Mikel Arteta labelled his youngsters a ‘joy to watch’ as Arsenal thrashed Slavia Prague to reach the Europa League semis for the third time in four years.
Mikel Arteta was left impressed with his side’s display against Slavia Prague, but especially singled out the duo of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
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.
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.
Saka and Smith Rowe have grown to be key figures in the Arsenal squad under Mikel Arteta and the Spaniard did not hold back in heaping praise on them.
“For me, it’s a joy to watch them play and to watch them every day in training” he said as per the club’s website.
“How they behave, the passion and the commitment they have for the club and how much they love to play football.
“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 today.”
Arteta added: “Players have to make each other better. That’s a big quality. Then you need somebody at the back to make those players better and get the surroundings, the collective understanding, the way it should be.”
“The same happened with the backline. Today we looked really solid and I don’t think we conceded a shot on target. That’s maybe because of a little bit of continuity or a little bit of help in these understanding moments.”