Arsenal kicked off their European campaign with an impressive away display against last year’s semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt, as the Gunners’ youngsters stole the show. 18-year-old winger Bukayo Saka scored an excellent effort from long-range while creating both assists too.
Just days after relinquishing a two-goal lead against Watford in the Premier League, Unai Emery’s side responded to start their Europa League journey with a commendable victory against tricky opposition.
They could have easily found themselves two or three goals down before half-time, though second-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez thrived under pressure and was regularly forced into action to keep his clean sheet intact.
He denied winger Filip Kostic and Andre Silva among others, while €7m signing Bas Dost missed a handful of promising close-range chances. Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers were among the Gunners backline, making their first and second respective starts of 2019/20.
Despite heavy criticism being levelled at the pair, namely Mustafi in recent seasons, they delivered commendable displays here. The fact that neither have featured in games where Arsenal themselves were defensively exposed this term proves their forgettable performances are often exaggerated – even during troublesome times.
Case in point? Ultimate scapegoat Granit Xhaka’s display here, quietly effective and didn’t waver throughout, despite being unfortunate to hit the crossbar after letting fly with a swerving free-kick in the second-half. Emile Smith-Rowe threatened and probably should’ve scored too, before the scoring was finally opened.
Joe Willock did the honours moments after a mazy Saka run set him up on the edge of the area, where he cut inside and watched a deflected strike cannon in off the crossbar – leaving Kevin Trapp helpless. Although that finish was scruffy, there was no questioning the quality on Saka’s effort to double their lead from distance.
The hosts were depleted and found themselves a man down after Dominik Kohr’s dismissal ten minutes from time. Arsenal naturally went on the hunt for further goals, with Saka again at the forefront: teeing up Aubameyang, having won the ball in Frankfurt’s half as XXX dithered in possession.
Despite previously missing chances, top goalscorer Auba was unlikely to squander yet another golden opportunity to add to his ever-increasing tally. He now has six goals in as many games to start the campaign and despite their defensive woes, remains an ever-present attacking figure with strike partner Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) recovering from the sidelines.
Arsenal host Dean Smith’s Aston Villa side in one of four Premier League games on Sunday, hoping to return to winning ways in England’s top-flight. Two successive draws and a frustrating defeat by European champions Liverpool mean Unai Emery’s men haven’t recorded a league victory since their 2-0 win over Burnley in mid-August, which was seen as Dani Ceballos’ breakthrough game. He and his teammates haven’t exactly shone since then.
Villa meanwhile, were held to a goalless draw against ten-man West Ham in Monday’s featured fixture on Sky. They’ve only won once in their five matches to date and considering their newly-promoted status, will take great encouragement from the fact they’ll be travelling to face a vulnerable yet unpredictable Arsenal side.
Frankfurt meanwhile don’t have long to lick their wounds and recover. They host Borussia Dortmund on Sunday, after BVB’s goalless Champions League draw against Barcelona in midweek.
Despite their campaign starting in mid-July for Europa League qualifiers, Frankfurt must improve conversion rate from chances created. They’ve scored as many as they’ve conceded after four Bundesliga outings (5) this term and the evidence was crystal clear against Arsenal too.