Arsenal vs BATE Borisov. UEFA Europa League Group H.
Friday 8 December 2017 06:56, UK
Jack Wilshere scored his first club goal in two-and-a-half years as Arsenal rounded off the Europa League group stage with an emphatic 6-0 thrashing of BATE Borisov.
Wilshere, who is pushing for more regular playing time in the Premier League and hoping to catch Gareth Southgate's eye ahead of next summer's World Cup, delighted the Emirates Stadium crowd with a man-of-the-match performance in the No 10 role.
His powerful finish shortly before half-time came after Mathieu Debuchy and Theo Walcott had given Arsenal a commanding lead, and the Gunners, who had already clinched their place in the last-32 as Group H winners, continued in the same vein after the break.
BATE defender Denis Polyakov turned a Walcott cross into his own net for the fourth, with Olivier Giroud scoring from the penalty spot before Mohamed Elneny rounded off the scoring with a fine curler.
Arsenal: Ospina 7, Debuchy 8, Chambers 7, Holding 7, Maitland-Niles 7, Elneny 8, Coquelin 7, Wilshere 9, Walcott 8, Welbeck 7, Giroud 7
Subs: Nelson 6, Nketiah 6, Willock 6
BATE Borisov: Scherbitski 6, Volodko 5, Polyakov 5, Milunović 5, Rios 5, Dragun 5, Berezkin 5, Ivanić 5, Stasevich 5, Gordeychuk 5, Rodionov 5
Subs: Signevich 5, Yablonski 5, Tuominen 5
Man of the match: Jack Wilshere
Arsenal, who fielded a totally changed team from Saturday's 3-1 defeat to Manchester United, were the dominant side from the start, with Debuchy opening the scoring with a sweetly-struck drive which was still rising as it flew into the net in the 11th minute.
Walcott was denied from close-range by BATE goalkeeper Denis Scherbitsky as Arsenal continued to pour forward, but he didn't have to wait long for his goal, slotting home a calm finish after Danny Welbeck overran the ball in the BATE box.
Walcott had another effort cleared off the line from Wilshere's cut-back shortly afterwards, and the pair combined again for Arsenal's third goal two minutes before the break. This time, their roles were reversed, with Wilshere drilling a diagonal shot past Scherbitsky from Walcott's pass.
It was no less than Wilshere's performance deserved, and he was back at the heart of things in the second half, sliding a fine through ball to Walcott, whose low cross was powered past his own goalkeeper by BATE's Polyakov.
Arsene Wenger made 11 changes to the team that lost 3-1 to Manchester United on Saturday, with Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck among those given a chance to impress. In defence, there were starts for Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The over-worked Scherbitsky made a fine save from Welbeck shortly after that, but Arsenal got their fifth when Walcott was hauled down for a penalty. Giroud was made to re-take his initial effort but he made no mistake the second time.
Arsene Wenger threw on young trio Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock in the closing stages, but it was Elneny who capped an entertaining night for the home crowd, sending a stunning effort into the net from Wilshere's pass.
There were plenty of impressive performances from Arsenal but none more so than Wilshere's. The 25-year-old has shown signs of slowly recapturing his best form this season but this was surely his best offering yet.
The goal, his first since he scored in a 4-1 thrashing of West Brom in May 2015, was the standout moment but he was excellent throughout. His driving runs drew warm applause from the Emirates crowd and so too did his passing. Wenger might have little choice but to start him in the Premier League soon, where he might yet hope to catch the eye of England boss Southgate.
Arsene Wenger: "Jack is moving forward. You could see tonight that he is ready now to play. He is sharp. He is quick. He is incisive with his dribble. Technically he was very good tonight. I would say for 70 minutes of the game he was dominant in midfield on the creative side and that's very good news for us."
The Gunners return to Premier League action against Southampton at St Mary's Stadium on Sunday. They then travel to West Ham for a London derby on Wednesday. Some of Arsenal's fringe players will hope they have put themselves in contention to start.