Political tensions, a change of venue, problems with a chartered plane, a broken down coach and armed security all around the stadium, did little to dampen the spirits of a young Arsenal side.
The ability to rise above adversity is always useful but the difficult circumstances did little to dent the enthusiasm of the North London club and by contrast, appeared to have a devastating affect of the Ukrainian’s.
It’s obviously not the best climate for those native to the Ukraine and there were distractions that one couldn’t ignore despite the tired rhetoric of ‘ sport rises above politics’ it clearly doesn’t when you are in this type of intense, ongoing drama.
Fortunately for Arsenal, there was no drama, in fact, the tie against Vorskla Poltava in temperatures of minus 12 was, excuse the pun, a breeze.
The game seemed to be lost from the moment Arsenal opened the scoring with a well taken Smith Rowe goal.
The early promise from the home side, ebbed away dramatically, as the gaps became bigger and they allowed Arsenal the space they need to execute their particular brand of football.
By the time Ramsey was flattened in the box, jumped to his feet and scored, Arsenal had the top slot in Group E secured.
The Welshman was easily the best player on the pitch, showing all the attributes that he is famous for and those that will no longer be available to the gunners from January.
its said that moves are underway to secure his services before the summer and the choice would be Ramsey’s because he is now in a position to do as he pleases, thanks to an incompetent Arsenal.
Perhaps, he will sign off in style and winning a trophy, other than the FA Cup would be a fitting way to end his association with the club and say goodbye to the fans.
Joe Willock rounded off an impressive nights work with the final goal and the gunners had the luxury of finishing the game with six teenagers on the field, such was Arsenal’s dominance.
Vorskla Poltava simply weren’t at the races and there seemed little point in their token performance on cruise control which was the result of everything outside of football.
Smith Rowe is clearly the flag bearer for the Arsenal academy and a host of bright prospects that have been nurtured from a tender age and are now lining up to knock firmly in the door of the first team.
He is genuinely comfortable with the big stage and performs to that level with admirable ease.
Emery said of him
“He’s taken confidence and responsibility and steps with us. Today his performance is very good. One good example for other young players. They have a lot of chances to help us today with this performance and also because we think they can help us.”
No doubt, he and others will be given their chance next season, as Emery continues to evaluate the personnel at his disposal.
He arrived at his interview extremely well versed about Arsenal’s emerging talent and continues to be excited at the abundance of riches.
If all goes according to plan and the majority of the academy make the grade, you could conclude that this is Wenger’s greatest gift to the club.