Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 Arsenal: 3 players who impressed and 2 who didn't | Europa League 2019/20
Having started the game with a bunch of graduates from the youth academy, the exuberance of the team was evident for the first few minutes after kickoff. But as Frankfurt imposed their dominance over the game, the young Arsenal forwards saw less of the ball.
Until a few minutes before the midgame interval, the momentum was firmly with the team from Germany. However, some great individual skill by Bukayo Saka presented a chance for Willock to shoot from distance, and a wild deflection took the ball past the keeper for Arsenal's first goal.
After the break Arsenal were more dominant and were rewarded with goals from Saka and Aubameyang. In a match that highlighted the strength in youth for Arsenal, there were a couple who shone in the spotlight.
Here are 3 hits and 2 flops from a memorable game for Arsenal's youngsters.
HIT - Bukayo Saka
Not many who watched Saka during the initial minutes of the match would have expected the gem of a performance that he produced on his debut for the Arsenal senior side.
His penetrating runs, decisive crosses and determination to win the ball when Arsenal conceded possession made him a standout amongst Arsenal's youngsters. At just 18 years of age, he showed the composure and presence of mind to pick the right passes and shoot with clinical accuracy when the opportunity presented itself.
Though his start to the match was somewhat shaky, he was quite unstoppable once he hit his stride. With a low centre of gravity, he kept possession and made some telling runs that rattled the Frankfurt defence.
His shot from distance that curled into the net was absolutely spectacular. The composure under pressure to create space and find the back of the net was unexpected, to say the least. But for those who have been following this teenage talent, the occurrences of last night was Saka's right to passage into the senior side.
With less than 5 minutes left on the clock, Saka stole the ball with one touch and pushed a perfect through ball to Aubameyang with the next, which the Gabonese striker finished in style for Arsenal's third goal.
The Gunners have surely unearthed a star in Bukayo Saka.
HIT - Granit Xhaka
To the surprise of many, Xhaka put in his best performance of the season for the Gunners. He played role of a captain flawlessly, as he bossed the midfield and supplied some delightful passes for the forwards. Even when he was required to defend in the box, he did it with composure and confidence, which is something that is often found wanting in the Swiss international's game.
The stark contrast between Xhaka's performance against Watford over the weekend and his fantastic shift yesterday will leave the Gunners wondering which Xhaka will appear when the Gunners take to field against Villa on Sunday. Fingers crossed, the Xhaka of midweek is here to stay.
HIT - Emiliano Martinez
It isn't often that Arsenal maintain a clean sheet, especially when it is away from home. Their defence was as shaky as always last night. However, the goal was kept by a rock-solid star in Emiliano Martinez.
During the first half, Frankfurt's attempts at goal were thwarted almost solely by the impressive performance of Martinez. His positioning, reactions and strength were on display as he made it his mission to give Arsenal their second clean sheet of the season.
Bernd Leno better bring his A-game to retain his place in Arsenal's best 11 because Martinez won't be Arsenal's number 2 for much longer with such eye-catching performances.
FLOP - Lucas Torreira
After a scintillating start to his time at Arsenal, Torreira has steadily dropped down the pecking order. The result has been devastating and is evidenced by his loss of form and confidence. His frailties were once again on show as he put in a sub-par display for the Gunners against Frankfurt.
With badly-timed challenges and lack of positional awareness, Torreira was definitely the weak link in Arsenal's midfield. One of the reasons for his poor form could be the lack of playing time at Arsenal. Both Guendouzi and Xhaka have found favour in the eyes of Arsenal's manager. This leaves Torreira in a compromising position, and with performances like the one last night, Torreira is not doing himself any favours.
FLOP - Emile Smith Rowe
It would be harsh to criticise this 19-year-old for yesterday's performance. He was eager to get on the ball and make things happen, but his lack was composure was evident.
On numerous occasions, he picked the wrong pass and dwelled on the ball long enough to give Frankfurt the chance to dispossess him. His tackling skills were inept and his finishing wasn't as clinical as we are used to seeing in the past. Emery had seen enough to substitute him with around half an hour remaining in the match.
Smith Rowe had an off day, but Arsenal fans know of what he's capable of and as such, they will hope for him to bounce back from yesterday's disappointing performance.Modified 21 Dec 2019, 00:32 IST