And while the Austrian side grew in confidence as they continued to frustrate the Gunners, neither could break the deadlock before half-time.
The underdogs then struck the first blow five minutes into the second half when Bernd Leno gifted the ball to Wien's Greek striker Taxiarchis Fountas who gratefully slotted into an empty net.
But Mikel Arteta made two game-changing substitutions, bringing on Hector Bellerin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Almost immediately they looked a side transformed, and David Luiz equalised after heading home Nicolas Pepe’s free-kick.
David Luiz of Arsenal scores his sides first goal during the UEFA Europa League Group B stage match between Rapid Wien
Image credit: Getty Images
Minutes later, they were in the lead after Mohamed Elneny picked out Bellerin’s brilliant run in behind, and his ball across the six-yard box was tapped in by Aubameyang.
Arsenal go top of Group B after overcoming perhaps the toughest hurdle, while Rapid Vienna will still be confident of taking points from Molde and Dundalk.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Thomas Partey (Arsenal). Looked every bit a £45 million man on his full debut. Never gave the ball away and always looked for the forward pass. His strength, discipline and creativity in the middle is going to transform the Gunners.
TALKING POINT - Strength in depth wins it for Arsenal
Mikel Arteta may have to think twice next time he fields a second-string line-up in the Europa League. This competition isn't for experimenting with, and Rapid Vienna were no pushovers. Without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin on the pitch, Arsenal looked pretty blunt despite the best efforts of Partey.
Arteta's best route back into the Champions League may still be top four, but the insurance option of a Europa League win would be just as good.
Luckily, he does have quality on the bench to come on and win games. Had they started, it may not have been so scary.
Thomas Partey of Arsenal before the UEFA Europa League Group B stage match between Rapid Wien and Arsenal FC at Allianz Stadion on October 22, 2020 in Vienna, Austria.
51' - GOAL! RAPID VIENNA 1 ARSENAL 0 (Fountas) What's this!? Luiz tries to play out from the back, gives it back to Leno who just gives it straight to Fountas via a deflection off another green shirt. Fountas passes it into the empty net and it's eight in eight for the Greek.
60 - CLOSE! Once again Leno makes a complete mess of a ball out from the back and Fountas almost makes it two but for a save from the 'keeper. He looks dead nervous.
70' - GOAL! RAPID VIENNA 1 ARSENAL 1 (Luiz) David Luiz makes amends for his error and brings the Gunners level. He jumps highest to a Pepe free-kick and sends it past Strebinger who is in no man's land.
73' - CHAOS! Leno smacks a clearance against Luiz and Fountas is once again with an open goal. Gabriel does just about enough to delay the goal and Fountas' shot is well off target but it's more madness at the back.
74' - GOAL! RAPID VIENNA 1 ARSENAL 2 (Aubameyang). Just like that.Bellerin makes a perfect run in behind, puts it across the six-yard box and Aubameyang is there for a tap-in.