Arsenal produced a late comeback from two-nil down to draw 2-2 away to Standard Liege to seal their passage to the Europa League group stages as winners of Group F.
Much like in their most recent Premier League game against West Ham, the Gunners performance was abject for the most part, and it was no great surprise that they found themselves 2-0 down with 20 minutes to go after goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah.
However, Freddie Ljungburg’s charges would rise in confidence after Alexandre Lacazette found the net with a fine header in the 78th minute, and impressive teenager Bukayo Saka would curl home an equaliser just a few minutes later.
Speaking after the game Arsenal boss Ljungburg seemed reasonably pleased with his side’s display, and revealed that he didn’t encourage his team to push on in search of a winner as he was aware that Frankfurt were losing to Vitória Guimarães, which meant the Gunners would win the Group regardless.
”We played really well in our gameplan in the first half,” Ljunburg told his post-match press conference.
”They didn’t have any shots on target. We should have maybe been one or two up at half-time.
Full-time in Liege – and we’ve won Group F
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 12, 2019
“We got sucker-punched a bit, they scored two deflected goals… you can’t really slam the players for that.
“We could have folded but we didn’t. 2-2, we could have got a 3-2 but I had the information about the other score so we didn’t go too hard.”
Ljungburg rang the changes for tonights with many of the Gunners young players given a chance to impress and the Swede was full of praise for 18-year-old goalscorer Sako.
”He was amazing. He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent,” Ljungburg gushed.
“His final ball and last bit is always effective.
“I feel sorry for our young players. A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football.
“Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.
“Bukayo had a tremendous night.”
Tonight’s result means Arsenal have won just once in four games since Unai Emery’s departure and they face the daunting task of welcoming reigning Premier League champions Manchester City to the Etihad this Sunday.