Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott hope they have given manager Arsene Wenger a “selection headache” by impressing during Arsenal’s comfortable Europa League win over Bate Borisov.
Neither midfielder Wilshere nor forward Walcott have started a Premier League game for the Gunners this season, but both found the net as Arsenal finished their Group H campaign with a comprehensive victory.
“There is plenty of competition when you play for Arsenal. We are doing our best to give the manager a headache to pick us for the team,” Walcott said.
Wilshere, who scored his first goal since May 2015, added: “All we can do when we get our opportunity is give the manager a headache.”
Wenger said: “Jack’s moving forward. He’s sharp, incisive and moving forward. For 70 minutes he was dominant in midfield on the creative side and that’s very good news for us.”
The Gunners, who had already secured top spot, went ahead with an angled finish from defender Mathieu Debuchy.
Walcott added Arsenal’s second with a close-range finish and Wilshere then scored a fine goal after he cut on to his left foot inside the penalty area and arrowed the ball into the net.
Bate defender Denis Polyakov put Walcott’s low cross into his own net after half-time before striker Olivier Giroud converted from the penalty spot following Nemanja Milunovic’s trip on Walcott.
Mohamed Elneny added a sixth with a curling effort after being set up by Wilshere.
In the wake of Arsenal’s 3-1 home defeat by Manchester United, this fixture represented a chance for some of their fringe players to impress.
Wenger made 11 changes from the side that lost to United in the Premier League, although the starting line-up still boasted plenty of experience.
Bate had a chance of qualifying for the knockout phase but did not present much of a test for the Gunners, who did not have to exert themselves to secure a routine victory.
In truth, the margin of victory probably could have been even greater given Arsenal managed 22 shots on goal.
Wilshere catches eye as three Ws press claims
This was the first time Wilshere had found the net in an Arsenal shirt since the Gunners’ 4-1 home win over West Brom – a gap of 928 days.
Wenger said after Arsenal had beaten Bate 4-2 on 28 September that the 25-year-old was “on his way back to his best”.
Given Wilshere has only managed four appearances in the Premier League from the bench since then, the Frenchman’s words might have proved a little premature.
Wilshere, who received a ticking-off from Wenger for going ice-skating with his family this week, certainly played some eye-catching passes and was clever in possession.
But, given the strength of the team from Belarus – Wilshere had the freedom of the Emirates at times, it may be best to reserve judgement.
Walcott’s performance was also bright and, as well as his goal, he a close-range effort saved, curled a free-kick past the post and had a shot cleared off the line.
However, Welbeck looked short of match fitness and struggled to make much of an impact.
Europa League chance should not be sniffed at
This was the lowest crowd at Emirates Stadium since Arsenal moved from Highbury, with fewer than 30,000 in attendance.
It was considerably fewer than the 44,064 that attended Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Doncaster in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup in September.
The Europa League, it would appear, has not quite captured the imagination of the Arsenal fans compared to the Champions League.
It should be noted the Gunners managed just one final appearance – in 2006, when they lost to Barcelona – in 20 consecutive years of playing in the European Cup.
Perhaps the less illustrious sibling of the Champions League offers a realistic chance of some continental success for Wenger and can help spark a revival of their European fortunes.
Manchester United fans, players and manager Jose Mourinho embraced the competition, en route to victory last season.
The Portuguese in particular realised the importance of putting medals in the pockets of his players. Arsenal could do worse than follow that lead.
It has, after all, been 23 years since the Gunners last won a trophy in Europe – the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Man of the match – Jack Wilshere
‘Proud of the attitude’ – what they said
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said: “The target was to finish the job well. It was important to focus on the quality and that is what we did.
“I am proud of the attitude and we maintained the quality to play together and the way Arsenal want to play football. That was positive.”
Bate Borisov coach Aleksandr Yermakovich: “It was a totally different level for the team and it was very difficult for us.
“We were not prepared for this match, we were trying to play for our fans and play attacking football, sadly it didn’t happen.”
Debuchy ends 1082-day wait – the stats
- Arsenal scored six or more goals in a European game within Uefa competition for only the sixth time in their history.
- The Gunners ended their group stage with 13 points from six games (W4 D1 L1) – the only English team to have won more in a Europa League group stage were Tottenham (18) in 2013-14.
- Mathieu Debuchy scored a competitive goal for Arsenal for the first time since 21 December 2014; 1082 days ago.
- All three of Theo Walcott’s Europa League goals for Arsenal this season have come in his two appearances against Bate Borisov.
After this morale-boosting win, Arsenal will look to return to winning ways in the Premier League following last weekend’s 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United with a tricky away trip to Southampton in Sunday’s early kick-off (12:00 GMT).
Match ends, Arsenal 6, BATE Borisov 0.
Second Half ends, Arsenal 6, BATE Borisov 0.
Attempt blocked. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Reiss Nelson.
Attempt blocked. Maksim Volodko (BATE Borisov) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Nikolai Signevich.
Offside, BATE Borisov. Mikhail Gordeychuk tries a through ball, but Maksim Volodko is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Mikhail Gordeychuk (BATE Borisov) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Foul by Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal).
Evgeni Berezkin (BATE Borisov) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. Maksim Volodko (BATE Borisov) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Jasse Tuominen.
Attempt missed. Evgeni Berezkin (BATE Borisov) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Stanislav Dragun.
Offside, Arsenal. Calum Chambers tries a through ball, but Olivier Giroud is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Evgeni Berezkin (BATE Borisov) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Jasse Tuominen.
Attempt blocked. Reiss Nelson (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jack Wilshere.
Corner, BATE Borisov. Conceded by Rob Holding.
Foul by Joe Willock (Arsenal).
Nemanja Milunovic (BATE Borisov) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Aleksey Rios (BATE Borisov).
Substitution, Arsenal. Eddie Nketiah replaces Danny Welbeck.
Substitution, Arsenal. Joe Willock replaces Mohamed Elneny.
Substitution, BATE Borisov. Evgeni Yablonski replaces Mirko Ivanic because of an injury.
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Stanislav Dragun (BATE Borisov).
Goal! Arsenal 6, BATE Borisov 0. Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) right footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Jack Wilshere.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Nemanja Milunovic.
Substitution, Arsenal. Reiss Nelson replaces Theo Walcott.
Attempt missed. Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Danny Welbeck.
Attempt missed. Mikhail Gordeychuk (BATE Borisov) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Mirko Ivanic.
Substitution, BATE Borisov. Jasse Tuominen replaces Igor Stasevich.
Attempt saved. Igor Stasevich (BATE Borisov) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Nikolai Signevich.
Attempt blocked. Mikhail Gordeychuk (BATE Borisov) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Stanislav Dragun (BATE Borisov) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Igor Stasevich.
Foul by Olivier Giroud (Arsenal).
Denis Polyakov (BATE Borisov) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Arsenal 5, BATE Borisov 0. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Penalty Arsenal. Theo Walcott draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Nemanja Milunovic (BATE Borisov) after a foul in the penalty area.
Attempt missed. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) left footed shot from the right side of the box is too high. Assisted by Theo Walcott.
Foul by Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal).
Evgeni Berezkin (BATE Borisov) wins a free kick in the defensive half.