Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Point Rescued In Paris

Tuesday 13 September 2016
Paris Saint-Germain 1 Arsenal 1

Arsenal's first Champions League game of the season didn't really go as planned but the result can be considered a successful one. The Gunners never really found their rhythm, with many players looking out of sync and off the pace but a 77th minute strike from Alexis Sanchez rescued a hard-fought point against French champions PSG.

Arsene Wenger chose an interesting starting eleven (to put it nicely), omitting Petr Cech, Granit Xhaka and Olivier Giroud. David Ospina made his first start of the season and despite many fans before the game questioning the manager's decision, the choice paid off as Ospina was undoubtedly the man of the match and kept Arsenal in the game. He made multiple saves throughout, denying Edison Cavani on more than one occasion with point-blank saves. Arsenal could have been behind by 3 or 4 goals but for Ospina.

PSG scored early, before a minute had even passed, Cavani glancing a header home after Koscielny was caught too high up the pitch and Mustafi couldn't recover. Ospina had no chance, even Cech would have been helpless. It's clear after two games that Koscielny and Mustafi are still developing their chemistry, and it will take some time for them to form a partnership. But it was a really sloppy goal to concede defensively and the Arsenal defence should not have been so out of position after 40 seconds.

Arsenal didn't exactly respond with any urgency. Despite having a good deal of possession the Gunners were unable to seriously threaten and never troubled Alphonse Areola in the PSG goal. Yet again Alexis Sanchez was chosen to lead the line up front on his own and again it didn't work. I'm not sure why Wenger insists on this strategy, it hasn't worked in any of the games this season and Sanchez becomes far too isolated. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi flanked Sanchez on the wings but the trio couldn't link up effectively. The Ox had a great pre-season and started the season off with a marvelous solo goal against Liverpool but he has been very average ever since. Iwobi impressed but is still somewhat raw. He saw a great opportunity saved late on.

I just couldn't understand why Giroud was rested for the weekend game against Southampton but didn't start in his homeland in possibly the most important game of our Champions League group. Without a target man of any sort (Sanchez just isn't that kind of player) the team couldn't find any space to operate. When Giroud was introduced with just under half an hour left, it changed the game instantly and Sanchez became far more dangerous as a result. Unfortunately the Frenchman picked up a second yellow card deep into injury time after a needless clash with Marco Verratti, and both men were dismissed from the pitch and Giroud will be suspended for the next group game.

I didn't understand why Xhaka was left out of the lineup either; why was he rested on Saturday but then left out of the lineup last night? Coquelin was chosen instead and saw a lot of the ball, and was regularly getting forward. But isn't he supposed to be the defensive shield? Out of the two players at the base of the midfield it should have been Cazorla in those positions, the far superior offensive player. Again, the team's tactics didn't add up and PSG were happy to let us camp outside their box. Mesut Ozil, our superstar playmaker, had very little impact on the match and was largely disappointing as he could find no way to break down the PSG defence.

Ultimately Arsenal can count themselves fortunate to rescue a point from this fixture. I couldn't see any semblance of a plan or tactical strategy out there. This squad appears to be a huge work in progress. Arsenal face Hull at home on Saturday and could really do with a confidence-boosting win after a couple of lacklustre displays post-international break.

Thanks for reading.

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