Arsenal played out a comfortable but lacklustre 1-0 victory over Qarabag on Thursday, in the dead rubber game at the end of the Europa League group stage.
Neither team had anything to play for in midweek, with Arsenal already qualified for the knockout stages as group winners and Qarabag already out of the competition. However, there was still pride on the line, the chance to keep Unai Emery’s unbeaten run going, and an opportunity for some young/returning players to impress.
Alexandre Lacazette gave the team an early lead, and it remained 1-0 for the rest of the 90 minutes. Let’s have a look at our individual player ratings for the performance.
1Goalkeeper and Defence
Emi Martinez 7
This was Martinez’s first game of the season, as the 26-year-old has had to play second fiddle to both Bernd Leno and Petr Cech so far. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best game for him to prove his credentials, with Qarabag failing to test the goalkeeper’s shot-stopping on a single occasion.
There was one slightly shaky moment when Martinez came out for a corner and didn’t win the ball, but it didn’t result in anything. His passing was excellent throughout, particularly when he played the ball straight to a midfielder’s feet to bypass Qarabag’s press on a couple of occasions.
Carl Jenkinson 7
Like most of the rest of the defence, Jenkinson really didn’t have too much to do defensively, particularly as Qarabag attacked down the other side of the pitch more regularly.
On the ball he was fine, but he seemed extremely hesitant to put crosses in, preferring to pass it backwards instead. Perhaps this is a confidence issue, after his crosses in recent matches were less than impressive. He needs to keep taking chances though.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos 7.5
Again, there wasn’t too much for Sokratis to do in defence, but he did make a couple of interceptions and win his only attempted tackle.
One thing we spotted during the match was his insistence on always taking a touch before making a pass, something which wasn’t the case for his centre-back partner Laurent Koscielny. It wasn’t a major issue on a night like Thursday, but he needs to speed things up if Arsenal want to play out from the back regularly.
Laurent Koscielny 8
As mentioned, Koscielny’s passing was a lot quicker, but also more accurate. He didn’t misplace a single pass in his 72 minutes on the pitch.
The Arsenal captain’s joy at coming through his first senior appearance in 7 months was obvious as he punched the air and grinned his way off the pitch. It’s great to have him back, though there are harsher tests to come.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 8
Maitland-Niles started the game at left-back, and he was the only defender who was involved in a large number of defensive actions. He made four tackles and three interceptions, more than any other defender in both cases.
However, some of those interceptions and tackles came after the substitutions when the England u21 international moved forward to the right-wing. That was his best spell of the game, as he looked dangerous and linked up with teammates well. Emery may well consider giving him another chance there.
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