Arsenal’s drab win over Qarabag has a number of pluses.

Arsenal’s Europa league match against Qarabag had all the urgency of a pensioner at a flower show. There was no need for Arsenal to do anymore than was necessary with their opposition losing all intent and purpose some time ago. Arsenal were already top, Qarabag were already bottom, so the whole felt like a reasonably paced testimonial, where the visitors avoided a good thrashing and the hosts put together another win before heading into the more meaningful stages of the competition.   Unai Emery used this game to give some consideration to a number of academy players knocking on the door of the first team such as Saka, Nketiah, Willock and Maitland-Niles and they turned out to be the pick of the bunch. Probably the best moment for any individual came around the 83rd minute, when Charlie Gilmour came on for Mesut Ozil, which is surely the stuff of dreams for a youngster and one for the scrapbook.       This match also gave a run out for not only the German playmaker, just back from injury but also Laurent Koscileny and Nacho Monreal, hence the testimonial vibe.   The Emirates looked bare, with sizeable holes in the crowd. It was said that 58,000 tickets had been sold but either there was something good on the Telly or it was too cold for the majority to come out in support of the Champions League’s poor distant cousin.  One person that wasn’t expected to attend the game was Alexandre Lacazette but he must have been glad to add to his tally after 15 minutes, when Ozil put him through.       The much maligned midfielder received the ball from an opportunist interception by  Nketiah. His outstretched leg, stealing the ball like a Fagin protege. He then prodded the ball to Ozil, who galloped off on the right and into the box, armed with his usual compliment of vision and touch. The German opened himself up, delivering a superb pass to the Frenchman, who quickly cushioned and unleashed his shot into the net and past the flaying keeper.  Ozil showed once again that he may not set the fire works off every game but when he does inject his colour onto a blank canvas of a game, his natural gifts and endeavour reap rewards. Saka is certainly up there with any of the academy prospects and both he and Nketiah could have appeared on the scoresheet but almost certainly, they will have better days.  Nketiah had a goal ruled offside, which was a pity but his natural desire will see him come good in the future.   Willock gave a good account of himself, waspishly gathering up any wayward balls and snapping at heels when the opportunity came. Maitland-Niles was assured and looked extremely good on his forays into the oppositions half but it would be nice to see him in the midfield occasionally to show his full quota of talent.         In fact, the academy players that Arsenal have invested time and money in, could be regarded in the same way as the United side that contained Beckham, Scholes, the Neville’s and Giggs. That’s how good the potential is.       The game was one in which the mind often drifted, looking for things to occupy itself and there were sloppy, careless and uneventful periods that made the game difficult to enjoy. The fact that Qarabag were so unenthusiastic about this game, made Arsenal’s job easier and with the space they were afforded, they should have plundered more than just a single goal. Yet, in the final analysis, this campaign has been a resounding success and hasn’t involved all the usual qualification drama.        One suspects that had Qarabag managed to get back on terms, then Arsenal would have been forced to do more.       However, the multiple changes in personnel, did impact on the flow and style of their football. It was almost as if the team was suffering a degree of jet lag, as the natural fabric was lost but as the game went on, it got better.   Of course, this disruption and the surrendered space, gave Ozil the opportunity to show off his collection of passes, that were three or four levels above what everyone else was playing.  This bodes well for a busy December and particularly, the tricky encounter against Southampton, who one suspects, will have more appetite for a scrap as they try to avoid the relegation vortex.      

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