Unai Emery says he was pleased with his mix-and-match side’s performance as the Gunners completed their Europa League group stage campaign with a 1-0 win against Qarabag at the Emirates.
Alex Lacazette broke the deadlock on 16 minutes as the Gunners started brightly but with nothing at stake the game quickly descended into a low key affair that struggled to excite a small crowd at the Emirates.
Teenagers Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah showed flashes of their talent with Emery explaining afterwards that he selected established players to bring out the best in the next generation.
“We need to do the mix in the first 11 between young players and players with experience,” he told his post-game press conference.
“You can play better with players to help you on the pitch.”
He added: “We give young players the chance to train with us, we give chance like today when we can and they show us positive things. Saka played with a good performance with big personality.
“His personality is very important to try and do one to ones in the second half and trying to break lines.”
The big positive on a cold night was the return of Laurent Koscielny from his long-term Achilles problem. The Frenchman came through 70 minutes unscathed before receiving a standing ovation from fans and a helping hand with his jacket from Alex Lacazette and Matteo Guendouzi.
In the absence of the suspended Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis, Emery now hopes Koscielny will be fit to play against Southampton on Sunday.
“We are doing with him our process after the big injury,” the Spaniard told his post-game press conference.
“Today is another step for him, for us. We need to know tomorrow and Saturday how he is going to feel after this match to see if he can help us on the pitch on Sunday.
He added: “For Koscielny, it is good he has recovered. When he is coming back like today every supporter is happy, as are the players.
“He can take confidence again, take rhythm and then we are going to continue our process, maybe Sunday. But I want to wait to see how he will feel.”