Arsenal

Arsenal vs BATE: Rare fantastic Xhaka performance makes all the difference

Unai Emery was looking to repent for his team’s pathetic performance last week against BATE Borisov and overturn a one goal deficit at the Emirates on Thursday night.

If ever there was a doubt that the Gunners wouldn’t be able to do it, it was quickly dashed within the first four minutes of play.

A dangerous ball into the box from top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was helped into the net by the legs of Zakhar Volkov who should have probably done better under no pressure.

Moments later Arsenal had a golden opportunity to push themselves ahead in the tie for the first time, after dispossessing their opponents on the edge of their box, Alex Iwobi curled one just round the far post.

BATE were very close to equalising and securing the all-important away goal if it wasn’t for Stephan Lichtsteiner blocking the shot on the line. Enough to silence his critics? Unlikely.

From this point on it was all Arsenal.

Granit Xhaka’s corner was met by the powerful head of Mustafi to give the hosts the lead just before half-time, and this was shortly followed by a barrage of shots on the visitor’s goal.

Sokratis would provide the final nail in the coffin. Taking full advantage of another beautifully crossed ball from Xhaka, the Greek defender would have found it harder to miss from six-yards after goalkeeper Scherbitski went walkabouts leaving the goal to the defender’s mercy.

Arsenal resultantly went through to the next round with relative ease.

Matteo Guendouzi deservedly collected the Man of the Match award for another positive performance in midfield, but we firmly believe credit should also be given to Granit Xhaka.

The Switzerland international was at this best last night. Plenty of time on the ball allowed him to pull strings in the centre of midfield and he distributed the ball very capably.

He provided two assists for the goals that would ultimately put Arsenal through on aggregate and was almost rewarded with his own goal after a thunderous effort from outside the box.

It was certainly one of his better games, and he deserves a lot of credit.

Thoughts?

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