David Luiz admits Arsenal found it hard work overcoming Rapid Vienna on a night when his second half header and an intervention by substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured a 2-1 win.
The Gunners were far from their best in the Austrian capital, starting the match slowly and growing gradually sloppier until the home side took the lead through Greek striker Taxiarchis Fountas following a bad mistake by goalkeeper Bernd Leno just after half time.
Luiz settled his teammates’ nerves on when he rose high to meet Pepe’s free-kick on 70 minutes and four minutes later Aubameyang tapped home from close range to complete the comeback.
“It was hard work, I think that’s normal,” said Luiz.
“We’re playing in Europe, they have a great team with great players. They started the game very well so I was happy because, especially in the second half, we did much better to understand the game.
“We had the opportunity to play our philosophy and in the end the hard work paid off and we won the game.”
Not for the first time this season, the Gunners formation stumped the broadcasters before kick-off. On paper, it looked like a regulation four-man defence but it was very apparent during the game that Arteta’s men often switched to a three-man backline to create an overload on the left flank.
“We changed it during the game, it was not just a back four,” confirmed Luiz.
“We tried to create a three of a four depending on the game, depending on how they defended us, depending on our plan for the game.
“The most important thing is to try and do the job in the best way. I think we did that in the second half.”
Tonight’s match at the Allianz Stadion was the first time Arsenal had played in front of more than matchday staff since lockdown restrictions were imposed in March. Around 3,000 masked and socially distanced Austrians sat in two stands providing a novel soundtrack to the evening.
“It’s a great feeling, even against us, it’s a great feeling,” reflected Luiz.
“If you think about football, our job is to play for the fans, for everybody, to make people happy so to have this feeling again is always great.”