Arsenal ended their Europa League group campaign with a comfortable 1-0 victory over Qarabag thanks to Alexandre Lacazette’s solitary goal, extending their unbeaten run to 22 matches in all competitions.
In front of a sparse crowd of just over 21,000 at the Emirates, the already qualified Gunners were largely untroubled against their opponents, who bowed out of the competition having lost five of their six fixtures.
It took until midway through the second half for Emery’s outfit to threaten with purpose, with 17-year-old Bukayo Saka inches away from making history as Arsenal’s youngest ever European goalscorer.
Moments after, the Gunners thought they’d double their lead through Eddie Nketiah – only for his effort to be ruled off for offside.
Key Talking Point
Given the permutations beforehand and quality of opposition, the match didn’t teach us anything new regarding Arsenal’s youngsters, who couldn’t have envisaged a more straight forward victory.
Instead, much of the focus was on Laurent Koscielny’s much anticipated comeback after a cruel seven month injury lay-off.
Assured in the heart of the Gunners defence, the Frenchman and his teammates were rarely troubled against a beleaguered outfit, who were brushed aside 6-1 by Sporting on matchday 5.
While rare Qarabag attacks were largely thwarted by the impressive Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Koscielny would have been relieved to have come through unscathed – eventually replaced by Matteo Guendouzi.
Starting XI: Martinez (6) Jenkinson (6), Sokratis (6), Koscielny (6) Maitland-Niles (8*), Elneny (6), Willock (6), Saka (6), Ozil (6), Lacazette (7), Nketiah (7).
Substitutes: Medley (5), Monreal (5), Gilmour (5), Guendouzi (6).
STAR MAN –
Despite a quiet opening, he was moved to the right-wing where the 21-year-old grew into the game and caused defender Wilde-Donald Guerrier several problems in the second-half.
Displaying an abundance of energy, pace and enthusiasm, Maitland-Niles was his side’s shining light in an otherwise average team performance.
Saka is this wavy and he’s only 17. Maitland-Niles looking more influential as he moved further up the pitch. Nketiah looking sharp. Willock putting in a composed performance. Medley with an impressive cameo.
Future is looking bright⚪
— Kenshiro (@SolaceExcursion) 13 December 2018
Fellow youngster Nketiah certainly ran Maitland-Niles close, who would have been disappointed to see his goal disallowed.
WORST PLAYER –
Starting XI: Da Silva (6), Medvedev (7), Rzezniczak, Sadiqov (5), Guerrier (5), Slavchev (6), Qarayev (5), Madera (5), Madatov (5), Zoubir (6).
Substitutes: Abdullayev (5), Sosa (5), Ozobic (5).
Arsenal return to Premier League action when they face lowly Southampton on Sunday, followed by a mouthwatering north London derby clash with Tottenham in the quarter finals of the Carabao Cup.
Having sealed their place in the last 32, the Gunners await their fate in Monday’s Europa League draw at lunchtime.