Lacazette, Aubameyang pairing leads Arsenal to victory vs. Stoke
Arsenal's big-money strike pair proved to be the difference as the Gunners recorded a 3-0 victory over Stoke City. The score line was enormously flattering but those Arsenal fans who did attend a far-from-packed Emirates Stadium will have been pleased to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette come good.
It's a big boost for Arsenal to see Lacazette back in action and back on the score sheet. With Aubameyang cup-tied for the Europa League, Arsenal will be reliant on the France forward to fire them to the final in Lyon.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this match was seeing Lacazette and Aubameyang in tandem. Come next season, they could make a prolific pair.
Arsenal's Premier League season is effectively dead in the water and there was a palpable lack of focus about the Gunners in this game.
It was also disappointing to see so many empty seats at the Emirates Stadium. It seems that interest in the team is at an all-time low and the performance did little to reignite the fans' interest.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Arsene Wenger will regard this as a good day's work, getting the win while managing to rest several first-team players. However, the lack of fluency in the team is potentially cause for alarm. Arsenal will need to be far better against CSKA Moscow in midweek.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David Ospina, 6 -- With Petr Cech injured, the Colombia international was given a chance to keep his gloves warm ahead of the CSKA Moscow match on Thursday. It would not have been ideal preparation to concede directly from a corner kick, but Xherdan Shaqiri's effort came back off the post.
DF Hector Bellerin, 6 -- This was a little reminiscent of Bellerin's performance against Ostersunds FK a few weeks back. His mind appeared to be elsewhere. Nevertheless, this system leaves him isolated and with huge responsibility for providing width, and at times he could do with more support.
DF Calum Chambers, 5 -- With Laurent Koscielny being rested for Premier League games, Wenger seems to have decided to give Chambers an opportunity to prove himself as a worthy starter for Arsenal. On this evidence, he still has some way to go to convince as an alternative to the experienced Frenchman.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 7 -- In the first half, Arsenal needed Mustafi's last-ditch interventions to prevent them from falling behind. He's a curious defender to watch: his aggressive style tends to mean he's either highly effective or a disaster. Today was one of the good days.
DF Nacho Monreal, 6 -- At times, the Spaniard was one of Arsenal's best attacking outlets. With the Gunners having switched to a back four, he has much more opportunity to get forward.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 7 -- Understandably, Ramsey tends to raise his game when he faces Stoke. He was one of Arsenal's better players on the day, and was arguably unlucky not to open the scoring with a neat chipped effort.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 5 -- The Egyptian would have hoped to celebrate his new Arsenal contract with another strong performance but his ball retention was not as consistent as usual. His place must in some doubt now for the CSKA game.
MF Jack Wilshere, 6 -- This was not a performance to convince Arsenal to increase their contract offer to the England international. Although his display was punctuated by a few good moments, he was largely careless.
FW Mesut Ozil, 6 -- Arsenal's playmaker was far from his imperious best against Stoke and looked a little lucky to be awarded the crucial first penalty. It will be interesting to see if Wenger persists with him in a wide position, or if he looks to shift him infield.
FW Danny Welbeck, 6 -- After scoring twice against AC Milan before the international break, Welbeck would have fancied his chances of another impressive performance against Stoke. Unfortunately, he was back to his clumsy self. The kindest thing you could say is that he appeared to be suffering with a muscular injury to his back.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 8 -- For the first 70 minutes, Aubameyang was barely involved in the game. However, in the end he came up with a brace to secure the points for Arsenal. That's exactly what you expect from a top class striker.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 7 -- Replaced Welbeck (61) and looked sharp.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, NR -- Came on for Wilshere (76) and improved the efficiency of Arsenal's attacking play.
MF Granit Xhaka, NR -- Introduced for Elneny (76), his cultured passing was much missed on the day,
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.