Feature

#UEL: Four things we noticed

Saka

We made the perfect start to our Europa League campaign on Thursday night, defeating Frankfurt 3-0 at the Commerzbank-Arena. 

Joe Willock handed us the lead on the stroke of half-time after a chaotic opening 45 minutes, before Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed the win late on.

But what did we learn in Frankfurt? Read on to find out...  

SAKA THE STAR 

It was a big night for our Hale End Academy graduates, and for Bukayo Saka in particular.

Eighteen-year-old Saka burst onto the scene last season with a couple of eye-catching performances in the Europa League, and the speedy forward - playing to the left of Aubameyang tonight – was at it again in Germany.

As well as claiming his first ever senior goal, he set up both the others on a night he will never forget.

It could have been even better – he had laid on an excellent chance just five minutes into the game, when his left-wing cross fell invitingly to the unmarked Lucas Torreira, who couldn't find a finish to match the pass.

Shortly afterwards he nipped in to intercept a loose back pass, but was dispossessed on the edge of the area when trying to feed Aubameyang.

Most of our attacking play in the first hour came down the left, and Saka was involved in much of it. Indeed he was pushed up just as high as Aubameyang for the majority of the match, and when Nicolas Pepe joined the forward line in the second half, the three forwards caused plenty problems with their pace, while Frankfurt chased the equaliser and later went down to 10 men.

And Saka took full advantage. He was kept out from close range by goalkeeper Kevin Trapp with 15 minutes remaining, but Saka would not be denied for long.

Receiving the ball five yards outside the area from Pepe, he curled a delightful low left-footed shot into the bottom corner, stunning the home fans. It made him, at just two weeks past his 18th birthday, our youngest scorer in the competition.

Two minutes later he combined with Aubameyang, laying on the pass for our third. Auba was quick to acknowledge the teenager's role in the goal, pointing him out when celebrating in front of the travelling fans. Auba certainly knows a talented forward when he sees one…

Attacking thirds - Arsenal

WILL TO WIN

Joe Willock has already been heavily involved with the first team this season, and he's looking increasingly comfortable in the Gunners midfield with every passing game. 

There was an element of luck about his goal, but it was just reward for another all-round display.

Willock proved that goals are a big part of his game last season when netting three times from just six games. But another huge asset is his drive and determination when in possession, evidenced by a tremendous, powerful run from near his own box to just outside Frankfurt's, ending with a pass into Aubameyang's path. The striker was denied by a covering defender.

He was withdrawn for Dani Ceballos with 20 minutes remaining, and the travelling Arsenal fans were generous with their appreciation for the 20-year-old Londoner.

Willock

EMI TO THE RESCUE

Despite the comfortable looking scoreline – and a very welcome clean sheet - there were some causes for concern at the back.

We conceded 32 shots in Sunday's draw with Watford, and we struggled to stem the flow of attacks once again in Germany. The hosts amassed 24 efforts throughout the game, seven of which were saved by Emi Martinez.

Playing his first game of the season, as one of seven changes Unai Emery made to the side from the weekend, the Argentine was secure and steady throughout, getting safely behind every shot, and confidently claiming every cross into his area.

Not afraid to play it long when our defenders were closed down by the Frankfurt forwards, it was a short quick pass to Granit Xhaka on the edge of the area that started the move for the second goal.

Now aged 27, it's some seven years since he made his Gunners debut, but this was only his 15th first-team outing (and eighth clean sheet). It looks like he will be getting many more this season.

Martinez

A RARE HOME DEFEAT

At the press conference on Wednesday evening the German media were particularly keen to know how Unai Emery thought his team would cope with the intimidating atmosphere inside the Commerzbank-Arena, and in fairness the pre-match hype was justified.

The 47,000-capacity stadium was a sell out, and as the players took to the pitch the home fans unveiled an impressive 'tifo' flag display. The locals were up for this one all right – any sustained spell of possession from us was met by choruses of boos and whistles.

It's easy to see how this has been their fortress in recent years – Frankfurt hadn't lost a European fixture here since 2006 when Palermo beat them 2-1 in the UEFA Cup. They had only been held three times in that run, winning the other 13 games. 

In fact we inflicted Frankfurt's heaviest ever home defeat in European competition – in what was their 74th game on home soil.

It was also our first win in Germany for nearly six years, having lost four of our last five trips.

It's some statement of intent as we look to go one better than last season's Europa League campaign.

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