After a disastrous and bitterly disappointing loss in Belarus last Thursday, Arsenal rebounded with a well deserved victory. Arsenal still left much to be desired, however, as they were not able to convert on many goal scoring opportunities. There was one key difference that was absent from last’s weeks loss, Mesut Ozil. He was able to place balls behind the defenders out wide and was the contributor on the corner attempts, which resulted in two goals by Arsenal defenders. Although the score line may show a one sided game, BATE were threatening on the counter attack in the first thirty minutes of play. Koscielny and Mustafi clearly lacked the communication amongst the back line to provide a convincing defensive display. Thankfully, Arsenal did not need to rely on the defense too much in the second half.
Arsenal came out in the second half still needing a goal to calm any nerves. Sokratis, who has been a crucially important addition to the squad this season, cemented Arsenal’s victory with a header in the 60th minute. Arsenal were able to cruise for the rest of the game by retaining possession in the opposition’s half. Iwobi and Mkhitaryan were impressive in there ability on the ball and getting past BATE’s fullbacks. With that said, their final balls, which were usually crossed in from the right or left side in the final 1/3, were unsuccessful in picking out Aubameyang. BATE would simply have too many players in the box and cleared the ball with some ease.For a 3-0 defeat, BATE performed respectably with the exception of set piece defending.
Ozil’s importance to Arsenal’s creativity is vital for the squad to find success in the Europa League and fight for a top four finish. The squad looked more threatening in the attacking phase today. One important thing to consider is that it was less important for Arsenal to implement their high pressure defense against BATE. Emery and fans may find Ozil’s defensive inadequacies more visible against better players in the coming weeks. Regardless, it was evident, that he was simply not match fit considering he had not played since January. One commentator mentioned that he just did not look up to his full self. Whether Ozil is truly battling a sickness in conjunction with his inability to match Emery’s desired intensity and commitment in training, Ozil needs to step up his game during the week to retain his starting place. On a separate note, Guendouzi was a disappoint for Arsenal today as he was ineffective in both passing and retaining the ball. He has much to learn, but has the potential to be Arsenal’s starting midfielder for years to come.
Arsenal will hope for a favorable draw in the round of sixteen. Chelsea, Inter, Napoli, and Valencia are still in contention to claim victory in the Europa League. If one was to simply look at the score line, that person might not expect to know that Arsenal won with an own goal and two headers by defenders off of set pieces, and only have 8 shots of 22 on target. Yet, Arsenal managed to win comfortably and staved off some good counter attacking opportunities by BATE in the first half. The Gunners will have to be much more clinical if they are to have any hope of getting into the Champions League. Emery’s men will face Southampton at home during the weekend, and Arsenal’s attacking players must be hoping for Ozil’s involvement.