I have to own it… when I said we’d drawn a Europa League group in the Champions League, I was wrong. I’m am very silly.
RC Lens beat us and Sevilla, with an average squad age of 56, gave us a really good game.
Arsenal exited the evening victorious – but my word, was it a hard-fought battle.
When you’re slumming it in Europa, you tend to forget that the Champions League isn’t flowers and champagne. The 90 minutes was hard to watch, it was cagey, it felt like a chess game for large parts. The big learning is domestic positions mean nothing when the tune of the famous song hits… players up their game, fans bring out their best selves, and games become extremely equalized.
That’s why a 1-2 win feels extra special. We are not an experienced European team, we’re a group of extremely talented boys, trying to find our foothold in the biggest comp in world football. To go away to the best outfit in our group and execute a really good game plan was very impressive. We showed a lot of patience, we didn’t fall for the Sevilla traps, and we didn’t let the emotion of the night get to us.
The finishes were superb as well. Watching Jesus pluck the ball out of the sky, turn Sevilla midfielders inside out, before sliding a galloping Martinelli in for a simple-ish finish was really special. To see him kill the game was raw individual talent just showed where he could go as a striker. He created his own space, used his dazzling feet to perfection, and rifled a Thierry-esque like strike into the top corner. Can I see this Jesus a bit more regularly?
We did have time to make it spicy. We conceded a sloppy goal from a corner. David Raya also kept the Ramsdalians on his back with a duff punch from a cross late on. He didn’t keep his eyes on the ball, the cross skidded off his fists over the bar, versus 40 yards up the pitch. The important conclusion here is it didn’t go in.
3 points is all you can ask for, but we got a lot more out of the game than that.
Tomiyasu tried his hand at left-backing and did a tremendous job. He looks really fit and sharp. Technically, he was extremely sound defensively. He won his duels, he made his presence known with his strength, and he showed that there are other options beyond Timber in that position. If the weekend is a form-based decision, why wouldn’t you opt for him?
David Raya is coming under fire again. I understand why. The punch put everyone’s bowels on the floor. But we have to give some perspective here – he’s 8 games in. He’s at a new club, with new players, being asked to do very ambitious things. He was literally partaking in rondos after 10 minutes. There will be errors – but at every club with a ballplaying keeper, there are errors. The player needs support and the detractors need to back off – just remember, the same folk begging for Ramsdale to return were the same folk that were telling us signing a keeper with 3 relegations under his belt was a bad idea. Writing off a potential Spain number 1 feels like a futile exercise, but here we are, some fans do not learn.
Declan Rice put in another monster performance. He’s going toe-to-toe with Jude Bellingham this season for the best midfielder in England. I am not a huge fan of him in the more advanced position, but overall, it’s hard not to sit in awe of his defensive positioning, and some of that explosive turbocharged running he can do when he sniffs out a chance to close in on goal. What a player – how did we end up bagging a generational talent like that?
The only real flatline moment of the evening was seeing Jesus limp off. Another hamstring issue. That’s quite the number we’re totting up this season. The club should be doing a better job with these soft tissue problems. It’s too early in the season for a young team to be dropping like this so regularly. Hamstring issues are the result of wear and tear – that can be too many games, but it can be offset by being a little less intense in training. What is the root cause here? TELL ME?
No one will tell me.
But it needs deeper investigation because if we can’t survive 5 games a month, we’re going to be in deep, deep trouble come December.
So, a great start to the week. We’re in the hunting pack for the league. We’re top of our group in the Champions League. There are minimal things we need to complain about. So why not check out our latest podcast?