Arsenal mounted a second-half comeback to secure a 2-1 win over Rapid Vienna on Thursday night. The away side went a goal down just after the break, following a dreadful mix up between David Luiz and Bernd Leno, which allowed Taxiarchis Fountas to slot home with ease.
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Going a goal down appeared to fire Arsenal into life, as moments later Luiz atoned for his error — heading Nicolas Pepe’s free kick into the Rapid net. Arsenal subsequently brought on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to try and grab all three points — a ploy which could hardly have gone any better. The Gabon forward prodded home from close range to seal Arsenal a crucial away win on matchday one.
While the unit lacked cohesion at times, there were a number of good individual efforts. Thomas Partey, making his full Arsenal debut, was superb in both defence and attack. He may have only just arrived in North London, but the Ghanaian looks like he has been at the club for years. Mohamed Elneny partnered him superbly in midfield, while the sides overall response to going a goal down will also please Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal’s play was often slow and they seemed to lack their usual sense of purpose. Rapid did very well to limit their play, but too often the ball wasn’t being moved quickly enough. They also accumulated too many early yellow cards, with Eddie Nketiah being particularly lucky to have not received a second for elbowing an opponent.
The defensive calamity that led to Rapid Wein’s opener will once again raise questions over the error-prone nature of the Arsenal back six.
Manager rating (out of 10)
9 — Set his team out in a 3-4-3 system, handing Partey a full debut in the process. While they struggled to create chances in the first half, the Spanish gaffer’s second-half substitutions proved to be inspired. With his side 1-0 down, Arteta threw on Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin, who combined beautifully for Arsenal’s second goal. A managerial masterstroke — given how poor his side had been prior to the changes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 4 — The German stopper was responsible for another howler, after his wayward pass allowed Rapid to score early in the second half. His evening never really recovered from that clanger.
DF Cedric Soares, 6 — Looked comfortable in possession but was frustratingly defensive minded for a wing-back. Didn’t offer enough in an offensive capacity.
DF Gabriel, 7 — Made a handful of individual errors, but thankfully for the defender, none proved to be too costly. That aside, the Brazilian generally impressed.
DF David Luiz, 6 — Started the game well, contributing with a number of intelligent interceptions and tackles. His second half included two mix-ups with Leno, and a headed goal. Vintage David Luiz.
DF Sead Kolasinac, 6 — Positionally naive at times, the 27-year-old still doesn’t appear to be fully comfortable as a left-sided centre-back.
DF Bukayo Saka, 6 — Provided good energy and industry on the left side. Unfortunately, the newly-capped England international lacked conviction in the final third.
Thomas Partey’s delivered an impressive debut performance for Arsenal, showcasing his ability in both attack and defence. Getty Images
MF Mohamed Elneny, 7 — The rangy midfielder’s killer pass led to Arsenal’s second goal. His ‘assist for the assist’ rounded off an excellent overall performance.
MF Thomas Partey, 8 — Oozed class on what was his full Arsenal debut. Every pass went to its intended target, while his defensive game, including a potentially goal-saving tackle, was similarly impressive. Not a bad way to start your Arsenal career.
FW Pepe, 7 — Was bright in spells, but like many of his teammates, his radar appeared to be off when it mattered most in open play. Still, for much of the game, he was Arsenal’s most dangerous attacker.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 6 — Struggled to link-up with his teammates until his pa; Aubameyang came on in the second half. At that point, he seemed to raise his level.
FW Eddie Nketiah, 6 — Was lucky to avoid a red card after elbowing a Rapid Wien defender. Started well but faded as the game wore on.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 — Was reluctantly thrown on by Arteta after an hour. His introduction appeared to give the whole team a massive lift and he eventually scored the winning goal.
DF Hector Bellerin, 7 — Provided a great deal more attacking dynamism than Cedric had previously managed. His assist for Aubameyang’s winner was the result of excellent movement by the Spaniard.
MF Joe Willock, N/R — Sharp and positive in the final stages as Arsenal held out for the win.
DF Kieran Tierney N/R — Had very little to do but remained defensively disciplined late on.
FW Reiss Nelson, N/R — Replaced Pepe with seconds to go.