After a terrible round-of-32 first leg against BATE Borisov made fans nervous of an early Europa League exit, Arsenal breezed through the second without any problems.
After a 1-0 defeat in Belarus, Arsenal knew they needed to score quickly to turn things around at the Emirates Stadium. Thankfully, Borisov were willing to help, with defender Zakhar Volkov turning the ball into his own net in the first five minutes.
Despite one scary moment when a deflected cross almost led to a goal before Stephan Lichtsteiner’s intervention, the away side very rarely threatened after that. Arsenal had all the chances, but the second and third goals ended up coming from unlikely sources, with Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos heading home.
The Gunners will now progress to the last-16, where it’s less likely they’ll be able to get away with such a disastrous first-leg performance.
Let’s have a look at our individual player ratings for the match.
Matteo Guendouzi 7.5
Guendouzi put in a positive performance for 64 minutes, linking up with his teammates well and finding himself with a bit more freedom to make things happen in the final third. He perhaps could’ve done a little better in turning those opportunities into goals, but this was still a big improvement from last week.
Granit Xhaka 9
Xhaka was excellent, creating the joint-most chances of anyone on the team and completing 19 more passes than anyone else on the pitch. He ran the game, and he ended up making the difference for Arsenal with a couple of good deliveries from set-pieces leading to two goals, adding two assists to his personal tally.
The midfielder also forced a good save out of the Borisov keeper with a powerful shot from range, and he helped out well defensively. There’s no doubt the improvement in his performance was partly thanks to the formation change and Özil being back in the team though.
Mesut Özil 8
Özil’s return really gave Arsenal a boost. It allowed them to play a system they’re clearly more comfortable with, and he very noticeably helped Xhaka and Guendouzi by providing a consistent option ahead of them.
Although his individual performance dropped off a little towards the end, it was still very good overall. He created three chances, made more passes in the final third than anybody else and had one particularly nice volley that went narrowly over the crossbar. Let’s hope this is a new dawn for Emery and Özil at Arsenal.
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