A comfortable win which in the end saw Arsenal claim three points in the opening group game. The scoreline flatters Vorskla thanks to two late goals – one so late in the game that there was momentary confusion over whether it stood – which wrecked the first clean sheet of the season we were cruising toward.
The headlines point to Aubameyang’s brace, with the second goal straight out of the Thierry Henry playbook in its’ graceful curled finish. Mesut Özil capped off the evening with his second goal in two games. Even dear old Danny Welbeck nodded home; it was that kind of evening.
Debuts for Bernd Leno and Lucas Torreira sated the desire to see £50m of talent from the kick-off; are we any the wiser on their value to their value to the squad?
In the Uruguayan’s case, the answer is yes. Torreira dictated play, recycling possession efficiently. He found a nice range in passing and a quick-thinking free-kick which found the side-netting remains a highlight. Not as much as trying to tackle with his head though. The added benefit of irking Robbie Savage and Chris Sutton makes him the first name on the teamsheet as far I am concerned.
Leno? It’s hard to judge given the lack of involvement in the game. His distribution was no better nor worse than Cech but his decision-making was better. Under pressure, the ball went long; no messing around on the edge of the area or unnecessary corners conceded. A positive.
Vorsalka’s two goals were self-inflicted to varying degrees. The first resulted from possession gifted to the visitors while the second was the inability to close out the game without fuss. Struck from similar positions, I don’t think Leno could stop either with the power beating him.
It’s All Greek To Me
Emery refused to blame Leno for either goal as well. “I think that we conceded two goals,” the Spaniard observed, “but not for a mistake [from him].”
It’s not enough to usurp Cech at the moment and I doubt that will happen before the end of the group stage of this competition. Unai noted Leno needs “minutes” so he’ll feature against Brentford as well.
The Man of the Match were I to award one would belong this morning to Sokratis. A pre-assist – yes, it’s a thing now – for Özil’s goal topped off the performance. After a slow start, he wasted no time in taking command of the back four to the point where at Newcastle and last night, he was the best defender on the pitch. And for a big old unit, he moves deceptively quickly.
Aubameyang’s opening goal was the spark of life the game needed. Vorskla pushed forward and were punished by on the counter-attack. The passing was slick and movement quick; Arsenal at their best. It was one of those nights where the first goal signalled the unlocking of the floodgates. Three more duly followed.
Welbeck capped a good passage of play with a header from close range while Özil volleyed off the sole of his boot; 4 – 0, thank you very much. In ‘old money’, the tie was over. At 4 – 2, the second goal meant a tricky affair in the return game in Kyiv. As a group match, the scoreline means little. It might count toward goal difference but realistically, we’d expect to win the group on points.
It was the sort of performance Emery wanted from the fringe players; staking a claim for a first XI place. Alex Iwobi was bright and inventive on the left while Mkhitaryan as well provided food for thought.
It’s Only Natural
A half-full Emirates reflects the four home games in a short space of time but also that group stages are tedious. European football isn’t all about Real Madrid or Bayern all the time but there’s more frisson knowing the team is establishing a lead it must defend in the next game. Five more group games to put it right? Fine when it goes wrong, routine for the remainder. The tension of a cup-tie is missing and that can’t be contrived by UEFA.
That isn’t a situation which will change any time soon, despite crowds around last night’s match showing significant numbers of empty seats.
And is irrelevant to Arsenal, for the moment. There was plenty of good food for the boss’ thoughts ahead of the visit of Everton. I don’t expect radical changes but some in the starting line-up, particularly in the centre of midfield, can’t be sure of their spot any longer.
My guess is that Guendouzi is the one to lose out. Last night was by no means definitive but Torreira brings balance to the side we desperately need. But really, we knew that already. I do think, however, Aaron Ramsey needs to be wondering if he is playing on Sunday. We looked better with more ‘natural’ wide players than the Welshman who, on the right, is a ‘square peg’ solution.
A win and plenty to think about for Unai Emery. The sort of evening he’d have wished for.