Arsenal run riot at Frankfurt as Emery rings the changes
Arsenal youngsters Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka claimed goals as a rotated Gunners side romped to a 3-0 win at 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday in the Europa League.
Willock, 20, one of seven changes by Arsenal manager Unai Emery to the team which started Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Watford, gave the Gunners a first-half lead after a deflection off a Frankfurt player.
Eighteen-year-old Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbed late goals as Frankfurt were reduced to 10 men for the final 11 minutes when midfielder Dominik Kohr was shown a second yellow card for fouling Saka.
“Everybody can be happy and continuing in this competition is important, so it was good to get a good win, especially away from home,” said Emery.
The Arsenal boss singled out Saka after the teenager showed confidence above his years by scoring and then setting up Aubameyang late on.
“We wanted to give the young players a chance and they showed the confidence to take their chances,” said Emery.
“He (Saka) showed his confidence with his finishing, he looked good and physically strong,” added Emery, who praised his side’s defending after shutting out Frankfurt despite facing 24 shots at goal.
Last season’s Europa League finalists rebounded from throwing away a two-goal lead at Watford, with playmaker Mesut Ozil left out for the trip to Germany.
Club record signing Nicolas Pepe and midfielder Dani Ceballos made second-half appearances off the bench.
Aubameyang started up front flanked by teenager wingers Emile Smith Rowe, 19, and Saka.
It took the Gunners time to find their feet and the first 15 minutes were strewn with errors from both teams.
Frankfurt, beaten on penalties by eventual champions Chelsea in last season’s semi-finals, fielded an entirely new forward line after selling strikers Luka Jovic to Real Madrid and Sebastien Haller to West Ham.
But the hosts had the best of the early chances, Jovic’s replacement Filip Kostic twice going close with Dutch striker Bas Dost also firing over.
“We did well in the first half, we dominated, the only thing missing was a goal,” said Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.
“We kept our heads up after going down and the result doesn’t reflect our performance.”
Arsenal started finding holes to exploit as Willock and Smith Rowe had massive chances before the former finally got the breakthrough — with a dose of luck.
Saka linked up on the counter with Willock, who cut inside to get his shot away, which deflected off Frankfurt captain David Abraham and bounced in off the underside of the bar.
The Gunners again rattled the woodwork just after the break through a free-kick by captain Granit Xhaka.
The Frankfurt crowd grew restless as forward Andre Silva wasted a string of chances for the hosts before Kohr was dismissed.
Saka played a hand in both late goals, which came in quick succession, finishing off a Pepe break and then robbing Abraham and feeding the ball to Aubameyang to slot home.