Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe create ‘magic’ for Arsenal as Mikel Arteta marvels

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Simon Collings
·3-min read
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 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Mikel Arteta asked his Arsenal players to create "magic moments" against Slavia Prague and, in the end, it was Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe who had the Czech side under their spell.

The youngsters stole the show during Arsenal's 4-0 win last night, which set up a semi-final showdown with Villarreal and their old boss, Unai Emery.

It was probably Arsenal's best display of the season, with a number of players catching the eye. Alexandre Lacazette scored twice after Nicolas Pepe had opened the scoring.

Calum Chambers excelled at right-back and Thomas Partey ran the midfield, but it was Saka and Smith Rowe who were at the heart of the win.

Smith Rowe was majestic as the No10 and he bounced back from having a goal ruled out for offside by setting up Pepe for the opener after nutmegging two defenders. Saka was equally impressive, scoring Arsenal's third in the 24th minute and tormenting Slavia left-back Jan Boril so much that he was hooked at half-time.

"For me, it's a joy to watch them play and to watch them every day in training," said Arteta, when discussing the performances of Saka and Smith Rowe. "How they behave, the passion and the commitment they have for the club and how much they love to play.

"You have to let them express themselves and you have to give them certain room to work, and some ideas of how they can exploit their qualities. Then it's up to them. I thought both of them were really good."

Seeing Saka and Smith Rowe shining in a fine Arsenal display is nothing new, but seeing them do it on a stage this big was unprecedented.

The stakes going into last night's game could not have been higher for Arsenal, who trailed on away goals after drawing the first leg at Emirates Stadium 1-1 last week. Until last night, Slavia had not lost at home all season and Arsenal were staring down the barrel of not playing European football for the first time since the 1995/96 season.

"I think we showed real character," said Saka. "We did it for all the fans. They all deserve it for all the support that they give us. It was fantastic from start to finish."

EPA
EPA

It has been said before this season how Arsenal's blueprint for the future must be trusting in youth and this win only reinforced that point.

Saka is just 19, with Smith Rowe one year older, but they are already leading the side and playing in a manner that is way beyond their years.

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown summed it up best when discussing the pair on BT Sport, saying: "They're the present and the future."

After last night's win kept alive Arsenal's dream of winning the Europa League to qualify for next season's Champions League, both the present and future look bright right now.

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