Result: Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 Arsenal
Competition: Europa League
Date: 19 September 2019
Arsenal: Martinez, Chambers, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Willock, Smith Rowe, Saka, Aubameyang
Subs: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Ceballos, Guendouzi, Martinelli, Nelson, Pepe
Arsenal’s youngsters came to the fore as Unai Emery’s put the disappointment of Sunday’s capitulation at Watford behind them to start the Europa League campaign with an entertaining 3-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Bukayo Saka sandwiched his first goal in senior football between assists for Joe Willock and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he announced himself on the European stage with a man of the match performance.
Having played every minute of the campaign so far, it was widely believed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might get a rest in Germany, especially with Alex Lacazette already sidelined by injury. That wasn’t the case. Emery selected him to lead the line, backed up by the youthful exuberance of Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock. At the back, the much-maligned Shkodran Mustafi made his first start of the season. In total there were seven changes from the team that started against Watford.
As the Waldstadion’s capacity crowd cranked the noise up to 11, both sides made a lively start.
Martinez fielded an early strike by Kamada from the edge of the box and watched an Andre Silva sighter flash wide. In between Saka’s clipped cross to the far post was met by Torreira on the half-volley but the Uruguayan couldn’t keep his effort down. He really should have scored.
Indecisiveness from Saka saw a second opportunity squandered. Having intercepted the ball in a dangerous position, the winger couldn’t get the ball out of his feet and then failed to make a pass to Aubameyang. He was given a hand clap of encouragement by his experienced teammate.
Back came the home side. Kostic escaped behind Chambers but slashed into the side netting, Xhaka blocked Silva after he’d jinked inside and Bas Dost, falling to the turf, struck wide.
Aubameyang tried his luck on the diagonal. Wide. Kostic, again getting the better of Chambers, fired low. A great Martinez save. From the right, Kamada connected with a cutback. Martinez gathered. As was the case at the weekend, we were conceding a lot of efforts on goal.
On the break again, Aubameyang on the left found Willock’s late run into the box. Just like Torreira, he couldn’t keep his effort down. A hat-trick of great missed chances was completed by Smith Rowe who couldn’t beat Trapp after a brilliant steal and pass by Xhaka.
The basketball continued. Aubameyang was denied a tap in by a last-gasp interception of a Saka cross. A Dost header from a corner left Martinez standing. Just wide. Again.
Finally, a breakthrough! 38 minutes on the clock. Another Arsenal break. This time Saka, after beating a man on the halfway line, found Willock bounding down the left wing. The midfielder cut inside onto his right foot, unleashed a shot that took a big deflection and in it went off the underside of the bar. It had ‘Made in Hale End’ stamped all over it. Well, aside from the nick off the defender. (1-0)
In the dying moments of the half, Martinez again got down well to make a smart save before Torreira mopped up the free ball.
Frankfurt came out all guns blazing. Dost and Silva went close and Mustafi was forced into a fine challenge just yards from goal.
For all their pressure, we still looked dangerous on the break. Willock, channelling his inner Patrick Vieira, won the ball deep in his own half, shrugged off a couple of tackles, carried the ball 60 yards and threaded a ball to Aubameyang. The striker’s effort was deflected for a corner. Not long after, a Xhaka free-kick, won by Chambers on touchline, rattled the crossbar as keeper Trapp lost the flight of the ball.
Silva had a golden chance to equalise – he shot over from 10 yards – before Emery sent on Pepe for Smith Rowe.
Action at both ends. Saka combined with Willock down the left again but this time the keeper was equal to his effort. Silva (how many times?) hit low and true. But his low left-foot shot flashed past Martinez’s left post.
Willock’s eye-catching performance came to an end on 72 minutes when he was replaced by Dani Ceballos. We should have wrapped up the points five minutes later but Saka couldn’t squeeze his effort under Trapp.
The youngster kept his head up and his quick feet proved too hot to handle for Dominik Kohr who resorted to clipping his ankles. The referee was quick to reach for his pocket and, having already been booked, the midfielder was given his marching orders.
Aubameyang missed an absolute sitter from two yards before Saka’s moment finally arrived. Martinez, who was brilliant all night, sprung a quick break feeding Xhaka. the Swiss carried the ball for an age before offloading to Pepe who quickly gave it to the 18-year-old winger. In space, 25-yards out, he looked up, took a touch and curled home an absolute beauty. What a goal. He ran to the touchline in front of the travelling Gooners and was mobbed by his teammates. (2-0)
Amazingly, there was time for another. After tenacious work by Torreira, Saka was again involved in the build-up, this time flicking a through ball to Auba who tucked home. Finally, for a moment, the home fans went quiet. (3-0)
Credit to, quite literally, the boys. Willock and Saka weren’t even born the last time we won a European trophy. If we’re going to do it this year, they are sure to have a big part to play. With a couple of home games to come in this competition, there’s a decent chance we can get out of Group F early doors. Now our attention turns to Aston Villa.