Qarabag 0 Arsenal 3
Emile Smith Rowe was the star of the show this evening as Arsenal enjoyed another comfortable night in the Europa League with a 3-0 win in Azerbaijan against Qarabag.
The 18-year-old academy graduate looked calm and composed on the ball all night and capped his performance with a 53rd minute strike which put the Gunners 2-0 up and well on their way to their second win from their first two games in the competition.
In fact all three of Arsenal’s goal scorers this evening notched their first Gunners strikes – first Sokratis Papastathopoulos turned in a Nacho Monreal knock-down from a corner early on.
The Gunners suffered one or two scares at the back in the first half and boss Unai Emery reverted to a back four from a central three at half time.
The switch worked, with the Gunners looking stronger at the back in the second period.
Smith Rowe’s cool finish under Qarabag goalkeeper Vagner gave Arsenal a two-goal cushion and Matteo Guendouzi, who started this season so brightly but who has recently lost his place in the first team to Uruguayan Lucas Torreira, made it 3-0 with just over 10 minutes remaining after finishing a fine move with a shot into the bottom left corner.
Unai Emery is a three-time winner of this competition, with Sevilla, and although he made several changes to the first team tonight the strength of the Arsenal bench suggested he is taking it just as seriously with the north Londoners. Both Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette made appearances in the second half.
Arsenal will arrive back at Luton airport at around 4am tomorrow after the long five-and-a-half hour flight from Azerbaijan and, unlike Arsene Wenger, Emery will give his Gunners a day off on Friday before the high noon trip to Fulham on Sunday.
Speaking of the quick turnaround, Emery said: ‘We are giving each competition our best preparation, our best performance and the travel is long, but it’s not an excuse.
“I had a very different experience, when you play Wednesday or Thursday and then Saturday or Sunday.
“There are very few days to recover physically and also the mentality of the players to play again in a few hours another match.
“In this experience, I won, I lost and I played better in the second match.
“We are one team with every player with this experience and also with the habit to play, to recover for another match and continue playing.
“It’s the reason, for me, that I prefer more time to have to recover physically for the players.
“But for me, it’s good. We are going to be also perfect to play against Fulham on Sunday.”