Thursday 19 September 2019 9:47 pm

Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 Arsenal: Young guns paper over the cracks

Crisis averted – for now, at least. Following the damaging collapse at Watford on Sunday, Arsenal and Unai Emery could hardly have asked for a better start to their Europa League campaign than a three-goal win at last year’s semi-finalists.

Throw in exciting displays from youngsters Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock, who both scored, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s seventh goal of the season and only a second clean sheet in 14 games, and this amounted to an almost perfect Thursday evening in Germany.

But for all that, it was still some way short of convincing.

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Arsenal were lucky to encounter a defence even worse than theirs and, until Eintracht Frankfurt were reduced to 10 men late on when trailing by just one goal, this contest hung in the balance.

Chief among Emery’s problems has been a seeming inability to control games and that was true again in a wildly open match that swung on the visitors’ superior finishing.

Not for the first time in the Spaniard’s tenure, Arsenal’s goalscorers got them out of jail.

Frankfurt, meanwhile, are not the same team that took this competition by storm and came within a penalty shoot-out of facing the Gunners in the final.

Gone are attacking trio Luka Jovic, Sebastien Haller and Ante Rebic; in has come Bas Dost. It is something of a downgrade.

Arsenal's Spanish head coach Unai Emery reacts prior to the UEFA Europa League Group F football match Eintracht Frankfurt v Arsenal in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on September 19, 2019. (Photo by Daniel ROLAND / AFP)        (Photo credit should read DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Victory eased the pressure on manager Unai Emery. Credit: Getty

All that is for another day, though. Emery gambled on a mixture of callow and more experienced players and it paid off.

His side are the early leaders in Group F, which also includes Standard Liege and Vitoria Guimaraes, and have already overcome their toughest fixture.

Saka and Willock shine

Arsenal’s biggest positives were the displays of Saka and Willock.

Winger Saka, who only turned 18 earlier this month, scored the goal of the game, picking his spot and bending a 20-yard shot low past Kevin Trapp with chutzpah, and set up the other two.

Willock, meanwhile, put his team, in front with a shot that nicked defender David Abraham and looped over Trapp and in off the bar.

If it owed something to good fortune, it was no more than the 20-year-old midfielder deserved for another incisive and mature display.

On his first appearance of the season goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez made several sharp saves, was alert and brave coming for crosses and launched counter-attacks well.

Arsenal’s clean sheet was in no small part down to the man who has succeeded Petr Cech as back-up to Bernd Leno.

Even Granit Xhaka caught the eye – for the right reasons, this time. The midfielder snapped into tackles and launched breakaways judiciously.

He showed his best last term when alongside Lucas Torreira and again the Uruguayan’s presence brought the best out of Xhaka.

Emery could scarcely have afforded another defeat or poor performance straight after the capitulation at Watford, which saw the mood around his reign sour noticeably.

This was exactly the morale boost he and Arsenal needed. Whether it amounts to anything more remains to be seen.

Main image credit: Getty