Arsenal fans returned to the Emirates and saw Mikel Arteta’s men land a much-needed win in the Europa League.
The much-changed Gunners were too good for Rapid Vienna as they continued their perfect start in Europe this term, winning 4-1 in front of 2,000 home supporters.
Without a number of first-team stars, including skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal cruised to victory, inspired by Alexandre Lacazette, who ended his run of three months without a goal with a stunning opener.
Defender Pablo Mari made it 2-0 on his return with a fine header, and actually ended the night as captain as he got a much needed 90 minutes under his belt after an Achilles injury.
Young duo Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith-Rowe were also on target, in what was a morale-boosting victory ahead of this weekend’s North London derby.
Here are five talking points from the Emirates…
1. Lacazette’s new role
Increasingly at the top level, you need to have a threat in behind.
It’s not rocket science; to be able to counter-attack well and punish opponents, to stretch games, you need to be able to break in behind teams.
Arsenal however just don’t carry that kind of threat with Alex Lacazette as the furthest man forward. He doesn’t have the speed to be a real threat in behind opposing centre-backs and prefers coming towards the play.
So perhaps a new position, dropping deeper off a centre-forward, will suit Lacazette more.
Here, in truth, he was something of a de facto Mesut Ozil replacement in the No.10 position, operating behind Eddie Nketiah, and it suited him. He linked play, was difficult to pick up and used the ball smartly.
His goal was a rip-snorter too.
2. Nelson stakes his claim again
Reiss Nelson was impressive in Molde last week and continued with another smart display here.
He’s fighting to carve out a place for himself in the first-choice XI, knowing he’s fighting against club record signing Nicolas Pepe, big-money Willian and captain Aubameyang for one of the wide spots.
Arteta has spoken very highly of him recently and is clearly a fan of him as a player.
If he continues to produce like this, then he’ll continue to at least pose the question to his manager where a starting spot in Premier League matches is concerned.
3. “Welcome back Bro”
It’s been a while since Emile Smith Rowe first broke onto the scene at Arsenal, the heir apparent to Mesut Ozil.
In recent years, he’s been out on loan at RB Leipzig and Huddersfield, while also suffering from injury issues, meaning he hasn’t quite made the progress envisaged a few years back.
But the talented schemer wasted little time making his presence known after arriving as a substitute here, a lovely turn, a couple of nice touches and a goal – all within minutes of his arrival.
Maitland-Niles was the man who teed him up for his strike, a long-time friend.
As they celebrated, the England international declared “welcome back Bro” to the younger man; Smith Rowe offers the kind of creativity Arsenal sorely lack without the banished Ozil. Could this be a first step?
4. Maitland-Niles comes central
Speaking of Maitland-Niles, Arsenal’s Mr. Versatile was handed the central platform that he craves here.
And he didn’t disappoint.
Whether it was enough to persuade Arteta that he can become a more permanent fixture in the engine room is another thing, but he was diligent defensively and did plenty of excellent third-man running to supplement the side’s attack.
5. Welcome back to the fans
Yes it’s still not the amount we all want to see.
It’s not perfect and there are some pretty stringent rules that need to be followed.
But it was just excellent to see supporters back at a top level football match in this country.
A step in the right direction.
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