Arsenal’s young talents made their Europa League hosts look positively pedestrian as they strolled to a comfortable victory in Ukraine on Thursday night.
In a match that threatened to be a troublesome, physical contest, the Gunners lesser lights and rising stars made relative mincemeat of the opposition, taking the sting out of the match with a suffocating display of control.
In fact, so poor were the opposition that it was no real test at all for Arsenal, who, for the most part, were allowed to dictate the tempo and direction of the game. Frankly, the hosts were pretty pathetic.
That said, it can often be tough to find motivation in a game that lacks any sort of atmosphere or intensity so it was good to see Unai Emery’s side do more than simply go through the motions.
But who really stood out on the night for Arsenal?
It feels something like a changing of the guard, with Emile destined to fill the boots that will almost certainly be vacated by Aaron Ramsey either in January or in the summer.
The youngster has shown an aptitude for scoring goals and making intelligent bursts into the box, facets of the game which helped Ramsey make his name, and his rise through the ranks will help soften the blow of the latter’s departure. Who knows, perhaps this was Emery’s plan all along.
Smith-Rowe is also competent and composed on the ball and, with more game time, will improve his passing and decision making.
His languid, rangey style is deceptive in that it makes it look as though he looks urgency and penetration but there is no doubting his ability to make an impact.
An excellent run at the Vorskla defence and tidy finish was just reward for an influential display from the midfield man, who is showing signs of improving since he arrived on the scene under Arsene Wenger.
Quite whether he is ready to slot into the senior squad on a more regular basis is another matter, however, and he would, perhaps, benefit from a season out on loan in order to fine tune his talents, in the same way Reiss Nelson is currently doing in the Bundesliga. Let’s see him tested on a regular basis and at a high level.
This young Gunner is already a part of the senior squad and is an injury away from breaking into the side on a more permanent basis.
Converted from a central midfield role into a berth in the defence, Maitland-Niles has shown himself to be adaptable, alert and willing to do the hard yards up the flank. Thursday night’s display was all of that and more.
If his positioning and defensive awareness can improve as quickly as his confidence, he could form a key part of a contingent of extremely talented youngsters all rising to the fore together at Arsenal.
All said and done, it was a surprisingly comfortable night out for the Gunners and sets the side up nicely for an extremely difficult seven days to come.