Two thousand Arsenal fans pledging to respect respiratory etiquette breathed life into Arsenal.
A night of quadruple celebration with Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers back from long term injuries, Arsenal winning 4-1 and topping their group.
And a song repertoire ranging from the temporary ‘one nil to the Arsenal’ to the permanent ‘we love you Arsenal’ and the ironic ‘you’re not singing anymore’.
Arsenal started with a 4-2-3-1 with Lacazette at 10 behind Nketiah.
Rapid played 5 at the back and a 17-year-old starter, Demir.
In the first ten, Lacazette picked up a loose ball moved forward and sent a long-range swerving shot into the net, Amazing. Fan energy? His first goal for 67 days.
A similarly energised Pepe cut in and sent one over the bar. And from a corner Ivorian saw Mustafi free – but he headed his second chance wide.
From a corner, Mari was unmarked and glanced it into the corner of the net.
Nelson then set up an electrified Lacazette who bent it onto the post.
Maitland Niles dummied, cut inside but his dink went well wide.
In reply, Kitigawa sent in a dangerous cross.
Elneny was a bit rusty with some late challenges and got booked for bringing down the Japanese international.
On 43 Lacazette set Pepe away who passed to Nelson who set it up for Nketiah whose shot was saved but headed in on the rebound. All Nketiah’s goals this season have come inside the box.
Arsenal were sleeping at the beginning of the second. Two shots at close range were blocked expertly by Kolasinac but Kitagawa fired it in from a bigger distance.
The Viennese side had more energy, no doubt hair-dried by the management. And more experience in defence with Schick coming on.
The Arsenal crowd’s “Who?” weirdly always raises a smile
Pepe dribbled in and sent a low cross to Lacazette who shot hard, but it was saved by Starbinger.
On 58 there was ping pong in the Rapid area, Maitland Niles and Pepe had chances.
Pepe drove in but took one touch too many and it was cleared.
On 62 Smith Rowe, Willian and Ceballos came on for Lacazette. Elneny and Nelson.
Another chance was set up by Ceballos which cut out the whole Rapid defence, and Pepe crossed but the ball just evaded Nketiah. Arsenal were creating chances, but the amount they were missing emphasised a lack of clinical edge.
Pepe drove forward and found Maitland Niles on a third man run who crossed to Smith Rowe who tapped it in at last for Arsenal’s 16th goal in the Europa League this season. It was the full England international’s speed and teamwork which created that goal.
Willian pressed and won the ball high up and shot but Nketiah was judged offside. Like Lacazette, he needs a goal to lift some of the expectation off his shoulders and to shake off the ‘not quite right’ look he is carrying at the moment.
Nketiah came off for Balogun on 80. In injury time the New Yorker had a chance on the run but tapped it over.
Lacazette said: “Amazing. I am happy to see the fans. It gave us a buzz. Everyone made an effort. It is really good when fans are behind us.”
Maitland Niles said: The manager said have fun. Have a feel for it. We have done that. It is a great feeling to have them back. They are our 12th man.
On his own performance, he said: “I had some legs in midfield, tackled and got the ball back.”
Mikel Arteta said: “The fans made a huge difference. They were loud and helpful – for coming and making the effort. The players were hurt from defeat from the previous game. We were aggressive from the start.
“In the Premier League, aggressiveness is there but the margins are smaller. If you make a mistake you are punished. We are not as ruthless as we need to be in Premiership.
On the performance: “It is good to see great performances.”
On the event: “The club made an effort to set up in the right way,”
Arsenal: Rúnarsson, Cédric Soares, Mustafi, Marí, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Nketiah, Pépé, Nelson, Lacazette
Substitutes: Leno, Tierney, Saka, Ceballos, Willian.Holding. Chambers, Willock, Smith Rowe, Macey, Balogun, Azeez
Rapid Vienna: Strebinger, Sonnleitner, Hofmann, Greiml, Arase, Demir, Schuster, Ritzmaier, Ullmann, Kitagawa, Alar
Substitutes: Barac, Schick, Grahovac, Stojkovic, Gartler, Knasmüllner, Kara, Sulzbacher, Ibrahimoglu, Hedl