That is what every Gunners fan will be saying after this one. A 2-1 win over Rapid Wien to open our account in this seasons Europa League did little to ease our nerves about where the state of the side is, but this was a game that you look back on, got the three points, and move onto the next game.
The lack of creativity was again glaringly obvious throughout the first half and Wien always looked a threat on the counter and in truth they had some of the better chances in the first half as they looked a threat going forward.
The front three of Eddie Nketiah, Alexandre Lacazette, and Nicolas Pepe were all ok with Nketiah simply just having an off night and given his age that is bound to happen on the odd occasion. Lacazette was in and out of the game and missed a glorious chance to kill the game off late in the second half but could not get the ball out of his feet. I did not mind Pepe’s game. While he was not one of the best on the pitch, he showed flashes of his ability and I think he needs a good run of games to get some continuity.
The midfield belonged solely to Thomas Partey, what a debut. Albeit against a lesser opponent but they are a professional outfit. From start to finish he was one of if not the best Gunners player on the pitch. His physicality, he ball distribution and his eye for a forward pass have not only me excited about his future but also many Arsenal fans too. Bukayo Saka and Mo Elneny were solid enough but did not catch the eye.
Much like the midfield, the defense belonged to one player again, Gabriel. He is proving to be a fantastic signing and a bargain too. Much like Partey, his physicality, ball distribution and tackling were first class as he continues to show week in and week out that he is already the defensive beast that we have lacked for years.
Bernd Leno, unfortunately, had a night to forget between the posts, with his error gifting Taxiarchis Fountas a goal in the 51st minute, and honestly, they deserved their lead. As has been the case over the years, when Arsenal falls behind that is when we finally start playing like we should from the first whistle.
After conceding Mikel Arteta made two substitutions that changed the game. Off went Nketiah and Cedric and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin came on. Within nine minutes we had our equaliser thanks to a David Luiz header from a Pepe free-kick, then four minutes later the two subs in Bellerin and Aubameyang combined to completely turn the game on its head with our captain netting a tap in.
Rapid Wien can consider themselves unlucky not to take a point from the game, but in the end, Arsenal’s class in a couple of moments was the difference as they saw out the remaining time and left Austria with the three points to open their Europa League campaign.
My takeaways from the match
Gabriel is by far Arsenal’s best central defender
What a start to life our newest centre back has made. Voted Arsenal player of the month in September in his first month at the club as he continues to grow in stature game after game. Defensively solid, a good tackler, very physical, and has an eye for a pass. He is showing why he was rated so highly, and he is only 22 years old. Gabriel had five clearances, won possession back for his side eight times, and finished off with four interceptions. A truly defensive beast at the back. It is early in his Arsenal career so I will leave the plaudits there for now as I could go on and on.
Thomas Partey could be a game-changer
Now it is only one game and he will certainly come up against bigger tests, but this game showcased his incredible talent. He showed us that he is certainly far more than just a shield for our back four as he had 92 touches for the game, more than half of those in Rapid’s half, he won possession back for Arsenal eight times and had five tackles for the match. His performance led pundit Owen Hargreaves to state that it was one of the best debuts he had ever seen. High praise indeed for our new midfield general.
Creativity still an issue, or is it?
It seems like we are beating this drum after nearly every match that Arsenal play. While yes in the first half we looked as toothless as an infant, but then you look at how the team responded after conceding thanks to Leno’s error. It made me think about how come they can not start games like this. Putting the opposition under constant pressure and forcing them back which we did perfectly once Rapid’s goal went it. While a creative midfielder is still needed, one can not help but ask how different a few of our results might have been, had we been on the front foot from the start in games, instead of waiting until we go behind. Something to ponder there.
In the end, we look back at this match as one where we simply got the three points, started our Europa League campaign with a win, and witnessed two of our new signings well and truly put their stamp on this side with great performances as they make their cases for the signings of the summer.
Up next is Leicester City in the Premier League and it once again allows us to collect another three points and to consolidate our good start in the league this season.