Arsenal youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe provide glimmer of excitement in turgid season
ot for the first time this season, Arsenal’s youngsters were a rare bright spark during this win over West Brom.
Certainly beating West Brom, and relegating them, wasn’t going to heal any wounds given that the Gunners have nothing left to play for.
If there was a small crumble of comfort to take from this 3-1 win, though, it was the performance of Arsenal’s youngsters.
It has been a miserable season at the Emirates, but the rise of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe have spread some joy.
They have stepped up to the plate when others haven’t, and it was fitting that they created the opening goal here.
Saka, who was playing at full-back, got in down the left and he was able to pick out Smith Rowe with a lovely cross. The finish was equally accurate and set Arsenal on their way to all three points.
A wonder strike from Nicolas Pepe, and a stunning late free-kick from Willian, wrapped up the win on what was otherwise a rather tame affair.
West Brom may have been fighting for their lives, and they tried to throw a few punches, but whenever Arsenal vaguely clicked into gear it was clear they had too much.
Arsenal remain ninth in the Premier League after the win, with the season meandering to a quiet end for them, but at least the youngsters are here to hopefully provide some excitement.
As Gareth Southgate ponders over his final squad for this summer’s rescheduled Euros, this was a timely reminder by Saka of exactly what he can offer.
The teenager has been excelling as a winger this season - on either the right or left - but against West Brom he filled in at full-back.
Saka has played there before, most memorably at Everton under Freddie Ljungberg where he helped Arsenal keep a clean sheet, but it’s been a while since he has been tasked with the role.
Handed that responsibility against West Brom, Saka excelled. He tormented the Baggies’ right side, largely because he was given so much space to exploit out there.
Time and time again, Saka got forward and it was no shock he created the opening goal.
It set Arsenal on their way to victory and will have also reminded Southgate about how useful Saka could be this summer given his versatility.
Gabriel Martinelli has had to fight hard for minutes this season, but he was handed a rare start against West Brom.
The Brazilian was also given the chance to lead the line for the first time during the current campaign as both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were left on the bench.
Martinelli, however, endured a difficult evening as he struggled to get into the game. The 19-year-old was his usual energetic self, pressing non-stop, but barely any opportunities came his way.
He did get one good chance - just before he was taken off after 60 minutes for Lacazette - but he couldn’t quite stretch enough to tap home Saka’s cross.
It summed up a quiet game and a missed opportunity for Martinelli.