Arsenal 6 – 0 Ludogrets Razgrad
Am I the only one who thought we didn’t actually play that well? I’m not complaining before you do about that sentence, just observing that I think I’ve seen us play a lot better and get less reward.
A giant step was taken towards the inevitable Round of Sixteen exit from the Champions League with this win. Mesut Özil grabbed a second half hat-trick – the first of his career – leading Arsène to tell the world that the German ‘has a taste for goals’ in the same way that a wild dog gets bloodlust.
I’m sure the Bulgarians feel hard done by with the final score. They might have had one or more themselves and would have done so were it not for a good display from David Ospina. The Colombian has exorcised the memory of Olympiacos last season – in his mind at least – with some good saves in one-on-one situations.
Even before Alexis opened the scoring, Arsenal had served notice and in all honesty, Ludogrets were poor at defending all night. It’s fair to say they won’t have played a team with a similar vibrant movement as Arsenal in their domestic game and at times, they looked overwhelmed.
And it was a marvellous opening goal, exquisite. As sublime a chip as has been seen at any of the club’s home ground. Theo joined in with a fine finish as half-time approached before Ox killed the game in the first minute of the second half. After that, it was the Mesut Özil show. Like London buses, nothing for ages and three come at once.
Three simple finishes or goals which were made to look simple. Lucas Perez got a couple of assists, might have had one himself and Arsenal played within themselves as Ludogrets lost heart. Unsurprisingly they were more intent of keeping the score down than anything else. Arsenal were passing it around but with the lead well and truly established, nobody really cared.
Afterwards, Arsène didn’t shy away from the fact that a better side than Ludogrets would have punished Arsenal more severely. It has to be acknowledged that you only beat the opposition in front of you and in all likelihood, a better side would have drawn more intensity out of Arsenal’s performance.
Arsène admitted some concern about the defensive lapses, as well as enjoying the free-scoring ways:
We could’ve paid for the chances we gave away, but as long as you score three, the opponent has to score four to beat you. Let’s continue to score goals and get these lapses of concentration out of our game.
To err is human and we’re all guilty of lapses in concentration – God knows it’s hard enough to write these posts at times without the mind wandering. Arsenal’s are more costly – or potentially so – in a ninety minute period. Some of the Ludogrets chances were through creative running and passing; some weren’t.
The latter saw the defence switch off a couple of times which is a continuation of a theme from the weekend. To me, it’s the impact of the international break and the partnership between Mustafi and Koscielny needing a game or two to get back on track.
The visitors inevitably enjoyed space on the left with Kieran Gibbs showing the impact of a lack of regular first team action; the understandings with Koscielny and Ox were rusty. I didn’t think Gibbs did badly, simply not enough to warrant his inclusion ahead of Nacho Monreal at the moment.
Inevitably with a win this big, attention is focussed on the forwards. Theo and Alexis are playing as well as they have for the club with the speed of passing from midfield giving the Chilean the opportunity to prove himself as a viable central striker. Theo, meanwhile, is in the form of his life; I can’t think of a time when he has played this consistently well which casts doubt on those who suggest he is the problem when it comes to his England career.
If he is turning it on for his club, like so many others before him the problem has to be with the national squad. This is England we’re talking about. And anyone who thinks modern football is brilliant should ponder the thought that a Chinese consortium looking to take Sunderland over has apparently identified Sam Allardyce as the ideal manager.
Back to Arsenal. With four goals in his past two games and six for the season, Mesut Özil should give his best ever goal return for a season this year. Six in total, doubling that is the magic number which is just baffling that a man as talented as he doesn’t find the net more often. If I’m honest, I think that in a straight choice between he and Dennis Bergkamp, the Dutchman wins every time for that reason alone. A mercurial talent and a joy to watch but a player who should score more often.
A comfortable win never does confidence any harm and makes the world a sunnier place. With the run of fixtures ahead, the chance to put together a strong run ahead of the matches against Tottenham and United either side of the next international break presents itself. Is this the year the November hoodoo is put to bed? Well, we beat Chelsea and Swansea at home so anything is possible…