Arsenal fought back from 2-0 down to secure a draw and top their Europa League group on Thursday night, though not entirely convincingly.
There were a lot of permutations going into the final Group F matches, but the easiest way for Arsenal to top the group was to simply pick up three points.
The Gunners were mostly on top in a very boring first half, and they should have put one or two chances away. Liege punished them after the break with a couple of goals via handball deflections off Arsenal players.
With Frankfurt winning, it seemed as if Arsenal were destined for second place. Then Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli dragged the team back to a draw and Vitoria turned things around to ensure Frankfurt didn’t pick up any points anyway.
Let’s have a look at our Arsenal player ratings for the Liege match.
- Emi Martinez 5 – Beaten by two deflections, but this still wasn’t a confident display from Martinez. It was too easy for Liege to press Arsenal into mistakes as he tried to play out from the back, which was both the fault of the goalkeeper and his defenders.
- Konstantinos Mavropanos 4 – Handballed a shot into his own goal, though arguably he was a little unlucky. His mistakes in the first half were worse, but they went unpunished.
- David Luiz 4 – Luiz’s passing was the only redeeming feature of the back-three. Like the other two defenders, he had a particularly error-prone display on the night.
- Sokratis Papastathopoulos 4 – Also handballed a shot into his own goal, and he was more to blame than Mavropanos. He didn’t close the ball down quickly and then turned away from the shot. Again, that wasn’t his only mistake on an error-filled night.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles 4 – Sloppy first half where he was often out of position or playing lazy passes. Did improve somewhat after the break, but mostly he just played straightforward passes down the line for Smith Rowe to chase.
- Bukayo Saka 8 – Had a number of good chances in both halves, but ended up scoring from one of the more difficult ones. Before that, he put in an inch-perfect cross for Lacazette to head home. Despite playing out of position at wing-back, Saka was a big threat, and he inspired the comeback almost single-handedly.
- Joe Willock 5 – Poor for the second Liege goal, leaving the ball for Guendouzi whilst unaware of the danger. Mostly a better performance than in his last couple of games though. He did a good job of winning the ball back, at least.
- Matteo Guendouzi 5 – Didn’t have much help, and he ended up hiding from the ball a bit too often for a player in his position. Only made 46 passes in 90 minutes compared to his 21 passes in under 10 minutes on Monday. Enjoyed watching him annoy the Liege fans though.
- Emile Smith Rowe 7.5 – Played very well and was unfortunate not to complete the full 90 minutes. One of few who brought the right energy and consistently seemed to be aware of his surroundings making good decisions and forward runs. Unlucky to see the goalkeeper save his first-half shot.
- Alexandre Lacazette 5 – Terrible in the first half, struggling to impact the game whatsoever. Eventually, he scored the goal to spark the comeback, though it was a fairly simple task to head in Saka’s cross. Still needs to do more.
- Reiss Nelson 6 – A performance that was mostly positive, though not quite what it could have been. Nelson was involved in quite a few of Arsenal’s best moves in his first start after injury but just hesitated or snatched at a couple of opportunities.
- Gabriel Martinelli 7 – Showed he’s about more than just goals with a nice layoff for Saka’s goal. Also made a couple of tackles as he raced around the pitch in his usual style.
- Calum Chambers 6 – Brought a bit more security to the back four in his brief spell on the pitch.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang N/A – One nice run down the right almost led to something, but Aubameyang was only on the pitch for a few minutes. His impact was minimal as a result.