Arsenal Vs BATE Borisov: Recap, highlights and analysis

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Arsenal and Doncaster Rovers at Emirates Stadium on September 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Arsenal and Doncaster Rovers at Emirates Stadium on September 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images) /

Arsenal travelled to Belarus to face BATE Borisov in the Europa League on Thursday night. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 4-2 win.

Arsene Wenger will be happy with the win. He may even be happy be with elements of the performance. But he will not be happy with the game management that his Arsenal players showed. They lacked intelligence and understanding, conceding silly goals and growing sloppy, allowing a previously beaten opponent to grow into the game. BATE Borisov were eventually beaten, with the full-time scoreline of 4-2 portraying the openness and enjoyment of the fixture, but it was not as easy as it should have been.

Related Story: Arsenal: 30 greatest players in history

The first chance of the game came with a lovely sweeping move from Arsenal. Theo Walcott received a darted pass from Joe Willock, played a neat one-two with Reiss Nelson, then laid the ball off to Jack Wilshere, scampered through the middle of the Borisov goal, took a neat touch from a beautifully weighted pass from Wilshere, only to poke his effort against the post. It was a lovely move and was indicative of what was to come for the Gunners.

The first goal came shortly after, and it was a similarly cute move in and around the penalty area that engineered it. Jack Wilshere played a one-two with Olivier Giroud, who deftly gave it back to the bursting midfielder with his usual calmness and control, drove to the by-line, before clipping a cute cross into the box that Theo Walcott, at the second time of asking, converted, his header first being well saved, before prodding home the rebound into the gaping net.

It was a matter of minutes of later that Arsenal very nearly added to their lead. Another sweeping move that released Walcott down the right flank after Wilshere looped a pass through to the winger, saw Theo play an accurate, square pass across the six-yard box that was tapped home by Wilshere. Walcott, though, was adjudged, wrongly, to be standing in an offside position.

More from Pain in the Arsenal

The second goal did come shortly after, though, and it was an absolute gift. Borisov were in comfortable possession, being lightly pressed by their visitors. The ball was played back to the goalkeeper who, naively, tried to clip a pass out to the full-back. His connection was poor and he passed the ball straight to the feet of Theo Walcott, who was positioned right on the edge of the area. He took a couple of moments to set himself, before rifling a shot into the bottom-left corner, across the face of the goalkeeper, doubling the Gunners’ lead.

And the third followed shortly after. A corner on the left-hand side was whipped in by Walcott. It inched past the first man, was flicked on by Per Mertesacker, only for Rob Holding, swooping in at the back post to bundle the ball over the line. The first goal of the young defender’s Arsenal career, and while he knew very little about it, it will be as welcome as any.

However, it was at this point that Arsenal’s dominance began to slip, and BATE actually posed some major danger at the other end, even managing to score shortly after the third goal. A cross from the BATE right wing with pace and dip was whipped in, and with Rob Holding having been dragged out wide and the covering Mohamed Elneny caught slightly under the ball, Mirko Ivanic charged onto the ball, powering a header past the helpless David Ospina.

But Ospina was called into action elsewhere. A lovely inswinging freekick was brilliantly palmed away by the Colombian, who was unaware of the flag having been raised, an Ivanic, the goalscorer, strike across goal was well collected, with Ospina getting down low to his right-hand side quickly, and he had to remain attentive for several set pieces and crosses from wide areas.

Arsenal did create chances to close the half. Olivier Giroud headed straight at the keeper, Theo Walcott saw his short brilliantly tipped round the post, and Rob Holding, from the resultant corner, struck the post with a wild, lashing left-foot finish that, with a little more composure, should have been dispatched. Nevertheless, after some nervy moments midway through, ultimately, this was a positive 45 minutes for Arsenal, who now looked to see out a tricky away tie in an efficient and professional manner after the break.

Thankfully, Arsenal were able to kill the game quickly in the second half, in large part due to a rather generous referee. With Shkodran Mustafi battling for the ball at the far post, there was a degree of grappling from both him and the defender. For whatever reason, the referee saw this as vindication to point to the spot. Even with Walcott on a hat-trick, it was Olivier Giroud who duly stepped up and converted, the reason being: his 100th goal for the club. That is a terrific achievement for a much-maligned player who deserves far more credit that he often receives.

WIth the game seemingly put away, Arsenal then proceeded to allow Borisov to grow into the game. Ospina made an excellent save from a whipped-in free kick that took a nick off a glancing header on the way, Reiss Nelson made a decent block from a decent effort inside the penalty area, and the Belarusian’s got the second goal that they deserved.

A clipped ball into the left channel, with Shkodran Mustafi caught too central, allowed Borisov to get in behind the Arsenal defence. A ball into the box, that careered off Per Mertesacker, wrong-footed Rob Holding, who slipped in the process. David Ospina mad a smart save from close range, before Mikhail Gordeichuk smashed home the rebound. Extremely poor defending and even poorer game management.

And that poor game management continued to infect the Arsenal performance. The intensity and impetus of their passing departed them, they lacked the zip in midfield that was so encouraging in the first half, and they lacked positional discipline in the defensive third. Their sloppiness in possession allowed BATE to grow and create chances.

Again exploiting the left side of the Arsenal defence — Mustafi was very poor –, BATE managed to worm their way into the Arsenal penalty area, sliding a pass back towards the penalty spot before lashing the shot high and wide; minutes later, another incisive pass into the inside-left channel gave BATE another chance to shoot on goal, this time, well saved at the near post by Ospina; Joe Willock and then Mohamed Elneny give away the ball deep in their own half, allowing a long-range effort that was easy for Ospina to step across and collect.

But the chances were, nonetheless, being created, and Arsenal had allowed the tide to turn. Losing any semblance of energy or intensity, the Gunners sat off their visitors and felt the pressure rise and rise. This should have been a game that was seen out in relative comfort; that was far from the case.

Next: Arsenal: Predicted FIFA 18 player ratings

Ultimately, this was a positive evening. Despite moments of nervousness throughout, with major issues in trying to kill the game, Arsenal scored four goals, played some excellent football, and were able to blood several youngsters, some of which looked very impressive, if a little naive. Six points from six in the Europa League is a good start and Wenger can now turn his attentions back to the Premier League with Brighton and Hove Albion coming to the Emirates on Sunday.