Europa League hits and misses: Spurs fringe players don't make cut, Lacazette shines from deep

British clubs continued their Europa League campaigns on Thursday, but find out who impressed - and who didn't - here...

Lacazette shines in deeper role; is he in North London Derby contention?

When Alexandre Lacazette thumped the ball from 30 yards past goalkeeper Richard Strebinger, it was a moment of euphoria as the Frenchman celebrated with the returning Arsenal fans.

There was probably a fair bit of relief in there too as the strike ended a run of 488 minutes without a goal in all competitions.

While the goal will have given the 29-year-old a huge boost, it was his performance in a deeper role which would have given Mikel Arteta plenty of food for thought ahead of the north London derby on Sunday.

"He's played a good game in that position," Arteta said following the 4-1 win over Rapid Vienna. "It suits him. He's really good at linking play, he worked hard and scored a beautiful goal. It's great to have him on the scoresheet and a really good performance individually as well."

Arsenal fans said it was 'good to be back' at the Emirates for their Europa League victory over Rapid Vienna, as 2,000 supporters were allowed to attend a home match for the first time in nine months.

In the 63 minutes Lacazette was on the pitch, he looked sharp and pulled the strings for Arsenal. It was his pass from deep that released Nicolas Pepe in the build up to Eddie Nketiah's goal. The Frenchman could have added more to his own tally of goals but for a fine save from Strebinger and the outside of the post.

It looked like a different Lacazette to the one we've seen in the Premier League so far this season, and with Arsenal's creativity problems in the league well documented, he could well provide the answer for Arteta. Playing in behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, he may even provide the spark his mate has been missing so far this season.

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Tottenham will be a tougher proposition that what Rapid Vienna provided, but his fine display will certainly boost confidence ahead of the trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Oliver Yew at the Emirates

Arsenal fixtures

Sun Dec 5: Tottenham (a)

Thurs Dec 10: Dundalk (a)

Sun Dec 13: Burnley (h)

Wed Dec 16: Southampton (h)

Sat Dec 19: Everton (a)

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Here we go again with Spurs' fringe players

Heung-Min Son is congratulated after giving Spurs a 2-1 lead at LASK

Despite eight changes from Saturday's draw at Chelsea it appeared table-topping Spurs' starting line-up would, on paper at least, have more than enough to deal with a Lask side humbled 7-1 on aggregate by Manchester United in last season's Europa League.

With a Premier League-winning goalkeeper between the sticks, one of the world's most expensive players in attack and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele, two of Tottenham's best performers this season all starting, the point Jose Mourinho's side needed seemed a relative formality.

Mourinho had laid into his second-string side after their defeat in Antwerp two games ago, but could be nothing but impressed with their 4-0 demolition of Ludogorets last week.

Back to square one, then, as Spurs were left holding on to a point in Austria, with the hosts' commitment and intensity more than matching the Premier League visitors' apparently superior ability.

Harry Kane 0:22
Harry Kane was not involved in Tottenham's Europa League match with LASK Linz on Thursday but manager Jose Mourinho thinks the forward will be back to face Arsenal in Sunday's north London derby.

Mourinho held back a little this time. "The only good thing I take from the game is that we are qualified," he told reporters after the game, but 16 years after he first moved to these shores we know exactly what that means.

But he was even more explicit when subsequently asked what he had learnt on Thursday night. "Nothing new really. The fact that the Europa League group phase doesn't motivate some of the players, I knew it...The players know and I share my feelings with them, I am normally right.

"When I saw the warm-up before the game I had a feeling and I told the players before the game that there was a huge difference in intensity, communication and enthusiasm in their warm-up and our warm-up because I was looking at both. Nothing surprises me."

After the Antwerp defeat, he said his players had made his life "very easy" picking a starting line-up for Tottenham's next game, and he selected only four of that 11 in Austria on Thursday. But after another opportunity to impress went largely wasted, the number of players he truly trusts may be smaller than ever.
Ron Walker

Tottenham fixtures

Sun Dec 6: Arsenal (h)

Thurs Dec 10: Antwerp (h)

Sun Dec 13: Crystal Palace (a)

Wed Dec 16: Liverpool (a)

Sun Dec 20: Leicester (h)

Arfield reborn at Rangers under Gerrard

Scott Arfield celebrates giving Rangers the lead

Rangers' resolve continues to show no bounds. On Thursday, they stretched their unbeaten run to 24 games in all competitions with Scott Arfield once more coming to the fore as they beat Standard Liege to book their place in the Europa League round of 32.

