Arsenal analysis: Jack Wilshere can do no more to impress as rotation leaves Gunners fresh for festive period

james olley
REUTERS

Arsenal rounded off their Europa League group stage in dominant style, hitting BATE Borisov for six at the Emirates Stadium.

Three goals in either half entertained a half-full stadium, with Mathieu Debuchy and Jack Wilshere ending long goal droughts before the break.

Olivier Giroud and Mohamed Elneny, after a BATE own goal, completed a rout which saw the Gunners barely get out of first gear.

James Olley was at the Emirates Stadium to assess the key talking points...

(Action Images via Reuters)

Fans vote with their feet

Arsenal’s passage to the last 32 as group winners was already confirmed prior to kick-off and given the 8.05pm start time on a Thursday evening, it is easy to see why Emirates Stadium was so sparsely populated at kick-off.

The crowd – and resultant atmosphere – was more akin to pre-season Members’ Day here rather than a European night and although the Gunners offered admission at reduced prices, there is clearly further work to be done in redistributing unwanted seats given 54,648 tickets were sold.

The actual attendance was just under 30,000. The prospect of knock-out football and a glamour last 32 tie should see that figure rise when the competition resumes in February but it is fair to say supporters have not exactly engaged with the Europa League en masse thus far.

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Debuchy’s renaissance continues

Mathieu Debuchy’s Arsenal career looked over at the start of the season yet he marked his fifth appearance of the campaign with a first goal in almost four years, 1082 days to be precise.

It remains highly probable that Debuchy will leave the club either in January or next summer but his potential suitors will have increased after an unexpected return to action.

To cap it with a goal – a fine strike to set Arsenal on their way to a comfortable victory – was the icing on the cake. A probable outing against West Ham in the EFL Cup later this month awaits before the transfer window opens.

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Wilshere cannot do any more

Jack Wilshere’s commitment may have been questioned by some after pictures emerged of the injury-ravaged midfielder testing his ankles by ice skating at earlier this week but he glided across the pitch here in another demonstration of his considerable talent.

BATE Borisov were awful and this resembled a training game for long periods but Wilshere maximised the space available to him by linking play superbly and scoring his first goal since May 2015. He even ended the night with the captain’s armband after Theo Walcott’s substitution.

Wilshere’s future remains uncertain as he is about to enter the final six months of his contract amid concerns he is yet to start a Premier League game this season.

He has consistently impressed during Arsenal’s Europa League campaign and has surely earned a chance during the forthcoming festive fixture rush. After three assists and a goal tonight, Walcott may feel something similar.

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Europa League rotation leaves Arsenal fresh for Christmas

Arsenal have only Santi Cazorla and Shkodran Mustafi in the treatment room at present, which makes a refreshing change to past seasons when their attempts to negotiate this hectic period has been comprised by a depleted squad.

Manager Arsene Wenger made 11 changes – as he has regularly done – to afford his more established stars the night off ahead of Sunday’s trip to Southampton and although BATE’s limited resistance here epitomised the lack of quality in Group H, the Gunners can still consider it a job well done to secure top spot at a canter.

Arsenal will hope for a kind draw – possible opponents include Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Celtic and Spartak Moscow as unseeded teams dropping down from the Champions League – but before that February tie, Wenger has a huge squad at his disposal for domestic matters