November 1st landed, and we were 2-0 down against a pub team from Bulgaria within 15minutes of our first game. A team we’d absolutely dismantled at home had somehow opened us like a missile hitting a water balloon. Had the curse hit us already?
No, it hadn’t. Rotation rust had though. The first goal came from a pretty basic freekick that bypassed all our defenders, Ospina stayed rooted to his line, Jenks was barged out the way and Cafu prodded home. Gibbs looked lost as well, which is par the course, we all had that ‘Ahhhh, that’s why he doesn’t play’ moment.
The man widely praised for never complaining about not playing (whilst lapping up £55k a week) was mugged again, this time by Cafu hard for the second, so much so he actually fell on his arse, the cross found Keseru and he finished with ease.
We weren’t done though. Oh no. This was just the beginning. Our crazy DM Xhaka slid home an Ozil cross like a seasoned striker to bring the deficit back to one. You kind of felt we’d dig ourselves out of the hole and the second came just before half time from an Aaron Ramsey cross that was met by a bullet header from scoring sensation Olivier Giroud.
The game was settled late on by a something beyond special… Giroud clattered the ball back with a surging tackle 10 yards inside our own half, Elneny picked it up then clipped a magical counter attacking pass to the surging Mesut Ozil, he touched the ball delicately, clipped it over the keeper, shimmied once and decked one defender, shimmied again, floored Kieran Gibbs, then slotted home.
What. A. Finish.
Here’s a fact for you, Arsenal have qualified for the last 16 of the CL every year since 1876. What a record.
So what to think?
Some might point to rotation being at the heart of the problems we had early on and I’d agree, that might be right. Doesn’t make it the wrong thing to have done. You need to utilize your squad if you want success. Our defence was a shambles in the opening 20, but look, Jenks and Gibbs aren’t top class and they haven’t played that often.
The reaction was top class and we pulled ourselves out of a massive hole.
Wenger still can’t bring himself to leave Sanchez or Ozil on the bench. Those two are integral, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like them to be integral past January. I don’t have the stats to hand, but in at least two of the last 3 seasons, Ozil had fallen off the form wagon heavily in the second half of the season (declining sprints in his first year, declining productivity last year)… that the club don’t appear to recognize that he might not be the fittest amazes me. We shouldn’t be playing him games like yesterday, we should have an internal solution that can do at least 75% of what he can. We’ve now run out of games to rest him in. We have all the points, but the big question is at what cost?
Same with Sanchez, but he has less of a tail-off in the second half of the season. He still pings muscles though. Did we need him yesterday? My thoughts were that he was our lead striker, so if Giroud was starting, why Sanchez out wide?
Going 2-0 down away from home is a problem. Bringing it back and winning is a superb solution every time. Sure, they’re a rubbish team, but we don’t half love losing to a rubbish team in the CL. That would have been a disaster for Spurs at the weekend. Now we’re heading into that game on fire, so no excuses! A great response.
A lot of love for my favorite Egyptian. He’s a super player for me and that touch and release for Ozil at the death was absolute perfection. Long-term, it’s hard to see past him and Xhaka pinning the midfield in the big games for us. Solid, great engines and an excellent ability to read and contribute to a game.
Next up… Spurs. Here we go!