Arsenal vs Qarabag: 3 things we learnt, Europa League 2018/19
Arsenal dispatched Azerbaijani side Qarabag 3-0 in the Europa League. Arsenal were clinical before the goal, and first Arsenal goals for Sokratis, Emile Smith-Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi gave a heavily rotated Arsenal side all 3 points
#1 Unai Emery can be tactically flexible
Arsenal pulled a bit of a surprise by lining up with 3 defenders at the back. The Gunners were set up as a 3-4-3 in possession and switched to a 5 man defence when without the ball.
Few expected Emery to change from his favoured four man defence, but it goes to show that the Spaniard can be versatile when required. A back three provided Arsenal with a lot more stability than a back four while allowing Kolasinac and Lichtsteiner to play more attacking roles as wing-backs.
Neither is particularly fast, and this formation masked their flaws to a certain extent. In the second half, Arsenal switched back to four defenders as Monreal was subbed off but still looked comfortable.
It's good to see the side adapt to the opposition so easily.
#2 Emile Smith-Rowe is a real talent
Smith-Rowe was fantastic for Arsenal scoring a well-taken opportunity to get off the mark for the club. He was handed his second start for Arsenal following his start against Brentford in the Carabao Cup.
The English midfielder had a glorious chance to score in the first half and was rewarded with his first goal when Alex Iwobi played him through. His dribbling and pace was encouraging to see, and he did not shy away from a daunting away game.
The combination play and understanding he had with Alex Iwobi on the opposite wing was especially good regarding promoting the Arsenal Academy, but overall Smith-Rowe was very pleasing to watch.
#3 Defensive Issues still exist
Arsenal's current run of form is great, but there are still many inherent flaws in their defending. Arsenal concede far too many clear-cut chances and have been lucky that opposition sides haven't exploited the same.
Either poor finishing by the opposition or good goalkeeping have saved Arsenal from conceding a lot more goals than they have but the issue is still worrying nevertheless. Emery and his assistants need to fix this at the earliest because more prominent and more talented teams are sure to exploit this weakness.