Well now, that was fun and once again, as The Management often says, The Arsenal did The Goals.
Now I don’t know about you, but I like that, regardless of the opposition. When I was a wee nipper or a grumpy teenager I used to get frustrated when Arsenal didn’t do enough of The Goals, but now that I’m a little older I try my darnedest to just embrace those moments regardless of the opposition.
Because in truth this game should never have been close and in reality it really wasn’t. A sort of decent Ukrainian League team came to a big European night with the aim of being as compact as possible for as long as they could and even though they did do the inevitable and score a couple towards the end – the Arsenal defence being the gift that keeps on giving of course – this was never really a competition between two teams they could win. So they packed their defence with what looked like a flat back five at times and looked to frustrate.
Certainly when Unai named a rather stronger starting XI than we all thought it showed that he knew this would be a case of grinding down a team and perhaps that’s why there were so many first teamers in there. Steve and I sat with raised eyebrows in the pub before the game when we saw Sokratis, Nacho and Auba all in the starting line up. Didn’t Unai realise we had a proper game at the weekend? Isn’t this a bit of a risk given that we don’t have another left back?
It seems to have been fine in the end but Vorskla did go to ground a lot and when you’ve got players happy to dive in at ankles it does lead to the odd chewed fingernails that’s for sure. When Torreira went down twice in the first half it looked as though he might be heading for an ice pack and the stadium all held a collective intake of breath.
Thankfully, again, he managed through it and in the second half I suspect his substitution was more precautionary than anything else.
Up until that point he’d been a central point for which a lot of the balls in the middle were played and with Arsenal dominating a lot of possession he was often on hand to distribute. He was tidy and always looking forward and whilst it’s pleasing to see that he managed to stay on the field, I do wonder if he’ll finally be given a chance in the Premier League from the start on Sunday.
I suspect not though. It feels like Guendouzi has the jersey at the moment and the mop-haired Frenchman came on and looked tidy enough in possession in the second half. There’s a few players that would have wanted to stake a place for inclusion on Sunday but as I sit here thinking about who might have actually done it, it’s hard to come up with a definitive conclusion.
Mkhitaryan was very quiet in the first half and didn’t seem to spring to life until about ten minutes in to the second, but as soon as he did, we looked much better. I can’t say that it’s enough to depose Özil just yet though. He’s a guy who is just that little bit better than Mkhi and his vision outshines anyone else in the team. But Mkhi had bright spots and so I can’t work out if I’m pleased with his performance or not. And that happened with a lot of players last night. There were so many different up and down players and that probably explains the 4-2 scoreline.
The other name that might have people pondering is Iwobi. His performance was classic Iwobi last night. At times he looked unplayable, energetic, with the ball stuck to his feet as he ran at pace. He looks like he’s in such a hurry when going forward and it panics defenders. But the only trouble is that it seems to panic Alex too. I feel like he’s the most ‘ying’ and ‘yang’ player ever. For every fantastic move there is an equal and opposite shocker. Despite a fantastic assist for the first Auba goal, he still has moments of what feels like stupidity. It’s mental and it is literally hurting my head trying to work out whether he played well or not last night.
But that’s how the whole result feels this morning. Auba got two confidence-vital goals. Özil got one and that will have done him good too. Sokratis looks better and better each week but given the inexperience in the team he wasn’t really at risk of losing his place for the weekend so you can’t exactly say he won’t play on Sunday. But still, seeing him NOT do a Mustafi and terrify the crowd every time he goes to ground, is a nice feeling to have.
It’s just too confusing to think too much and read too much in to the result I think. There were some good patches, some sloppy patches (including ambling back from Elneny on the second Vorskla goal), but against an opponent like this it’s just about getting the job done and minimising the exertion for some of the players who play on Sunday.
And that’s where we must look to this morning. A show down against an equally unpredictable Everton side with enough pace to worry us, but with a forward line in ours that are all contributing towards the goals. This feels like a microcosm of the whacky season we’re going to have. Perhaps we should all just accept the ride? There won’t be clean sheets, there will be goals, we might get some highs and some lows. It still doesn’t feel like it’s clicking properly but there were glimpses yesterday, like the great build up just before Mkhitaryan kicked the floor after getting through to the ‘keeper.
We’re going to get more games like this until Emery finds the balance, something again he seemed to allude to in his presser, but the good thing is that we have a few home games still to play and so hopefully some more wins to be had.
Catch you all tomorrow.