Head coach Unai Emery praised the performances of his young players as Arsenal opened their Europa League campaign with a fine win at 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt.
The Gunners boss made seven changes to the side who were held to a disappointing draw at Watford – and they paid off as the visitors ran out 3-0 victors at the Commerzbank Arena.
Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka both got on the scoresheet, the later also claiming all three assists as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wrapped up the result at the death.
Both sides wasted a host of chances in an end-to-end contest as Frankfurt suffered their first European home defeat since 2006 – the late sending off of midfielder Dominik Kohr only adding to the disappointment.
But for Emery, it was vindication he has shown in Arsenal’s academy products since walking through the door at the Emirates Stadium, and the Spaniard was delighted with both Willock and Saka – as well as Emile Smith Rowe.
“Their performance tonight was good and they deserve it,” he said.
“Maybe with his (Saka’s) goal, with his performance, but also in the match taking confidence, finishing really strongly physically.
“And also with Emile, after his injury tonight he played for the first time this season and he worked well. Willock also, progressively he was feeling better and with a good performance.”
Aston Villa are next up for Arsenal when the newly-promoted side travel to north London on Sunday.
The Arsenal starting line-up is likely to revert back to something similar to the Watford game but Emery revealed two injured players are stepping up their return.
Kieran Tierney is yet to play for the club since arriving from Celtic this summer due to a groin problem, while Hector Bellerin has been missing for nine months with a serious knee injury.
“Rob Holding is very close to us and tomorrow Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin are going to play in the under-23s,” Emery said, with Holding part of the travelling party to Frankfurt having overcome his own knee problem.
While Arsenal reached the Europa League final last season only to lose to Chelsea, Frankfurt were beaten on penalties by the Blues in the last four.
Manager Adi Hutter has had to deal with losing his three attacking talents, Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sebastien Haller over the summer – the trio having scored 56 of the club’s 90 goals last season.
But, despite profligacy from new recruits Bas Dost and Andre Silva, the Austrian head coach was pleased with his side’s performance, if not the final result.
“It’s a bitter defeat for us,” he said.
“Because the performance does not reflect that result. When it was still 1-0 for Arsenal, we tried to score the equaliser but then conceded another one.
“The important thing is for us to create chances, I have seen enough of those. A goal can help open some doors, give you a boost, that did not happen today.”
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