Wednesday 28 September 2016
Arsenal 2 FC Basel 0
Off the back of a statement 3-0 win against Chelsea at the weekend, Arsenal rode that momentum into their second Champions League tie of the season against FC Basel and tore them apart in a dominant 2-0 victory.
The goals came courtesy of Theo Walcott, who looks like a new man this season. He now has 4 goals in his last 3 games, taking his overall tally to 5, a hot start to the new campaign for the Englishman. It's not just the goals, it's his confidence and the way he's become such an important cog in the attack. Theo has a habit of going missing in games, lost for long periods in matches, but this season he's been involved heavily in each of his appearances and tonight was no different. At the end of the first half he had the most touches of any Arsenal player and was a constant menace to the Basel defenders. Theo has always been one of those players that has hot and cold spells but so far this season he's brought a sense of consistency that was lacking last season. His link-up play with Alexis Sanchez tonight was impressive, as both forwards found each other regularly, particularly in that flawless first half.
Arsenal's first goal came after 7 minutes, from a pinpoint Santi Cazorla pass finding Sanchez close to the byline. Alexis controlled the ball perfectly and scooped the ball over the Basel defence into the path of Walcott who couldn't miss, heading home to give the Gunners the lead.
The second goal arrived 20 minutes later and felt inevitable. Walcott started a one-two with Sanchez who laid the ball back into Theo's path. The Englishman shifted between two Basel defenders into space and didn't hesitate. He put his head down and struck through the ball, giving the Basel keeper no chance.
In the second half Arsenal clearly relaxed. They still dominated possession but started to get a bit cute with their passing, a bit of showboating here and there. Basel finally came into the game but could only force Ospina into a couple of saves. You could see the Arsenal players had taken their foot off the gas, perhaps saving their energy ahead of the trip to Burnley on Sunday.
With a 2 goal cushion Arsenal kept pressing for another goal but the Basel keeper Vaclik kept the Swiss side from being on the wrong end of a rout. Sanchez in particular was unlucky not to find the back of the net but Ozil, Iwobi and a host of others should have done better in front of goal. If I have any negatives from tonight it was how wasteful we were after grabbing the 2-0 lead but that's nit-picking. Arsenal were in complete control from start to finish and that's all you can really ask for.
I can't fault any player tonight, as each and every one of them put in a real shift and hardly put a foot wrong. Despite my previous concerns earlier in the season about playing Sanchez as a lone striker, things seem to have clicked now. Whether the squad has adjusted to the change in tactics when the Chilean plays through the middle or maybe Sanchez himself has upped his game, whatever has happened is working wonders at the moment. Long may it continue.
Thanks for reading.