Eintracht Frankfurt 0 – 3 Arsenal
You know you have a problem when immediately on the final whistle in Frankfurt, the computer screen flickers with APOEL’s surprise home defeat to Dudelange. Whether that problem is Arsenal (possibly), the Europa League (probably), or life in general (definitely) is not easily decided.
What is easily decided is just how wellBuyako Saka played. A goal and two assists has everyone purring and hyperbole filling the air. He exuded confidence from the kick-off and ended the game with demands that he remains in the starting line-up for Sunday.
Dropped as soon as he doesn’t deliver such is the current fickleness with young players but today, Saka is the man.
Even if, overall, the result flattered us. A win was certainly due reward; we were the better side but both ourselves and Eintracht missed a hatful of chances. I’ll never think of ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ without inserting ‘Silva’ in there instead. Andre Silva was by far the biggest culprit.
To some extent, that downplays Emi Martinez’s performance. The last line behind a makeshift defence, the Argentinean was a safe pair of hands. And I genuinely don’t recall a fumble or dropped catch as I watch this. Nor as nervous a goal kick as Sunday.
And with Shkodran Mustafi in the side!
Post-match, Unai’s felt vindicated. “I want to create a big spirit, working tonight,” he told salivating hacks. “Sometimes we are going to have a plan and use different players,” underlining his relief that a win and clean sheet meant everyone was off his back for a few days.
If only life were that simple, Unai. If only. Now, be a good chap and make sure the cotton wool is firmly secured around Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Sunday.
That’s Your Revolution
Midway through the second half, it struck me that Sokratis and David Luiz were chomping at the bit for Friday’s training at London Colney. Aubameyang’s comments about giving goals away haunted him; a procession of presentable chances found the advertising hoardings or goalkeepers arms instead of the net.
“Can’t buy a goal, eh?” or something equally chipper was fermenting in their minds. Of course, facing 10 men, Aubameyang delivered and silenced his waiting critics. Courtesy of Saka and for a moment, irritatingly at the expense of Pepe.
Clean through on goal? Of course, Aubameyang was going to pass to Nicolas Pepe for his first club goal. “The hell he was,” said John Wayne watching on his heavenly steed.
That wrapped everything up. Joe Willock was miffed at being substituted. His yellow card – like Kolasinac’s – marked him for dismissal by a card-happy referee. Frankfurt can have no qualms about Kohr’s sending off, even his teammates did look like wanting to take the official into the alley and beat the leaving bejesus out of the ref.
And then for good measure, kick it back in so they could kick it back out again.
Willock unleashed his inner Christian Vieri with his goal. His deflected shot crashed in off the underside of the crossbar in an inch-perfect recreation of the Italian’s goal for Inter in the San Siro all those years ago. A genuine ‘Phoenix from the Flames’ moment.
It was another performance which underlined Willock’s position as a strong contender for every first-team match. His energy is a direct contrast to others’ more languid style. Energy, however, which is used purposefully and not in headless chicken fashion.
You’ve Already Judged and Condemned Me
Of course, there are concerns. Eintracht edged shots on target 7 to 6 but missed the goal on 17 other occasions. That volume of chances conceded is a warning sign. Following on from Sunday, it’s alarm bells.
Quite simply, despite the players we have, there is no sign of us controlling any matches. We don’t sit on teams and stifle them.
We exploited the ten-men of Eintracht well. The passing wasn’t wasteful and attacks were relatively smooth.
But we don’t play ten men every week. Sometimes, I think we should given the amount of kicking that we suffer. That’s the proviso against getting too het up over last night’s stats.
This isn’t the Arsenal team you will see every week. Mustafi played and spending a lot of the match on his arse, did reasonably well. Chambers isn’t a right-back in the same way AMN isn’t a right-back. But he did OK in the Commerzbank-Arena.
Where the stats are an issue is they point to a systemic flaw in whichever tactics Emery employs. A chameleon changes colours but the frame remains the same.
It’s no good touting constantly evolving tactics without having a base upon which to build. That’s the fundamental flaw in Emery’s plans, the problem he must solve.
For now though, the three points all but seals top spot in the group unless we ‘Arsenal’ up remaining games.