Standard Liege 2 Arsenal 2
Bastien 47, Amallah 69 Lacazette 78, Saka 81

Arsenal revered from a two goal deficit to claim a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege, a result which ensuredthe Gunners finished in top spot of their Europa League Group F and progression to the last 32. The first hour or so was as woeful and as worrisome as we have seen this season from Arsenal, but on a bog of a pitch in Belgium, these young Gunners found a way to restore parity from going two goals behind. The catalyst for Arsenal’s comeback was 18 year old Gabriel Martinelli. He came on for Sokratis on 69 minutes, by which time were already Arsenal 2-0 down after Sameul Bastien’s defleted shot edged past Emiliano Martinez. Roared on by a partisan hone crowd, Liege looked lively with M’Poku causing more than a few concerns when Arsenal attempted to play out from the back. Selim Amallah’s deflected shot then doubled his side’s lead, and at that point, interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg turned to Martinelli.

Much has been made of his talent and of the ability he has against any opponent. Martinelli injected desire and drive to his talented young team mates and we saw the quality of the Arsenal of recent times now come to the fore. Bukayo Saka has enjoyed much game time under Ljungberg, the Swede knows all about him from their  time with the U23′s. More game time for Mattinelli has been a tad harder to elicit, but the Brazilian let his game do the talking. Firstly, Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe saw chances come and go in the first half, but Arnaud Bodart was not to be beaten. However, that changed when Saka took up possession on the left. His run and direct cross was perfect for Alexandre Lacazette to head home for a 2-1 scoreline after 78 minutes.

Three minutes later, Saka once again took up possession deep on the left again. With several defenders for company, the 18 year old cut inside and found Martinelli, whose quick one touch return enabled Saka to then take aim for a low shot to beat Bodart for the leveller. Arsenal were in the mood for more, but Liege had to get another to progress themselves. Roared on by their home fans, Liege couldn’t add to their tally as this young Arsenal side had the know how and mentality to see out the game for a draw.

Ljungeberg acknowledged that he was a bit anxious on the touchline, but happy nevertheless with the response from his side.

“Yeah of course, it was a bit difficult because I thought we played really well in our game plan in the first half and created a lot of chances and they didn’t have, I think, any shots on target. We should have made it in one or two goals up at half-time. That’s what it felt like, at least. A bit of bad luck and we then get sucker-punched a bit. They then scored two deflected goals and of course there’s a lot of points to learn from before that, but they’re still two deflected goals that you can’t really smash the players for.”

What his coaching staff can actually do is to get his defenders to close down the ball, rather than allow the shot to be made unchallenged. Ljungberg hailed his players fight back on a difficult playing surface.

“The reaction we had, we believed in how we played, we kept on playing and we found the pockets and we sliced them open for two fantastic goals. As I said to the players, away from home and – no disrespect – but there was not so much grass on the pitch and at 2-0 down you can be like ‘ugh, I’m not going to bother any more’ and fold and we didn’t. We actually kept going and we came back to the game and then 2-2 and maybe could’ve gone up 3-2 in the end there as well. But at the same time, like I said, I got the information about the other scores and we were trying to not go too much.”

Arsenal next host Manchester City in Sunday’s Premier League encounter where we will learn a lot more about his side’s character in a must not lose game.