Well, well, well. Arsene knows. Right?
He certainly sensed that Ludogorets might pull a number in Paris. I watched PSG lose to Montpellier at the weekend by 3 and it certainly appears Emery is having a struggle with his side at the moment. I really didn’t think that result was in threat, but hey, this is football and these things happen.
The good news is not only do we finish top of the group, we also qualify without losing a game… for the first time since our incredible run in 2005/06 when we reached the final playing out some epic battles with a pretty avg squad. Also worth noting that we deserved to finish top because we had a far better goal difference. Say what you want about the rules, that particular one is a total joke. So the footballing gods definitely owed us the upset.
So, down to business, according to the BBC who I’ve done a cut and paste job on, we could face:
- Bayern Munich, their conquerors in 2013 and 2014
- One of Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid
- Bayer Leverkusen
- One of Porto or FC Copenhagen
- One of Juventus, Seville or Lyon
So all up in the air really. Ideal teams would be Leverkusen who sit 9th having conceded a goal a game. Porto who sit 3rd in their league behind the impressive Benfica and Sporting. Copenhagen, because we LOVE playing in that city. Maybe Lyon, though the thought of going up against 12 goal Lacazette after fobbing him off for being overpriced does worry me… but the reality is Lyon sit 6th in their league and aren’t the force they once were.
Dortmund (Tuchel getting spanked by Wenger would shut me up), Sevilla under Sampioli (guy who had Chile purring), Munich (who have stuttered) and Madrid would not be ideal. But hey, you have to beat them all…
We deserve a plum draw after 6 years of pulling favourites.
Looking back at the game, you can’t help but be impressed that we’re 2 games into December, we’ve created 31 chances, put 17 on target and banged in 9 goals. Quite the turnaround from 11 goals from 10 shots on target in November (or whatever it was in the end).
What made yesterday even more beautiful is that Lucas Perez, who I’d wondered about in yesterday’s post, came in and played through the middle and dropped the sort of performance Franny Jeffers was supposed to bring to the table. Two poachers goals crafted from beautiful interplay, along with a real strikers goal with a low buried shot to the back post. It was also special to see Alex Iwobi find himself back on the score sheet after having his confidence shaken against Spurs a few weeks ago.
Whisper it… out squad is not only good on paper, it’s doing a job on the field. I mean, fu*k the League Cup. Anyone crying over that now?
The only negatives, and I keep harping on about this, but Wenger couldn’t resist taking and playing Ozil and Sanchez. Sure, they were integral to our play and both had hands in the goals. Ozil playing superb passes to start moves and Sanchez doing his best to get involved too. The two are undroppable, but as we’ve seen so many times in the past, these boys aren’t invincible… and there are very few names in the world that can be undroppable these days. Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and Suarez can afford to because they don’t have many intense games. But not in the Premier League. Beasting players always kicks back at you in the end.
We could have done the job without those two and we should have. But hey, I’ll celebrate the moment, just don’t accuse me of being knee jerk if the worst happens.
I’m hammering the point, but I’ve seen it so many times before. Hopefully the club are doing more behind the scenes to look after bodies (or Wenger is seriously listening to his excellent backroom team). We now head into a 3 game period where I don’t think there’s any chance we’ll see any of our star names rotated because the games are too important. So let’s just hope that we take advantage of the extra day against City and let’s hope we don’t pay a Premier League price for taking a full squad away to a game our reserves, or at least a half reserve team could have taken care of.
Back to positives. Granit Xhaka schooled his old team in passing terms, he made a whopping 104 with a 94% pass completion rate, made 14 ball recoveries, 3 tackles and 4 interceptions. All action hero. Aaron Ramsey only made half the passes, with a 90% completion rate, but dropped 3 tackles and made 8 recoveries. Ozil a bit behind him in the passing numbers but made 15 successful passes in the final 3rd with 88% completion rate. A good night for the midfield, but a better one from the defence who all chalked up impressive numbers.
Final shout out of the match goes to Kieran Gibbs. I’ve been a big critic of him over the years, so much potential, a lack of fight to deliver it… but jeez, was he good yesterday. He looked like a world-class wideman at times. Involved in the first two goals with an assist and a blocked shot, integral to the third with the interception and release.
A big 12 days ahead… sail through these, and you’ll have me and the doubters believing Arsene!
The victory train chugs on…