Mikel Arteta hails youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka as a ‘joy to watch’ after they played a starring role in Arsenal’s drubbing of Slavia Prague to reach Europa League semi-finals
- Arsenal thrashed Slavia Prague to reach the Europa League semi-finals
- Mikel Arteta reserved special praise for his youngsters after the big win
- Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe were singled out for their displays by Arteta
- Nicolas Pepe, Saka and a brace from Alexandre Lacazette sealed the 4-0 win
Mikel Arteta labelled his youngsters a ‘joy to watch’ as Arsenal put Slavia Prague to the sword to reach the Europa League semi-finals for the third time in four years.
Academy graduates Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka both starred for the Gunners as they shocked the hosts with a fine first-half display, hitting three goals in six minutes en route to a 4-0 win on the night.
Smith Rowe had a goal ruled out by VAR for offside before Nicolas Pepe opened the scoring, Alexandre Lacazette then converting a penalty after Saka was fouled before the England international added the third himself.
Mikel Arteta reserved special praise for his younger players after Arsenal beat Slavia Prague
Bukayo Saka was one of Arsenal’s standout performers and scored their third on the night
Lacazette would strike again in a more timid second half to see Arsenal through 5-1 on aggregate and into a last-four clash with former head coach Unai Emery and his Villarreal side.
It was Emery who gave both Smith Rowe and Saka their senior debuts for Arsenal during his 18-month reign at the club as Arsene Wenger’s successor.
The pair have now gone on to become important parts of Arteta’s squad and the Spaniard was delighted with their performances.
‘For me it is a joy to watch them play, to watch them every day in training,’ Arteta said when asked about the performances of Saka and Smith Rowe.
Arteta was also particularly pleased with how well Emile Smith Rowe played on Thursday night
‘How they behave, the passion and the commitment they have for the club. And then how much they like to play football.
‘You have to let them express themselves, and give them certain frameworks to work in and some ideas on how they can exploit their qualities. Then it is up to them and I thought both of them were really good today.
‘Credit to (all) the players, for how they approached the game and how brave they were in their approach.
‘We were brave, we were efficient, we put them under a lot of pressure. And in the final third we were really clinical.
‘We know how important the competition is.’
Nicolas Pepe got Arsenal on their way by scoring the opening goal after just 18 minutes
Alexandre Lacazette scored either side of Saka’s goal to complete the rout in the Czech capital
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