Analysis

#UEL: Three things we noticed

XHAKA RETURNS

Before it all went wrong on Thursday night, the most interesting subplot was the reappearance of Granit Xhaka, making his return to the first team after a 32-day absence. We all know what happened last time but - until the game turned - this was a happy return for Granit. His name was cheered when it was announced before kick-off, he was clapped when he took his first corner, and was applauded warmly when he limped off after taking a knock just before our goal. Granit recovered from that injury and, considering his lay-off, his radar was very much on. One raking diagonal ball set us moving on the right, and it was Granit's excellent dead-ball deliveries that set up two quick chances for Martinelli. There was even an audacious bit of skill on the touchline as Granit weaved past a defender to set up a chance for Chambers. He ended the game in defence after an injury to Mustafi, and it was good to see him back.


WILLOCK IN THE HOLE

Joe Willock filled the No 10 role for most of this game, and he caught the eye in the first half. It was Willock, Martinelli, Saka and Aubameyang who forced Frankfurt back, pressing with energy and hunger, forcing the visitors' defence into hurried clearances and creating easy turnovers for us. On the ball, Joe looked assured. He started his night with a sumptuous turn and his mobility and close control constantly took him away from markers. Joe should have scored with a close-range header but couldn't guide it on target, and only a last-ditch challenge denied him as he surged into the box early in the second half. Like the rest of the team, Joe faded in the second half - but we did see flashes of his best before that.

Willock

A MIDFIELD EXPERIMENT

A game that started with one of our central midfielders at centre back started with one of our centre backs in central midfield. David Luiz - who did appear in midfield for Chelsea - started his first game for us in the engine room, alongside the returning Xhaka. It was an interesting choice but one that made some sense, given that David Luiz has played the most through-balls for us this season and Unai Emery likes progressive passers in that deep midfield role. The Brazil international started well enough but the experiment didn't last long after he picked up a knock in the 10th minute and was forced off before the break.

David Luiz

David Luiz