Arsenal collected all three points at Qarabag in the Europa League, courtesy of a hattrick of debut goals from Sokratis, Guendouzi and Smith Rowe.
Arsenal recorded their eighth consecutive win in all competitions, at this time they downed Qarabag in Azerbaijan during their Europa League group stage clash. The win ensures Arsenal sit on top of their group with complete control having collected six points from a possible six. This win also gives them a comfortable cushion heading into the doubleheader with Sporting Lisbon.
Unai Emery made many changes to the side, starting Emile Smith Rowe, Matteo Guendouzi and for the first time this season, Sead Kolasinac. Sokratis gave Arsenal an early lead under four minutes of the starting whistle, although Qarabag held their ground and took the game to the Gunners to finish the half 1-0. The home side did create dangerous moments and tested Bernd Leno plenty of times, but the German stood his ground.
In the second half, Arsenal doubled their lead as Emile Smith Rowe scored the first goal of his senior career as well as that for the club. Emery made his substitutions to control the game better than the first period. His changes got rewarded as Arsenal scored a third through Matteo Guendouzi, who like Smith Rowe scored his first senior goal.
How did Arsenal’s stars rated against Qarabag?
Bernd Leno – 7
A good day on the field for Leno as the German saved several shots. Barring a good stop late in the second half and one in the first, all other shots that Leno faced were within the normal range for a goalkeeper, and credit to him he did very well. Additionally, he looked very comfortable with the ball at his feet and overall did not make any hasty decisions and cleared the ball whenever necessary.
Sokratis – 7.5
A brilliant performance from Sokratis who is growing into his role at the heart of Arsenal’s defence. He scored his first goal for the club, opening the scoring around the 4th minute. The goal aside, Sokratis showed some fast-paced skills he has in his locker, as well as great awareness to stop potentially threatening attacks, that could have resulted in Qarabag goals.
Rob Holding – 5
Holding showed two sides to his game in two halves when Arsenal played with two different formations. In the first half, when playing as a wide centre-half in a back three, he found it difficult to adjust to the positions, defend both central and wide areas.
In the second half, when Arsenal reverted to a back four, he was comfortable again, defending well. The low rating is due to his poor first-half performance and a lack of versatility in his position.
Nacho Monreal – 7
Holding could take a book from Monreal’s book on how to play as a wide centre-half. Monreal was by far the best defender in the first half, defending the central and wide areas with perfect judgement. Moreover, he won three aerial duels, completed 100% of his tackles and marshalled the space between fullback and centre-back nicely.
Stephan Lichesteiner – 5.5
Qarabag chose Lichtsteiner’s side as their preferred channel to attack Arsenal. Mostly due to a lack of support much support from Holding and Emile Smith Rowe on his side, Lichtsteiner was under too much pressure from the opposition attackers. Additionally, his experience did not show on the pitch, although he was decent enough in his overall role.
Sead Kolasinac – 7
He straight away showed the kind of a player he can be when it came to final third deliveries and had created a chance in the opening four minutes. Later in the game made some marauding runs into the box to create more opportunities.
However, there are still many vulnerabilities in his defensive game. Additionally, he showed his fitness levels by playing 90 minutes despite only returning from two months long injury lay off.
Matteo Guendouzi – 6.5
As a midfielder, he failed to control the central areas, possibly due to his more conservative, defensive approach. Guendouzi was very good in possession, but there were some moments where his decision making was questionable. However, he did get Arsenal’s third goal of the game and his first of his senior career.
Mohamed Elneny – 5
Failed to provide much protection to his defence, which led to many attacks on the Arsenal goal. Overall he struggled to control the game, especially the midfield area which was his task alongside Guendouzi.
Emile Smith Rowe – 6
Smith Rowe had a decent performance, which could be divided into two halves. In the first, he was nervous and hesitant, missing two good chances. However, he redeemed himself with good performance in the second period, which also saw him score his first senior career goal, a neat finish from an Iwobi pass.
Alex Iwobi – 8
Iwobi continues to grow in stature with another brilliant performance. Provided the assist for Smith Rowe’s goal, but his overall game is what we are talking about. Good link-up play with Kolasinac as well as his control and confidence made him Arsenal’s primary attacker. A good match that warrants a start down the left side for Arsenal.
Danny Welbeck – 6
Worked hard all night, although failed to take some of the chances offered to him. It was a good chance for him to continue his scoring run, especially an opportunity created by Lacazette late in the game, which he shot over.
Lucas Torreira – 6.5
His introduction brought more control in midfield and was a tremendous tactical shift, which prevented many chances for Qarabag, something Arsenal’s midfield was missing in the first half.
Mesut Ozil – 5
Not a good outing for Ozil, who came in and gave the ball away many times. However, it was his calmness in possession that gave more time to create good chances. Overall decent, but needs improvements.
Alexandre Lacazette – 6
As soon as he came on, Arsenal’s attacking dimensions changed utterly. Held the ball up well, as well as created few chances for his teammates, especially late on for Welbeck to score, but the England international failed. Got a deserved assist for Guendouzi’s debut goal.