Well, I thought that turned out ok in the end last night, didn’t it? Considering the opening circumstances…
We all knew Arsène was going to rotate his squad yesterday, but unlike in years gone by when that has filled many of us with fear, I personally was quite happy that we were able to give games to some of the players on the fringes of the first team. That is, after all, how you maintain players as match sharp and ensure that when members of the first XI pick up knocks they aren’t rusty enough to cause the team too many problems. So in the main I was happy to see Ospina, Gibbs and Jenkinson back in the team.
Added to that was the return of Ramsey and Giroud and given the hammering we provided Ludogorets with a couple of weeks back, I thought we could see us pick up a fairly comfortable victory.
Except that was never going to happen with Arsenal, was it?
A questionable free kick for handball led to their opening goal, but the ball swung in to the box should have been dealt with. It was bundled in and at that stage I was more rolling my eyes than raging.
That all changed when the second goal went in though. Quite what happened to Gibbs as he was left on his arse as Cafu danced past him is beyond me. Mustafi should have also been alive to the movement of Keseru, but Gibbs was chief protagonist in the cock up that was the second goal and if Monreal has been a little concerned that he could lose his place to the Englishman, last nights game served as a good opportunity to remind Arsène why Nacho is number one choice at left back.
I thought Gibbs had a poor game, but all of the back four looked a little ropey in that first half, misplacing passes and generally looking ragged throughout. Jenkinson puts a decent cross in, but it’s clear that Bellerin is a class apart from him and as such I’m sure we’ve all got our fingers crossed that his injury isn’t more serious. It’s a north London derby on Sunday and we need the best possible XI available.
Who that is in midfield could be up for debate. Coquelin and Xhaka did ok yesterday, but it’s difficult to tell, because Ludogorets were a pretty poor side that gave the ball away cheaply all over the park. But the two players kept the ball ticking over and in the first half as poor as we looked defensively, I thought going forward we we’re cutting Ludogorets apart at will. Özil notched his 200th career assist with the first goal for Xhaka in the Champions League, whilst Ramsey decided at one stage that he should probably actually pop up in the position he’d been asked to play at right wing, setting up a decent goal for Giroud.
I thought Ramsey looked rusty and gave the ball away quite a bit yesterday, but given that he’s been out for so long we can forgive him, although Giroud notched another goal and he looks bang in form. We all know what Giroud is like; he’s either wallowing in his own self pity and of no use to anybody, or he’s banging in goal after goal. Right now he’s the latter version that we’re watching and as we go in to the most dreaded month of the season historically, it’s good to know we have multiple options of players scoring goals and feeling confident.
But as for confidence, let’s reserve special praise for the match winner Meerut Özil, shall we?
I thought he was superb last night. His passing looked incisive enough, he tee’d up the first goal and his control and finish for the third goal can be watched again and again and again.
A great run to beat the offside trap.
One touch to get the ball out of his feet.
A touch and then the most perfectly executed flick over the ‘keeper.
Another to beat the first diving defender.
Then a sidefoot home after he’s embarrassed three of them.
After four goals in two games against the Bulgarian champions, they must be sick of the site of our German genius, because he’s terrorised them during this Champions League stage. There’s nothing like a goal in the last few minutes and when it means a goal is scored of that calibre, to secure qualification to the next round of the Champions League, it’s all the more sweeter.
It would have been better had PSG not got their late winner, but if we can beat them on match day five, then it would secure top spot so we can’t really ask for any more than the position we’re in right now.
Yesterday’s win ensures momentum is maintained, the confidence of the players is in fact and we go into the game against the Spurs with a good run of wins already behind us. They play Leverkusen tonight and if they could do us a favour and be absolutely knackered for Sunday, that would be greatly appreciated.