Arsenal 6 – BATE 0: Gunners storm to Europa League victory | Football | Sport


It was another emphatic European display that finished off their top-of-the-group canter with aplomb but it was all served up with one enormous dollop of “so what”?

54,648 tickets sold, the club claimed with a suitable degree of embarrassment as the second half got underway. The whispered truth was that the stadium was less than half full and that is testament to just how much this club needs to get back into the Champions League.

It was one goal shy of the club’s record European victory but let’s not get carried away. This was just a decent effort in an ill-timed Thursday training session for the stiffs against a team from Belarus who had clearly given up on their slim hopes of qualifying themselves.

“We can say the opponent was not the level of the Premier League but you can only do your job and that is what we did in a convincing way with remarkable spirit and finished the group stage,” he said.

“It is true you prefer the ground to be full but there was not much at stake tonight. But however many sit in the stand, you have to give them what they expect.”

Mathieu Debuchy scored only his second goal of his Arsenal career, as sweetly drilled a shot low into the far corner as he could wish to hit after just 11 minutes to set the Gunners on their way.

But his other had come at Anfield so there are absolutely no doubts which is the one he will cherish in his retirement.

In the same way, Theo Walcott’s effort in the 37th minute – the strike that edges him in front of Robin Van Persie as the club’s second-highest European goalscorer with 21 goals – was just so low key.

The only significance of the goal was that it highlighted just how poor BATE were. Danny Welbeck let the ball run away from him fully 10 yards as he charged into the area yet somehow Nemanja Milunovic’s mis-kicked intervention succeeded merely in teeing up Walcott unmarked at the far post. He almost apologetically completed the honours.

In contrast to the heroics of Manchester United’s David De Gea in a very different atmosphere on Saturday evening, this time it was hard not to score.

Even before half-time Arsenal went further ahead, Wilshere taking as long as he liked in the heart of the BATE penalty area to pick out the precise spot into which he should curl in a sublime shot just before the break.

The BATE’s tragic lack of contribution then turned to comedy intervention in the second half when Denis Polyakov nearly burst the back of his own net with his woeful attempt to clear Walcott’s straightforward cross.

Olivier Giroud soon added his name to the scoresheet – although the referee playfully made him take his 64th minute penalty twice because of a touch of encroachment. Mohamed Elneny needed no second invitation to sweep in a stunning sixth.

Plenty to talk about on the bench at St Mary’s on Sunday but so far nobody has been able to use this Europa League platform to catapult themselves into the Premier League.

“We are doing our best to give the manager a headache to pick us for the team,” Walcott said. “We will see in time what’s going to happen.”

Sadly, for him, Wilshere and Giroud, Wenger seems to be taking two metaphorical aspirin before naming his Premier League team.

ARSENAL (4-3-3): Ospina; Debuchy, Chambers, Holding, Maitland-Niles; Elneny, Coquelin, Wilshere; Walcott (Nelson 70), Giroud, Welbeck. Goals: Debuchy 11, Walcott 37, Wilshere 43, Polyakov og 52, Giroud pen 64, Elneny 75.

BATE BORISOV (4-2-3-1): Scherbitski; Rios, Polyakov, Milunovic, M Volodko; Berezkin, Dragun; Gordeichuk (Tuominen 69), Ivanic, Stasevich; Rodionov (Signevich 56). Booked: Voldl

REFEREE: R Schorgenhofer (Austria)

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