Bernd Leno was lucky to come back from Vienna conceding just one goal, as Arsenal scrambled to a 2-1 win over Rapid Wien in their UEFA Europa League opener.
Arsenal took on Rapid Wien in their UEFA Europa League opener in a game that was on the verge of going horribly wrong. The Gunners, while dominant on the ball throughout the game, were lucky not to concede more. That said, the three points were nothing more than what they deserved.
Three points: secured ✅
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 22, 2020
The majority of the first half was uneventful for both teams, especially Arsenal, who created multiple half chances, but failed to hit any of their shots barring one on target. This gave the Vienna outfit to grow into the game gradually, as they started to find spaces between the shaky Arsenal defence through rapid counter-attacks.
The second half, however, compensated for it. Five minutes into it, Bernd Leno’s misplaced pass found its way to Taxiarchis Fountas who made no mistake with the finish. After a series of attacks, Arsenal finally found their way past the Wien’s defence through a cross lobbed in by Nicolas Pepe, headed home by David Luiz.
Four minutes later, captain and super-sub Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found himself in acres of space after a low cross from Hector Bellerin, scoring the winner. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Mikel Arteta’s men.
Bernd Leno: 3/10
Head up @Bernd_Leno, not a good game today, but we all know what you’re capable of in goal. ? pic.twitter.com/vLS7GZuCnj
— Evan Cooper (@Lacazest) October 22, 2020
There was only so much that could have gone wrong for Bernd Leno yesterday, who was lucky to concede only one goal. The German shot-stopper made three saves, one of which was absolutely stellar. But, he matched that with three ridiculous mistakes in the second half. The first one proved to be very costly, as he gave the ball away a little too casually in his own box.
Cedric Soares: 6/10
Cedric lasted 60 minutes on the pitch on Thursday before being substituted, and it would be fair to say that the Portuguese had a performance of two extremes.
In defence, he failed to contribute anything – ending the game with zero clearances, blocks, interceptions or tackles. He also failed to track Fountas and Marcel Ritzmaeir, who seemed to target Arsenal’s right continually. On the other hand, the 29-year-old was threatening in the attack, giving 2 key passes, 2 crosses and completing 100% (2/2) of his attempted dribbles.
David Luiz: 8/10
Despite starting in a four-man defence, David Luiz managed to bring his best form on show against Rapid Wien, singlehandedly saving Arsenal at times at the back. Not only did the Brazilian make up for Leno’s mistake with fantastic reactions, but he also had to cover for Soares who failed to track back in time more often than not.
Luiz capped off his excellent display in defence with a well-deserved goal from a Nicolas Pepe free-kick, which he met with a well-timed glancing header. With the Leicester City game around the corner, Luiz will have to bring his best to halt Jamie Vardy and co.
Gabriel Magalhaes: 8/10
Most ball recoveries by Arsenal players last night:
Thomas Partey: 8
Mo Elneny: 8
David Luiz: 5
Cedric soares: 5
Bukayo Saka: 4
Sead Kolasinac: 4 pic.twitter.com/1YwplQab1y
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) October 23, 2020
Gabriel was inarguably the most involved player on the pitch for Arsenal, constantly looking for ways to get on the ball and spraying passes ahead. Apart from that, he was a rock in the defence, making 5 clearances, winning 100% of his aerial duels (4/4) and completing 4 interceptions, of which one was a stunning last man sliding stop from a pass that would have released Ercan Kara through on goal.
Sead Kolasinac: 5.5/10
Another forgetful outing for Sead Kolasinac, who started on the left of the Arsenal defence. While constantly pushing up high, he failed to make any overlapping runs that would have caused trouble for the opposition backline. Moreover, the Bosnian looked confused a lot of times in the final third, often taking up the same space as Bukayo Saka and bringing the attack to a crashing halt.
Mohamed Elneny: 7.5/10
Elneny has come into the Arsenal midfield this season and has provided it with the risk-taking it was so severely lacking. This was quite evident against Rapid Wien, as the Egyptian was quick to track back and not shy away from tackling when needed.
But most importantly, he set up the Arsenal winner almost singlehandedly, picking out Bellerin’s run with a sublime through ball, with the Spaniard laying the ball it off for Aubameyang to tuck in.
Thomas Partey: 8/10
? Introducing your MOTM tonight… @ThomasPartey22 ?
? #UEL pic.twitter.com/u1zNLkaevk
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 22, 2020
Arguably the Man of the Match, Partey took the game by its neck. He completed 4/5 of his long balls, won 6/8 of his ground duels and 4/5 of his aerial duels. Additionally, he made 5 fantastic tackles and 1 interception, letting no attacks go through the centre. With a debut like that, it will no doubt leave Arsenal fans wanting to see what more the Ghanaian can bring to the team.
Bukayo Saka: 5.5/10
One of the few off games for Bukayo Saka, who has been placed in the left of the midfield three for two games running. Saka lost the ball 18 times and could only complete 2 of his 5 attempted dribbles. Additionally, he also gave away 2 fouls in dangerous positions on the pitch, one of which was nearly headed in by Maximilian Ullmann.
Nicolas Pepe: 8.5/10
Undoubtedly one of his best games in an Arsenal shirt, Nicolas Pepe was a nuisance for the opposition backline throughout the game. Pepe attempted only 3 dribbles but completed two of them. More importantly, though, he proved his creative prowess through 3 key passes.
Nicolas Pepe vs Rapid Vienna:
5 duels won
3 chances created
Thoughts on his performance? #afc pic.twitter.com/TRGLPNASxU
— Arsenal Presser (@ArsenalPresser) October 23, 2020
While he failed to hit any of his shots on target, Pepe got the assist for David Luiz’s equaliser in the 70th minute. The Ivorian seems to grow with every passing game, which is a sign of better things to come.
Alexandre Lacazette: 5/10
An underwhelming performance from Lacazette, who was given the responsibility to lead the line for Arsenal. The Frenchman was uninvolved in attack and took no responsibility with the ball at his feet. In fact, the only chance he got to register a direct contribution was ruined by his own selfishness when he decided not to pass to Aubameyang, who was completely unmarked in the box.
Eddie Nketiah: 6/10
It looked like Mikel Arteta went against his will to start Nketiah on the left-wing instead of letting him play through his preferred centre-forward role. The young Englishman was enjoying a fantastic month, becoming the all-time top-scorer of the England U-21 youth side, but was ineffective on Thursday. He also foolishly picked up a yellow card for arguing with the referee over an offside call.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 7/10
Arsenal’s leading man and captain was brought in to replace Nketiah in the 60th minute as Arsenal chased the game from 1-0 down. Aubameyang constantly found himself in space but was the victim of underwhelming creativity from Arsenal for ten minutes before he tapped in the winner after a square pass from Bellerin. Game changer.
THE SUBS COMBINE! ?@HectorBellerin breaks free inside the area and tees up @Aubameyang7 for the finish ?
?? 1-2 ? (74)
? #UEL pic.twitter.com/hRweMGQZlO
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 22, 2020
Hector Bellerin: 7/10
Bellerin was subbed in for Cedric, who is continually failing to make the right-back spot his own. The Spaniard combined with fellow substitute Aubameyang to score the winner before nearly scoring the third of the night, only to be denied by Richard Strebinger.
Kieran Tierney: N/A
Brought on with six minutes to spare; failed to make a mark in the game.
Joseph Willock: N/A
A late introduction, Willock helped see the game out.
Reiss Nelson: N/A
Nelson’s work-rate helped in the dying minutes of the game.
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