Arsenal opened their Europa League account with a thorough win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, with Bukayo Saka proving his mettle.
Arsenal’s two games prior to Thursday had different auras as against Tottenham, they provided a fightback, but squandered a sizable lead in the next against Watford. The Gunners did get back to winning ways after all with a convincing display against Eintracht Frankfurt. One thing is clear from this victory. If Arsenal are cohesive, they create plenty of chances and are a real threat.
And they were very much the cohesive side on the pitch, barring the first 20 minutes, when they were put to the test by Frankfurt. During that period, the Gunners looked vulnerable but rallied on to take the lead through Joe Willock. The second half was much more convincing from Arsenal as they took advantage of a Dominik Kohr’s dismissal to score two late goals.
Bukayo Saka scored from distance in what was a terrific effort, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rounded off the win when he slotted past Kevin Trapp late on. In all, manager Unai Emery will be a happy man after his side’s display. Here’s how Arsenal’s players fared against Eintracht Frankfurt in their Europa League opener.
Emiliano Martinez: 8/10
Emi Martínez made more saves (7) whilst keeping a clean sheet than any other player in the Europa League during Matchday one.
A big display from the Arsenal goalkeeper. 👏 pic.twitter.com/wRkOCHjQjJ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 19, 2019
The clean sheet is the most crucial part of Arsenal’s defence on the evening, and Emiliano Martinez had a significant role to play in achieving it. Made some excellent saves in the first half, especially late on, when he saved a low drive on the right side. Such a promising performance shows why Emery chose him as the deputy goalkeeper this season instead of buying a new one.
Calum Chambers: 5.5/10
First of all, Chambers’s performance is proof he no longer can operate at right-back as he once could. Secondly, his display in the first half and for most parts of the game was poor. His showing only improved when he was offered considerable support on his side while defending. He did improve in the last 15 minutes or so, especially when he teed up Aubameyang twice.
Shkodran Mustafi: 6/10
Better performance than usual, although there were the general positional problems right from the early periods. However, while his defensive duties were executed decently, Mustafi struggled to build up play from the back. But, he did not harm his chances further as Emery will be encouraged by what he saw of the German.
David Luiz: 5/10
Luiz’s good passing throughout the game certainly helped Arsenal. But, it also managed to cover his erratic defensive display. Bas Dost got the best of Luiz during the first half, but the Brazilian improved in the second period, when Arsenal were more in control of the game. No glaring error from the veteran on the day, a huge positive.
Sead Kolasinac: 6/10
A quieter game by his standards, as he did not do much on either end of the pitch. Interestingly, in the last few games, he has found it challenging to hold the ball when moving forward. It could be because in those games, Arsenal tried to progress mostly from the right side, thus offering Kolasinac far less support from the attackers than he’d like.
Lucas Torreira: 7.5/10
Torreira was extremely busy in the middle, running around, pressing and doing what he does best by being a menace for the opposition. Barring a mistake in the first half, Torreira had an excellent game. Emery will be hoping performances like these would continue from the Uruguayan, with the Arsenal manager still looking to make a fixed call on his preferred midfield players.
Granit Xhaka: 7/10
During the first 30 minutes or so, Xhaka got targeted by Frankfurt, and he deservedly got outclassed. But when he got the opportunity to dictate play from deep, the Swiss was fantastic. Additionally, other aspects of his game, such as breaking up play and not getting overrun, also improved drastically. Is this the solution for Xhaka to play in a better way?
Joe Willock: 8/10
A performance like this was due from Willock. Despite struggling early on, he grew considerably to dictate the attacking play. Scored the opener and then at one point set up Aubameyang beautifully. His display certainly makes him a contender to be a regular in the Arsenal first-team setup and he looks like a guaranteed starter in the Europa League lineup for the next few games at least.
Emile Smith Rowe: 5/10
Decent, but not impactful enough. Blame it on the injury that caused him to miss out for the most part last season since December, although there were signs he might be coming to his usual self. Some nice touches, but he would like to influence proceedings better going forward.
Bukayo Saka: 8/10
One goal and two assists for the youngster, in what was a brilliant performance. Of course, there is plenty for Saka to learn to be able to play expertly on the wings. However, his confidence would have been boosted by the goal he scored, where he could have instead passed the ball back to Pepe. There looks like only one way for Saka, up.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 7.5/10
Aubameyang, in the absence of other, regular forwards, took on the mantle of being the leader in Arsenal’s attack. Caught the eye once again as the lone striker, and the goal was just the right reward for all his hard work.
Nicolas Pepe: 6/10
Good play on the wings, but Pepe still has to adapt correctly to bring his A-game for Arsenal. In the end, he did get the assist for Saka’s goal.
Dani Ceballos: 6/10
Ceballos won a lot of balls, but did not make much of an impact to be appropriately rated.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: N/A
Did not play enough to be rated