The Gunners had to twice come from behind as Portuguese outfit Guimaraes deservedly went ahead twice with goals from former Spurs man Marcus Edwards and Brazilian Bruno Duarte.
Gabriel Martinelli, one of the few players to impress in the first half, drew Arsenal level after 32 minutes only for them to go behind again just four minutes later to go in at half time 2-1 down at a stunned Emirates.
Unai Emery made 10 changes from the team that lost at Sheffield United on Monday, with the continued absence of Mesut Ozil – who hasn’t made the squad in a month – again making the pre-match headlines.
The lack of creativity and control against lowly Portuguese opposition made the absence of Ozil even more puzzling after a first half devoid of any attacking intelligence from the hosts.
Daniel Ceballos and Matteo Guendouzi came on at the start of the second half as Arsenal improved, but they still looked like suffering an embarrassing defeat until £72m man Pep entered the fray with 15 minutes left.
Pep fired a free kick into the bottom corner with ten minutes left to play, before finding the opposite corner in the second minute of stoppage time to get the Gunners out of jail.
Arsenal 3 – 2 Vitória Guimaraes Opta stats
- Arsenal have won seven straight home games in European competition (excl. qualifiers) for the first time since February 2002 (a run of the 7 in the Champions League).
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last six home meetings with Portuguese opponents (W5 D1), scoring 20 goals and conceding just two.
- Vitória Guimarães are winless in their last eight away matches in the Europa League (D2 L6).
- Marcus Edwards’ goal on 8 minutes was the earliest Arsenal have conceded in European competition since Edinson Cavani netted after 42 seconds for PSG in September 2016.
- Marcus Edwards is the first English player to score for a non-British side against an English team in Europe since Ben Wright for Viking FK against Chelsea in September 2002 in the UEFA Cup.
- Gabriel Martinelli has been directly involved in six goals in three starts for Arsenal in all competitions, scoring five and assisting one.
- Nicolas Pépé is the first player to score two direct free-kicks in a Europa League game since Luis Suárez for Liverpool vs Zenit St. Petersburg in February 2013.