Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi scored their first competitive Arsenal goals as the Gunners resisted heavy pressure and claimed a 3-0 win at Qarabag in the Europa League.
Smith Rowe’s second-half goal made him the club’s youngest goalscorer since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain netted in September 2011 to cap off a mature performance, and the Gunners extended their winning run to eight matches as Guendouzi finished Qarabag off.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos gave Arsenal a somewhat fortuitous early opener, though the first half finished with Qarabag well on top and only the heroics of Bernd Leno kept the visitors ahead.
But Smith Rowe eased Arsenal’s worries early in the second half and, although the hosts remained a potent threat, they were seen off by the Gunners, who have six points from two Group E outings.
Arsenal started brightly and, thanks to a slice of luck, broke the deadlock after just four minutes – Nacho Monreal’s header from a corner striking Sokratis and finding the net.
Young midfielder Smith Rowe went close to a second 14 minutes later, but he could only find the side-netting when stretching to meet Sead Kolasinac’s low cross.
But Qarabag improved and Bernd Leno had to be alert, denying Mahir Madatov when one-on-one just prior to the half-hour mark, before brilliantly blocking Filip Ozobic’s volley late in the half.
Arsenal secured themselves some breathing space early in the second half – Smith Rowe coolly finishing on the break after being fed by Alex Iwobi.
Innocent Emeghara was then guilty of shooting at Leno from close range in the 62nd minute, and Guendouzi put the game beyond the hosts towards the end, finding the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.
That’s the end of an unforgettable night for Emile
@MesutOzil1088#UEL 0-2 (65) pic.twitter.com/1AqiG7XAqM
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) October 4, 2018
What it means: Question marks remain over Arsenal defence
There are few doubts about Arsenal’s attacking capabilities at the moment, particularly given their impressive winning run. But defensively they are still yet to really click under Emery. While they held on to a clean sheet, Qarabag sliced them apart at times and Leno’s performance was the only reason the scoreline was not a little more troubling.
Cech out Leno
While Petr Cech remains Emery’s first-choice goalkeeper in the Premier League, there is no doubt that Leno is knocking on the door. The German’s display in Azerbaijan proved that, as he made several vital saves that prevented certain goals.
Welbeck fails to make an impact
England international Danny Welbeck cannot be faulted for his work ethic on Thursday, as he was routinely seen tracking back. But going forward he had very little influence, in stark contrast to the likes of Iwobi, Smith Rowe and even Mohamed Elneny.
Arsenal’s next Europa League game – following Premier League meetings with Fulham and Leicester City – comes on October 25 at Sporting CP, arguably their toughest group game. Meanwhile, Qarabag host Vorskla in their next European outing.