hand opportunities to those who have not played as much football as they would have liked this season.
Should the Spaniard, who has seen his side edge past both Benfica and Olympiacos in the in the knockout stages of this season’s competition so far, opt for the latter, it could mean a return to the starting line-up for highly rated Brazilian ace Gabriel Martinelli.
The youngster, who joined the Gunners in July 2019, has been restricted to just 11 appearances in all competitions this term because of a mixture of injury issues and generally being out-of-favour. But after stepping off the bench in each of the Gunners’ last three matches, the Brazilian could be in with a strong chance of nailing a starting berth against Prague.
And if his efforts in training at London Colney are anything to go by, he may get that chance.
In footage uploaded to Arsenal’s YouTube channel, the Gunners have offered supporters an insight into what has been happening on the training pitch ahead of Thursday’s first-leg. The video showed various drills that Arteta’s players were put through, including no shortage of shooting practice.
In one clip, Martinelli produced some silky skill and technique to show off his talents and leave Bernd Leno scratching his head as to what he had just become a victim of.
The Brazilian, participating in some one-on-one drills, took two touches of the ball to get into the penalty area and up close to Leno before jinking one way and then another, putting the German on his backside and then stroking the ball into an empty net.
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As Martinelli put the ball in the net, Leno sat up and donned a wry smile, almost in disbelief to the audacious piece of skill the Brazilian attacker had just crafted.
Whilst producing similar sorts of pieces of skill on the pitch is a lot harder to do than on the pitch, Martinelli will feel that he has done his fair share of hard work to cement himself in Arteta’s selection plans ahead of the tussle with Prague.
The 20-year-old has not started a match since January 30 against Manchester United, meaning he will be desperate to rediscover that feeling on Thursday evening.