Today it was Bukayo Saka’s world, and we were all just living in it. The just-turned 18-year old put in a Man of the Match performance to lift Arsenal to a 3-0 victory over hosts Eintracht Frankfurt. Saka was the driving force behind the Gunners’ attack tonight, scoring a goal and picking up two assists. He seemed willing to take on any defender who closed him down, had 3 successful dribbles (which is quite good), and played 5 key passes.
And let’s take a second to talk about that goal. 25+ yards out, one touch to control, one touch to make space, and one touch to curl it into the bottom corner. *chef’s kiss*
What a way to score your first goal for Arsenal.— Football HQ (@FootbaII_HQ) September 19, 2019
SAKA!! Remember the name.pic.twitter.com/YbbpVzR1X0
If it wasn’t for Saka’s scintillating performance, the Man of Match would probably have gone to Emi Martinez, who put in a fantastic performance in goal. He made the two or three tough saves he had to and commanded the area well, cutting out several crosses to break up attacks. He also played the majority of his goal kicks long, which is something I can’t believe I’m having to point out and praise, but here we are.
Arsenal are still conceding a worrying number of shots — 24 tonight — but to be fair to the defense, the majority of them were not from high danger areas. Shkodran Mustafi played well and didn’t make any glaring mistakes, which is a plus for the Gunners. I’m slightly confused as to why he was playing centrally with Calum Chambers at right back. Chambers is presumably ahead of him on the CB depth chart and is distressingly lacking in pace for an outside back. I continue to believe that Mustafi could be a serviceable right back, especially as a backup, which would free up Ainsley Maitland-Niles to play in the midfield.
Also strange was Lucas Torreira’s role in the setup. From how involved in the attack the Uruguayan was in the first half, it looked as if Unai Emery wanted him playing box-to-box. But that’s not his strength. He is a ball-winner and a disrupter. He’d be much more effective as a true defensive midfielder. That would also push Granit Xhaka further forward, which is closer to the role he plays for Switzerland, would take advantage of his strong distribution, and would protect him from the defensive mental lapses to which he is prone.
But it’s easy to nitpick at 3-0 win, right? It was a great away performance (in a raucously loud stadium — S/O to Eintracht’s fans) from Arsenal, which is not a given these days. Beating the likely second place finisher in the group away sets the Gunners up well to start the Europa League campaign.