The emergence of Hector Bellerin in 2015 meant that Mathieu Debuchy saw his playing time limited at the Emirates after a decent start to life in North London. Debuchy joined from Newcastle in the summer of 2014, but two serious injuries in his first campaign allowed the Spaniard to overtake his senior in the pecking order.
The right-back has made just three Premier League appearances in the last two seasons, which is a surprise given that many of top sides now rotate their full-backs. He opened the scoring against BATE Borisov when he struck a great shot after the ball fell to him off the arm of Stanislav Dragun.
It was an easy victory for Arsenal and a much better performance than their last two outings in the competition. Theo Walcott made it two and Jack Wilshire scored his first goal for the club in two-and-a-half years before the break, whilst an own goal from Denis Polyakov, a penalty from Olivier Giroud and a quality finish from Mohamed Elneny ensured a 6-0 triumph.
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Arsene Wenger has used 25 players in their Europa campaign to date, with Giroud, Elneny, Rob Holding and Ainsley Maitland-Niles starting all six of the group stage matches. Debuchy might be 32, but he could still play a role for The Gunners in the immediate future.
The kids are alright, but Lookman could be a star in the making
Former Leicester City boss Craig Shakespeare became the third manager to take charge of Everton in the six group games this season, with Sam Allardyce remaining in England due to a hospital appointment. He wasn’t the only one not to travel to the Cyprus, with the entire team from the 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town rested and Everton still without several players due to injury.
The Blues gave full debuts to Margan Feeney, Harry Charsley and Fraser Hornby, whilst the whole of the substitutes bench was made up of academy based players. But it was the 20-year-old winger Ademola Lookman that made the biggest impact against Apollon Limassol in the comfortable 3-0 victory.
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He caused his opponents problems straight from the start with his pace and directness. Lookman scored in the 21st minute when he headed in a cross from Nikola Vlasic and then added his third goal for the club only seven minutes later with a shot from distance, although goalkeeper Tasos Kissas should have done better.
The wide man joined from Charlton Athletic last January and this was only his third start for the club. However, with Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas unconvincing this term, there’s certainly an opportunity for a player of his ilk and skillset.
Allardyce has only been on the bench for one match, but they have won the three games since he was announced as the new coach on the Blue part of Merseyside. There has been an immediate confidence which was missing at the club and it now exudes through the entire squad.
Astana make history
Slavia Prague held the one point advantage ahead of the game, which meant that Astana had to win in order to advance in the competition. The team from Kazakhstan rose to the challenge and became the first club from the country to qualify out of a group in Europe.
Astana took the lead through Marin Anicic, although the referee initially ruled it out after the linesman raised his flag. The decision was rescinded following consultation, as the ball actually struck the arm of substitute Tomas Necid before falling to Anicic, who put it into the empty net for his first goal for the club in a year.
Necid almost made amends when his shot went just wide of the post early into the second half and Astana goalkeeper Nenad Eric had to make a save from Mick Van Buren with 12 minutes left. It was a game of few opportunities and Slavia will have been disappointed not to have exerted more pressure on the away side.
Cologne’s season gets worse
Red Star Belgrade progressed to the round of 32 with a 1-0 win over Cologne. The Serbians sliced their opponents apart with a clever team move, which ended with Slavoljub Srnic finishing Mitchell Donald’s pull-back.
Cologne had the same points as Red Star prior to kick-off after two consecutive victories in the competition. They are yet to win in the Bundesliga this season and have struggled for goals.
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It was always going to be a difficult ask for new coach Stefan Ruthenbeck, who was given the job after Peter Stoger was sacked last weekend. He now faces mission impossible to see if they can recover from the worst start in German football history.
Athletic show professionalism
Zorya had to beat Athletic Bilbao to negotiate their way to the last 32. However, they rarely threatened the Basques and it was the away side that always looked the likeliest to score.
Raul Garcia was the main danger man for Athletic including hitting the woodwork, with the former Atletico Madrid midfielder’s impeccable timing always a dilemma for rival defences. Aritz Aduriz did break the deadlock with a header, although it wasn’t quite his trademark finish on this occasion as it came off the back of his head.
Garcia confirmed the result with another finish from a Markel Susaeta free-kick. Zorya clearly hadn’t heeded the warning about the Spaniard, as he was left totally unmarked in the box.
Marseille look to carry league form into Europe
Marseille only had to avoid defeat to progress out of Group I, with Adil Rami’s goal on Match Day 1 giving them the head-to-head advantage over Konyaspor. Red Bull Salzburg are unbeaten in the tournament and Rudi Garcia’s men were happy to play out the draw.
They have been very good this year in Ligue 1 and are one of a number of sides chasing the phenomenal Paris Saint-Germain. If they can convert their league form into the latter stages of the Europa League in February, then they will be one to avoid in Monday’s draw for the other top sides.