Unai Emery praised the mentality of Emile Smith Rowe after the teenager scored his first Arsenal goal in their Europa League win at Qarabag.
The Gunners secured a flattering 3-0 win in Baku as Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi all scored their first goals for the club.
Qarabag put up a fight, particularly in the first-half, and will feel the final scoreline was harsh on them for what was a spirited display.
It seemed set to be a simple evening for Arsenal when Sokratis turned home from close-range on four minutes but they were then rattled by Qarabag, who found Bernd Leno in good form in the visitors’
Smith Rowe, 18, coolly tucked away his maiden senior goal to double the lead before Guendouzi wrapped up the three points with a fine late strike.
While all three goalscorers had added reason to celebrate their efforts, Smith Rowe’s strike in particular would have pleased everyone involved with Arsenal.
A product of the club’s academy, he was taken on the pre-season tour of Singapore by Emery and opted against going out on loan to try and earn minutes in the Spaniard’s side.
He started last week’s Carabao Cup victory over Brentford but looked nervy, whereas here he showed his potential to leave Emery pleased with his efforts.
“In pre-season, Emile Smith Rowe worked very well with us,” Emery said. “He knows how we want to play and he is very humble to continue improving and progressing with us and in every training and match, like today.
“A little bit of all the qualities he has: physical, mentality and quality with his right foot. Working in combinations with other players.
“If I can say one condition, for me, it’s his mentality. He is humble and he is humble to listen every day in training, in the video analysis and also before the match to continue improving and to keep taking one step more, like today.
“The last matches he played, for example against Brentford, he had three actions in the opposition boxes and didn’t score. But today, he had two and one was a goal.
“I think this is one step more for him. I prefer to not speak a lot about him, because I think it’s best for him to continue to be humble and continue working in every match to keep his feet on the ground.”
Emery admitted his side “suffered” for periods of the game in the Baku Olympic Stadium – but insisted he would not have it any other way.
“I think we suffered in the match – but I want to suffer,” Emery said after securing an eighth consecutive win in all competitions.
“I want to not find easy matches, like today. Then, in our moments, to show you and show them our possibilities, our quality and our organised moments. I think in the 90 minutes today, the team worked very well.”
Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov spoke on the eve of the game about wanting to see his players make their fans happy and put in their best.
He certainly got the latter, and was pleased with the effort of his squad, albeit to lose to a team of superior quality.
“I am pleased with the game of my players,” he said.
“They were not afraid of the eminent opponent and created a lot of scoring chances. Arsenal simply surpassed us in skill.”