Reviewing a dead rubber is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Talk about drawing the short straw after Thursday night football. Dead rubbers don’t come any more spicy than 6 without response on matchday 6. 12 shots on target and the net bulging 6 times. It seems a galaxy away from last Saturday’s malarkey against United when everything from de Gea’s performance to witchcraft was used to try an explain how Arsenal failed to score more goals.
BATE Borisov were on a fool’s errand. They had an unreasonable hope of turning Arsenal over while Koln did them a favour against Red Star Belgrade. There is a small irony in Arsenal turning over a team 10-2 on aggregate in Europe. Where have we heard that one before?
Not that it mattered beyond confidence building for the players and a chance to enter the thoughts of the manager for future selection. With the mysterious injuries plaguing Arsenal, there were bound to be changes across the board. The defence being of particular interest as the trip to Southampton approaches.
Of Rare Goals and Collector’s Items
Arsenal barely entered second gear as they cruised through the match with confidence. An 11th-minute collector’s item from Mathieu Debuchy starting the rout. Even for an Arsenal defender, 3 years is a long time to wait for a confidence boosting goal and performance. Theo Walcott, who played a role in Debuchy’s goal made sure his man of the match performance got its reward with a second shortly after. I doubt if Welbeck intended an assist, but sometimes lady luck just places that ball in your path.
Theo’s mind is clearly set on giving Wenger a selection headache, but apart from the cup competition and playing super-sub, it’s hard to see how he will dislodge any of the AOL triumvirate. It’s still a long season, injuries and suspensions bound to create opportunities. Walcott had an inspiring game, creating space and making threatening runs. Jack Wilshere was determined not to be outshined, taking ownership of that elusive No. 10 role to constantly prod and poke an opponent already suffering a failure in confidence. Wilshere’s reward came just before half time with a sweet left footer from the edge of the box that gave the Borisov keeper no chance. Like Debuchy’s, Jack’s goal was a long time coming, May 2015 being the last time he scored a goal in Arsenal colours.
When It Rains, It Pours
It took barely 7 minutes after the break for that blasted fella called OG to check in. He can be a strange chap if he catches you at the wrong end of the pitch. Just ask Lee Dixon who still gets haunted by his own goal against Coventry. Welbeck would have surely tapped Walcott’s fire and forget cross into an empty net, but Denis Polyakov was happy to oblige. Not that he had a chance of sending that ball anywhere but the back of his net.
Giroud, who played better than he has in the last couple of Europa League outings was determined not to be left out of the party, a glimpse of his desperation resulting in a couple of pot shots. His chance came with the second bite from the spot kick, the Borisov players accused of encroaching into the penalty area the first time around.
Mohamed Elneny completed the job before he trudged off the pitch for Willock. His first goal at the Emirates a just reward for his steady performance alongside Le Coq. David Ospina was underemployed, but equal to the task when called upon. He made 5 saves which tells you how dire Borisov were in attack; the task of overhauling Arsenal was clearly beyond them.
Bring It On, I hear The Players Say
Arsenal are favourites to win the Europa League, though Atletico Madrid will vehemently disagree. Seedings ensure we don’t meet them in the next round, but Dortmund and Napoli are teams to avoid. Monday’s draw will be an indicator of the approach to team selection for future rounds which Arséne might take.
It was intriguing to listen to the half-time musings of Dan Roebuck and former Arsenal player David Hillier, the Arsenal Player commentators last night, discussing the clubs mindset in the Europa League. They alluded that the club were already preparing financially and mentally for the Europa League by late February/early March when it became clear we might miss out on the 4th place title. Perhaps an acceptance by the club of our station in life, perhaps just pragmatic planning.
Surely now Arsenal must take the competition seriously? It’s a trophy that we have a good chance of winning; a success in Europe, albeit in the lesser cup, which must be a confidence booster for the team. I don’t really see any fan refusing to embrace a Europa League title if it lands in our hands.
The law of averages suggests we have a better shot in Europe than of overhauling those ahead of us in the Premier League. What would be a disaster of a season for me though, is if Tottenham finish above us again. We can’t be having this “power shift in North London” nonsense talk again.