A key reason why Steven Gerrard's side have reached December without a blemish on their record has been the resurgence of Arfield, reborn at Ibrox and a role model to his team-mates. Gerrard hailed the midfielder for his match-winning contribution, making him impossible to leave out.

"He's in... he's in," repeated the Rangers boss to BT Sport. "If you play like him on a daily basis, you stay in the team. We'll have to look after him at times but Scott's in on merit."

It is remarkable to think of the strides made by the former Burnley man following a difficult pre-season, but he now has seven goals to his name this term.

Arfield added: "We're thriving and I'm a mainstay at the moment in this team, but the minute you think you're going to play every game, that's when somebody takes your shirt. It's the mentality that the gaffer has set since day one and it's the mentality I've always had as a player. Everyone in this team has the same mentality."

Combining the right attitude with undoubted quality, opposition will be keen to avoid Rangers in the knockout stages.
Ben Grounds

Rangers fixtures

Sun Dec 6: Ross County (a)

Thurs Dec 10: Lech Poznan (a)

Sun Dec 13: Dundee United (a)

Wed Dec 16: St Mirren (a)

Sat Dec 19: Motherwell (h)

Ndidi shines, Ricardo returns, Soyuncu setback

Although Leicester still needed to secure top spot in Group G, the main aim for their trip to eastern Ukraine would have been to nurse back Ricardo Pereira, Caglar Soyuncu and Wilfred Ndidi into the first-team fold.

It was a mixed night in that regard.

Leicester were asked to do plenty of defending in the early stages and perhaps the overworked nature was the reason which caused Soyuncu's injury on 16 minutes. It looked a simple enough piece of defending but he immediately signalled to the bench holding his groin as a recurrence of the injury that kept him out for eight weeks resurfaced.

There was better news regarding Ricardo, who played 45 minutes, and Ndidi.

"He is one of the best full-backs in European football," Brendan Rodgers said on Ricardo's return. And although there wasn't the usual rampaging runs we expect from him, he was given a good workout defensively on his first start for nine months after a serious knee injury. This was a good starting point for him but a Premier League start still looks a few weeks away and he was replaced at the break by Luke Thomas.

Meanwhile, Ndidi slotted back in like he'd never been away. One perfect example came on 25 minutes when breaking up a dangerous attack with a typically robust but fair challenge in midfield. Not much got past the midfield general in his 55 minutes of action. Rodgers must be tempted to throw him in from the start against Sheffield United, live on Sky Sports on Super Sunday.
Lewis Jones

Live Renault Super Sunday

Leicester fixtures

Sun Dec 6: Sheff Utd (a)

Thurs Dec 10: AEK Athens (a)

Sun Dec 13: Brighton (h)

Wed Dec 16: Everton (h)

Sun Dec 20: Tottenham (a)

Positives for Celtic but defence an issue again

Celtic have now lost their last three games in all competitions and remain winless in this season's Europa League

There's a lot of doom and gloom around Celtic at the moment, but there were rays of light at the San Siro. The visitors stormed into a 2-0 lead with two well-taken goals from Tom Rogic and Odsonne Edouard. Celtic may be struggling at the moment, but they pounced on Milan's defensive mistakes and made them pay.

The trouble is, Milan did the same and there were many more of them.

Ryan Christie made a needless foul to concede the free-kick that Hakan Calhanoglu expertly fired home. There was no denying the quality of the delivery - it was world-class - but Vasilis Barkas had to at least try and come across to save it. He just watched it land in the bottom corner.

There were five players on the floor ahead of Samu Castillejo as he chipped home the equaliser, and Jens Petter Hauge breezed past the Celtic defence for both of Milan's next two goals, exposing their deficiencies and exploiting their lack of confidence.

But Celtic had another good spell between the two second-half goals and arguably should have scored another. Jeremie Frimpong - Celtic's most creative attacking outlet - went close and Christie drew a sensational, leaping save from Gianluigi Donnarumma with a free-kick almost identical to Calhanoglu's. The difference was the quality Milan have in their goalkeeper.

It's back to the drawing board again for Neil Lennon but there were positives and some reaction after the Scottish League Cup defeat on Sunday, albeit not quite the victorious one fans were hoping for.

Now, all their attention must be on the Scottish Premiership, starting with St Johnstone away this weekend.
Charlotte Marsh

Celtic fixtures

Sun Dec 6: St Johnstone (h)

Thurs Dec 10: Sparta Prague (a)

Sun Dec 13: Kilmarnock (h)

Wed Dec 23: Ross County (h)

Sat Dec 26: Hamilton Academical (h)

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