Arsenal finished their Europa League group stage campaign on a high after a narrow yet convincing victory over already-eliminated Qarabag in London.
Arsenal entered into matchday six already on top of their group and facing the already eliminated Qarabag at London. The Gunners, through a first-half strike from Alexandre Lacazette, sealed all three points and extended their incredible unbeaten run of games in all competition to 22.
Arsenal started with a host of young players, excluding Emile Smith-Rowe who was reportedly injured in training with a groin problem. Alongside those youngsters, club captain Laurent Koscielny made his first appearance for the club since rupturing his achilles back in April and was joined by seniors Sokratis, Elneny, Lacazette and the returning Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal started in typical fashion and were, for most parts dominating the game and spreading their attack through various outlets from across different areas of the pitch. A small error from Qarabag ensured Mesut Ozil lay the ball for Lacazette to score in the first half, in what would eventually be the match winner for Arsenal.
Here’s how Arsenal’s players rated against Qarabag.
Emiliano Martinez – 6
A decent display from Martinez who was only afforded a start for the game was meaningless on many fronts. Had practically nothing to do all game, but flapped one Qarabag corner. Otherwise was ok and also good with the ball at his feet.
Carl Jenkinson – 6
Jenkinson, when afforded a start this season has performed decently. Against Qarabag, he was a good outlet from the right side, as he had little to no defending to all game. Although his runs were with some power and purpose, his delivery into the box was equally poor.
Sokratis – 7
Sokratis was the bedrock of the Arsenal defence which had a near perfect game. He made the necessary tackles, interceptions and was always standing like a wall whenever Qarabag chose to attack.
Laurent Koscielny – 7
It’s always good to see the old guard back, and Arsenal fans would be happy with what they saw from the 72 minutes he was on the pitch. Like the entire defence, Koscielny only had some mopping up work on his hands as Qarabag failed to threaten his defence all game long.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 7
The Qarabag game simply showed Maitland-Niles is ready for senior action, with a good performance. His injury problems have seen him sidelined for this long, but he showed great versatility in the left back and right wing position which he played in the second half.
Mohamed Elneny – 7.5
Elneny might not have played a single minute of Premier League action this season, but he has always been on hand to bring his experience to the Europa League. His rhythmic passing and ability to keep the tempo of the game intact led to Arsenal having more attacking moves in front of him. Good match from Elneny.
Joe Willock – 6
Although it would be harsh on the youngster to be criticised on only his second full start for the club, Willock showed plenty of inconsistency in his game. At times his passing, vision, and touches on the ball showcased his talents, but his overall game needs to improve if he is to dream of having a career here.
Bukayo Saka – 8
A terrific performance from the youngster on his debut. Early on in the game, one could see his nervousness, but soon as he grew into the game, he showed his real essence, taking on players, making some nice runs. Could have capped off his performance with a goal too, but his lack of composure in front ensured he missed a sitter.
Eddie Nketiah – 6
The talent is there for sure, but he needs to impose himself more in games like these where the chance is there to impress. Scored in the second half but was disallowed for offside, but otherwise had a decent yet unproductive performance.
Mesut Ozil – 7
One expects Ozil to rip open games like these, but he didn’t. That is not to say he did not have an influence on it at all. Provided the assist for the only goal of the game, but the good news is that he is back in the side.
Alexandre Lacazette – 7
It was not the most energetic of performances, but there was no need for that in the first place. Either way, Lacazette scored the only goal of the game and rather difficult one, with his back at goal at first. He should be happy to have added to his goals for the season so far.
Zak Medley – N/A
Not enough to get a rating but did have a few nice touches during his time on the pitch.
Nacho Monreal – N/A
Like all substitutes, there was nothing to play for, and Monreal’s contribution was merely to keep the defence intact, which he did.
Charlie Gilmour – N/A
Only for the last few minutes of the game to have any impact at all.