Arsenal are the team to have won the most Champions League games without ever lifting the trophy. And tonight showed why.
Wenger’s teams have always been fairly consistent in Europe, but year on year they leave themselves with too much to do. Last season’s last 16 opponents Monaco was Arsenal’s most favourable last 16 draw for quite some time, but they did their best to mess it up. The unfavourable match-ups they’ve faced over the years have been down to their coming second in the group and having to play a bigger team in the knockout round.
This game was one where, had Arsenal gone about it in a more professional manner, they surely would have won. Instead, Wenger rested players and the players on the pitch didn’t really help his cause, with Olivier Giroud getting himself sent off needlessly.
It was always going to be tough for Arsenal to finish top of their group ahead of Bayern Munich, but it looks even more unlikely now. They should still qualify, but it might come down to that same old problem for Wenger – Arsenal qualify second and get knocked out of the competition early by a bigger side who managed to win their group.
Here are three things we learned from the game.
Always underestimate opponent. That is #Arsenal
— syakirin (@boyakism) September 16, 2015
They really should have learned this a long time ago, or at least in last season’s Champions League when they were unceremoniously dumped out of the competition at the last 16 stage by Monaco last season. Last year, Arsenal thought they’d found a favourable draw, but a poor defeat at home to the Monegasques sent them out of the competition as Arsenal thought they could just attack their Ligue 1 opponents.
Tonight, Wenger rested key players with an eye on the crunch Premier League meeting with Chelsea at the weekend, and Arsenal paid the price. The Croatian champions weren’t the pushovers that Wenger expected them to be, they scored twice and it could’ve been more.
"Arteta can back-up Coquelin in the easier games" some said
Of the players Wenger did rest, surely the most important was Francis Coquelin. This time last season, Arsenal’s lack of a defensive midfielder was a huge concern for the North Londoners, but Francis Coquelin was probably the find of last season.
This season he is yet again their only recognised defensive midfielder, but Mikel Arteta was his replacement tonight. The theory was probably that Arsenal would dominate and so they wouldn’t need another defensive, combative player, but rather another creative outlet. As it happened, the red card for Giroud was probably the major factor in Arsenal’s defeat, but the lack of bite in the middle didn’t help.
Walcott could be the real deal up front
Tired of sayin Walcott is Arsenals best striker see him score 2-1 game ob
— 😀 I Am Joe King-_- (@ramon_clayton) September 16, 2015
Despite the doom and gloom of a defeat to European minnows only days before the big game against Chelsea, Arsenal can take at least (probably only) one positive from the game. And that’s Theo Walcott.
The Walcott / Giroud debate will rage on all season since they’re Arsenal’s only two striking options. Thanks to tonight, Walcott probably gets the nod. Giroud’s second yellow card was madness given that he was already booked. It might have been a harsh red, but you just can’t do that if you’ve already had a yellow.
This will increase the calls for Wenger to dip into his club’s funds and buy a top class striker, however Theo Walcott finished off his chance superbly and did nothing wrong all night. The only problem was the game was already beyond the Gunners when he was brought onto the pitch.