As usual Unai Emery tinkered with our line up and played lots of Arsenal reserves or returnees from longterm injuries, so it is no surprise that there was less cohesion tan a side that usually plays together. You could tell our back line was a little lax, and Lacazette was looking rusty up front as well.
But thankfully Nicholas Pepe came to the rescue and at last showed the form that made Arsenal pay 72 million for in the summer. Emery admitted that it wasn’t exactly our best game but the Arsenal reserves came good in the end. “Good evening.” Emery said in his after game speech on Arsenal.com: Lots of things happened in the 90 minutes. Firstly I want to speak about this competition. In the Europa League, those three points are very important for us because our logic is to finish first in that group. Over 90 minutes, we struggled more in the first half than we wanted. We lost a lot of balls in midfield and gave them chances in the transition to score and to start winning the game.
“In the second match, I think we controlled it better. We created chances but our attack was playing more with their emotion and heart tonight than with control, or with shape on the pitch. We weren’t as organised in the attack. It’s important. Two goals from Pepe were fantastic and to finish with the win…
“I think we deserved to win but they played really well. We know that every Portuguese team is very organised and they also have good structure, with good players. I remember when I played against Portuguese teams, every Portuguese team was difficult. Last year, we drew against Sporting 0-0. I was talking to Edu about that beforehand. It was difficult to win.
“Also, we used different players and some players were maybe more nervous than normal tonight, but it’s experience for them. Also, in this competition, when we have two victories already, I want to play with different players to give them confidence and minutes. I want them to have experience. There are more positive things than negatives, but I want to take the positive things tonight for the next matches and the next match in this competition.”
He does love to play “different players” on a regular basis, but sometimes I just wish he would actually decide what his best team is, and then play them all the time. It is also great to use Arsenal reserves in games like this too, but the constant chopping and changing must be confusing for the players as much as it is for fans. Will he ever decide on one line-up?