What is not to like about Spursday Nights?!!
Now that was a proper night of football. Clearly, the crowd control was poor and lessons will have to be learned, but it is hard to deny that the home of football was very atmospheric last night. A few years ago, I experienced something similar when Dortmund played Arsenal at home, even though they did seem to have a lot more tickets allocated to them and were mostly all in designated areas. The thing is, the Germans know how to sing and be collectively loud; you just have to give them that.
The line-up did not hold too many surprises, except maybe the inclusion of both Bellerin and the Nacho man. The former really needs to get in to a ‘game rhythm’ this season, and the latter should have been spared in my opinion. It does look like we have limited options in the full back positions if Wenger feels he needs to play the likes of Hector, Nacho, and eventually Kola too in a UEFA cup group game at home. And if Debuchy is not even used in a game like this, only God knows what he did to Wenger to get in such bad books.
Our boys looked a bit disorientated in the first half and clearly struggled to find a collective rhythm, or a if you want, a sense of togetherness. These players were not working as a well-oiled unit and many passes went astray. On top of that, Koln had one of those moment a manager always hopes for when playing away against very strong opposition: a wonder goal out of the blue by Cordoba. The lively Ospina ran out of his box to clear a ball but it fell to a Koln player and then it ended up with Cordoba, who did not think twice and produced a fabulous long-range shot over the helpless looking keeper and high into the net. Unfortunately for the red-shoed manager, it fell only in the ninth minutes, leaving Arsenal plenty of time to make amends.
We were not clicking in the middle of the field and our wing-backs were struggling to provide the much needed width to crack the German walls of four and five in front of them. Alexis was shaking off some rust and Maitland-Niles and the Chilean were not clicking. Hector struggled to stretch the defence by coming inside time and again and thus slowing our attacks down. Elneny worked his socks off to push the team forward and make things happen in midfield, but Iwobi struggled to get into the game and make the required difference around the box.
At the back, the BFG was imperious with great interceptions and clearances and providing structure to the defence. Unfortunately, Holding had another jittery game and lacked intensity when making interceptions, regularly leading to half clearances and dangerous loose balls in the box.
The second half saw us play much, much better. Maybe it was due to a change in formation, with now four at the back, or maybe it was the team-talk at half time that did it. We played with lots more intensity, harmony and purpose and managed to get pressure on the Koln defence in and around the box. It was only a matter of time before we would hit the net, and it came within four minutes. Kola put his laces through a deflected ball that was forever dropping down from the sky and his howitzer was sooo ferocious that it would have killed anything in its path. 1-1 and game on.
And then Alexis re-announced himself. A typical run from the flank towards the middle of the box followed by a bended shot that the keeper saw far too late to respond too; and if he had seen it earlier, he would not have got close to it anyway, so hard and precise was the Chilean’s far-post-bender. It was a goal the game and the player needed and we were now leading: 2-1.
The third and last Arsenal goal was also a beauty, even though, just like the first one, it had an imperfect Theo moment in it. Our English winger struggled throughout the game to hold on to the ball and make a difference, but his runs in and around the box became better the longer the game went on (and he got spotted and served better in the second half). The team worked cleverly together to get the ball to him in the box but his effort on goal was too hasty – so typical of Theo who often scores like that but also regularly wastes really good opportunities through this lack of ‘taking a moment’. Luckily, Hector was there to pounce on the rebound and I loved the conviction he put into his attempt. He really needed this game and I expect him to play really well on Sunday against the Chavs. 3-1 to the good guys and game over.
After that we strutted our stuff with back-heels and flicks and dummies and dinks, but no more goals were added. Maitland-Niles grew and grew and showed what a box-box potential he has. Koln had a couple of half-chances but Ospina was sharp and keen and a good game of football came to an end.
A few first teamers shook off some summer-rust, a few youngsters experienced a proper European cup-tie, a few oldies smelled football again and gained a lot of fitness, and Maitland-Niles showed us all what a prospect he is: what is not to like about Spursday football?