Emile Smith Rowe puts in 7/10 performance after scoring maiden Arsenal goal
Arsenal won their eighth game in a row in all competitions as they claimed a 3-0 victory away at Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday.
A dauntingly long journey did not prevent Unai Emery from deploying some of his more-senior players, but it was 18-year-old Emile Smith Rowe who stole the show with his first goal for the club on 53 minutes. Arsenal were already 1-0 up by that point after Sokratis Papastathopoulos got a lucky finish from a corner after only four minutes, and a hat trick of first-time goal scorers was complete when Matteo Guendouzi drove a shot home on 80 minutes.
A few sticky moments aside, with a mid-game change of formation thrown in, this was not the stiffest of tests for Arsenal.
Eight wins in a row and three clean sheets in four, Arsenal are proving rather efficient at getting results at the moment. Emery would also have been delighted to see Smith Rowe take his chance, particularly with Alex Iwobi getting the assist to continue his impressive form. First goals for three different players should help boost morale.
A first sight of a back three this season wasn't a huge success as Emery switched again to a conventional back four at half-time. Arsenal never really got out of second gear despite the margin of victory and there were periods when they laboured.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Emery's answer to Arsenal's recent defensive issues was to deploy a back three, but it only lasted 45 minutes. If the tactical approach was confused, there were also questions over his decision to bring such a strong squad to Baku, but it largely paid off as Arsenal carved out a comfortable win without any cause for concern. The real impact of that decision will be seen at the weekend against Fulham.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 7 -- The German made a succession of smart saves in the first half as he displayed some impressive reactions. Was at full stretch to keep out a shot from range in the second half too. Impressive.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 6 -- Was more conservative in the first half to balance out Sead Kolasinac's endeavours. Solid enough.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 -- Opened his Arsenal account after only four minutes with a somewhat lucky finish from Nacho Monreal's header.
DF Rob Holding, 6 -- Not as comfortable as he looked against Watford at the weekend, but was a steadying influence at the back.
DF Nacho Monreal, 6 -- Set up Arsenal's opener when his goal-bound header was turned home by Sokratis, but made way at half-time as Arsenal reverted to a back four.
DF Sead Kolasinac, 6 -- Returning to the starting XI after injury, he was stationed high on the left as a wing-back in the first half and showed his intent with a driving run into the box on three minutes. But left too much space behind and Qarabag targeted their attacks down his flank.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 5 -- Struggled a little, perhaps unsurprisingly given his lack of match practice, and did little to convince his manager he should be starting more regularly.
MF Matteo Guendouzi, 7 -- He has had more all-action displays in his short Arsenal career, but his goal ensured this was his best outing yet.
FW Emile Smith Rowe, 7 -- The 18-year-old enjoyed a famous evening as he scored his first goal for Arsenal with a low finish on 53 minutes. Enjoyed a number of other chances and showed some promise before being replaced by Mesut Ozil.
FW Danny Welbeck, 6 -- Won a header in the buildup for the second goal and worked hard as usual. But few chances came his way.
FW Alex Iwobi, 7 -- Picked up another assist to carry on his recent run of good form when he slipped in Smith Rowe for the second. Oozing confidence at the moment and that came across in his performance.
MF Lucas Torreira, 6 -- Settled in quickly to Arsenal's rejigged formation.
FW Mesut Ozil, 6 -- Never quite got into the swing of things.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, N/R -- Assisted Guendouzi with a routine square pass.