Ooh that late goal against us was a kick in the proverbial, and it is once again all doom and gloom in Arsenaldom. The fact that this is a game of two legs does not seem to count any more. We are obviously doomed and should not even turn up for the away leg. All home teams in the Europa League failed to win last night. In fact, the other three lost their matches, so maybe a draw ain’t too bad after all?!
We were tentative but well organised in this game and were able to create a number of half-decent and good chances. The boys hit the woodwork a few times and on another night would have scored a few in the first half and it would all have been a different experience. The beating by Pool was still in the minds and legs of the Gunners and it showed. The boys were weary of the way Slavia Prague had somehow managed to dispose of Leicester and Glasgow Rangers and therefore showed the opposition a bit too much respect.
Yet I liked the way we created opportunities and put pressure on them when they played the ball out from the back. I also liked how Holding and Gabriel tried to put some balls over the top. It was poor initially but they got better as the game went on. It was great the way Auba connected with Pepe for the goal and I also liked the way ESR disposed of his rust as the game went on to finish really strongly. Then there was Saka who was so influential and competitive but just missed a bit of composure with his final ball; something to be expected from a 19 year old who has been out of it for a while.
I saw a focussed and keen Arsenal team throughout most of the game. The final ten minutes were a disappointment and we paid for the lack of professionalism at the entire back. It would be easy to hang one or two players out to dry, but for me it was every player at the back and midfield that should get the blame. I think they can do much better as indeed they have done during the season at times, but right now confidence and automatism between the players are not high/great. I can think of a number of causes but the only way to deal with this is through practice and getting it right again during matches. We are now at the business end of the season so we have to hope that Arteta and the boys will get it right asap.
I would have really liked it if Arsenal had kept a clean sheet but all is not lost. In fact, it may turn out to be the best thing that happened to us. Think back about the last round. The Spuds took a 2-0 home game to Zagreb but then managed to still get eliminated. The psychology of having to defend a cushy lead is not easy to grasp or indeed to prepare for. I could see Arsenal struggling with this too: do we attack or do we sit back, and if we do the former how committed will we be?! A team can struggle with such a proposition and I reckon we don’t have the leadership in the team right now to maturely see out a second leg on that premise.
The 1-1 means that we have to score at least once; that we need to win or draw 2-2 or higher. The mission is clear: play football and play to win. We have a better team than them, so much is clear from the first leg. This is no time for throwing in the towel but for standing up and getting behind the team. In six days time we will see a much better and determined Arsenal, that I will promise you. All to play for. COYGs!