Arsenal Vs BATE Borisov: Highlights and analysis from scintillating show

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his teams fifth goal of the game from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League group H match between Arsenal FC and BATE Borisov at Emirates Stadium on December 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his teams fifth goal of the game from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League group H match between Arsenal FC and BATE Borisov at Emirates Stadium on December 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images) /
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Arsenal hosted BATE Borisov in their final Europa League group game on Thursday night. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 6-0 win.

The result never really mattered in this game. Arsenal had already confirmed their place as winners of the group; BATE Borisov needed an unlikely victory, and a draw between Red Star Belgrade and FC Koln, to qualify. This was not about the result. It was all about the performance, and Arsenal, including a key number of individuals, put in an excellent one.

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The first chance of the game fell to Mohamed Elneny. As Mathieu Debuchy enjoyed a foray forward and clipped a ball into the box, Olivier Giroud cleverly cushioned a Theo Walcott flick-on into the path of the Egyptian. But the midfielder’s left-footed strike lacked the conviction needed, suffering a poor connection, scuffing the ball into the ground and off the foot of the left-hand post.

And it wasn’t long until Arsenal got the early breakthrough that they wanted. Calum Chambers flights a wonderful, lofted pass into the path of Theo Walcott. The winger battles well, positioning his body cleverly to shield the ball, and his work sees it squirm into the path of Mathieu Debuchy, who lashes a shot across the goal, fizzing his effort into the far corner with real power and precision. It was a lovely strike, settling the home side early on.

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The confidence began to ooze through Arsenal’s play. Jack Wilshere was masterful, at the heart of every attacking move. He released Danny Welbeck down the left flank with a first-time left-footed pass, he combined well with Olivier Giroud to set up Theo Walcott, who was denied well by the onrushing Denis Scherbitski, and was incisive with his surging runs, creative in his thinking, and precise in his distribution.

The second goal came as the half was drawing to a close, and it wasn’t all that surprising given the command and the control that the Gunners had enjoyed throughout. Olivier Giroud worked back to nick the ball, Francis Coquelin released Danny Welbeck down the left flank with a swept, low pass into the channel, and after a bundle through the penalty area, Theo Walcott was the grateful recipient of the loose ball to power him the finish. It put Arsenal two goals to the good. It was nothing less than they deserved.

It didn’t take long for the third to arrive. Six minutes, to be precise. Arsenal continued to pass the ball from side to side, waiting for the moment to strike. Jack Wilshere, who had just had a long-range, curled effort tipped over the bar, had drifted into a pocket of space on the edge of the area. Theo Walcott fizzed a pass into his feet, and a shift and shimmy later, Wilshere was planting an accurate, pulled effort across his body and into the far right corner with his left foot. It’s his first goal since May 2015. A welcome, welcome sight.

The second half started in a very similar manner. Arsenal controlled proceedings, fizzing the ball about in and out of the midfield third with lovely accuracy and creativity; Borisov sat off, looking a little lost, without a will or a way to prevent the sweeping waves of attacks. The fourth goal came shortly after the break, and it was another flowing move, carving open the visitors. Jack Wilshere played yet another piercing pass, inside the full-back, perfectly weighted into the path of Theo Walcott. Walcott rolled a low cross into the box, and with Danny Welbeck lurking, Denis Polyakov could do little but to thump the ball into the roof of his own net.

Arsenal continued to pressure for the fifth goal, with Olivier Giroud shooting over, after working the ball neatly onto his left foot, and Danny Welbeck striking a shot straight at the face of Denis Scherbitski. And it did indeed come, but from the penalty spot. Theo Walcott was clumsily bundled over in the box, Olivier Giroud stepped up not once, but twice, with the referee enforcing a retake because of encroachment, to rifle his effort into the right corner.

It was at this point that Wenger turned to the kids. Reiss Nelson was introduced for Walcott, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah came on soon after. There was a sixth goal as Wilshere twisted his way into and out of space on the edge of the penalty area, before laying the ball off for Mohamed Elneny, who beautifully bent his shot into the far corner. But this was a game that had lost all of its energy and impetus, not that Arsenal were complaining.

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This was an extremely comfortable win for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger was able to rest some players late on, introduce youngsters, and enjoy the watch as his side played some lovely football. Jack Wilshere was especially noticeable, and in his quest for Premier League football, he certainly helped his case here. Good stuff from the Gunners, but sterner tests will come soon enough.

Highlights