FC Basel 1 – 4 Arsenal
In 2005/06, the record-breaking run of clean sheets was unexpected. Welcome, but unexpected nonetheless.
The same can be said of Ludogorets Razgrad earning themselves a point in Paris last night. PSG were overwhelming favourites but twice trailed the Bulgarians. A third and decisive goal was beyond the French champions; inexplicably and unbelievably, the made the sort of mistake Arsenal have long-held in their repertoire.
So, for the first time since 2010, we’ve finished top of the group. Last night’s win almost warranted that on its own. The XI picked up where most of them left off at the Olympic Stadium. Basel were brushed aside with Lucas Perez grabbing a hat-trick, his first for the club.
Each of them was a poacher’s goal; predatory instincts prevailed for each. Alexis’ delightful chipped pass to Mesut Özil was met with an equally perfect slide rule pass across the goal to Lucas. Pause, stand, regain balance and slot home; three yards from goal, it took nerves of steel to leave the defender prostrate in the back of the net.
The second, quick as a flash reactions after the goalkeeper parried, admittedly into the Spaniard’s path. The third, seizing on a miscontrolled pass, slotted home coolly. Three striker’s finishes; if they had been scored by Alexis, we’d have been purring about the quality he possesses.
Instead, we’re left purring about his free kick which rattled the bar with the goalkeeper beaten all ends up. As last kick’s of the match go, that was impressive. As was Olivier Giroud’s work rate when he came on. The French international, with a point to prove and a place in the XI to regain, quickly settled into the match and in fairness, ran his socks off for no reward.
The final goal went to Alex Iwobi, well-taken after he was set up by Mesut Özil. With the German and Sanchez in the side and in this form, scoring goals ought not be Arsenal’s problem. You sense that a game is coming where it will be tough though; this is Arsenal, after all.
A Nice Night
I cannot complain. We played some nice football and it’s a nice night for us. We came here and wanted to do the job, to play well and on top of that we were lucky with the Paris Saint-Germain result. It was a positive night.
You’d have to be pretty churlish not to think that Arsène was overdue a bit of luck in Europe. If you recall the self-inflicted wounds previously suffered, it’s the first good fortune I can think of since Napoli couldn’t find the one extra goal to dump us into the Europa League a couple of years back.
It came off the back of our best performance in Europe for many a season. There was no flattery in the scoreline; 4 – 1 fully reflected the comprehensive nature of the win. There wasn’t a bad performance from anyone and several which stood out. The obvious candidates are the goalscorers, Mesut, Alexis, etc. However, I thought Rob Holding’s rawness at the back showed definite signs of lessons on the training ground being learned. Yes, there were mistakes but everyone makes them, particularly in a new role or at a new club.
Kieran Gibbs caught the eye though. It wasn’t the toughest night he’ll ever have but he was eager, hungry to snap into the tackle and anticipating well, setting up attacks with quickly won possession.
Ospina made some good saves which some will argue might have put a different complexion on the game but Arsenal missed enough chances of their own.
Good Start Surprised Basel
Credit to Wenger for his rotation which was quite seamless in terms of performance levels. It was hard to notice that six changes were made to the line-up from Saturday. Arsène put this down to the confidence displayed from the first whistle:
We had a good start, were quite mobile and technically very agile as well. The speed of our start surprised Basel and it was a convincing performance.
And you can’t argue with that. You can if you want but after a 4 – 1 win…
There’s a distinctly look to the probable opponents. Some are known: Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, Benfica. Others are likely: Borussia Dortmund (assuming they lose as expected in the Bernabeu tonight), Porto and Sevilla. Are there any easy ties? Some are easier than others but let’s be honest, that’s a more accommodating group on the whole than Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Monaco and Napoli.
Whatever the case, the Champions League is on the back-burner until February now. Yes, the draw is important but there are a dozen Premier League matches before the Round of Sixteen, as well as the FA Cup, beginning at Preston North End.
Finally, a reminder that Dad’s Jukebox has reached 1983 in Times of our Lives, with 1984 soon to go live.