If you want to read a conventional report on the game tonight can I recommend the Guardian. I haven’t seen what they have come up with yet, but among the mainstream media they and the Observer get it right more often than most. Actually, I just checked, and it is here.
For this blogger and, I suspect, most of you, it was a fraught evening. In the preview I probably gave away my expectation with a punt on 2-1, albeit supplemented with a lesser wager on 3-1. I suspected we were in for a tense night as a result of experience rather than intimate knowledge.
It was a game I thought long and hard about coming up for. It is always touch and go if I get home from midweek matches, and I could do without the worry that accompanies that. Most midweek games that I attend I make an early exit, if the situation permits. I have to say at 1-0 going into added time tonight I could not have done that.
The match was eminently watchable if you didn’t have an enormous emotional attachment. Arsenal must be the best team to see if you are a neutral, or supporter of another club not in direct competition with us. For example, Ludogorets or maybe Tottenham. No wait, well played Ludogorets tonight.
Not being a neutral, and of course neither are you, this was a night we have become accustomed to. With the half a spine of Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, and Olivier Giroud missing Arsene opted for what I would consider a plan B. My instinct was that he would start Sanogo as a target man, a la Giroud, but instead he opted for a more mobile front man in Alexis. The system changed somewhat, we also had an interesting blend of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, and Mesut Ozil making shapes ahead of Mathieu Flamini, and alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, often left lonely hugging the right touchline.
As things transpired Arsene nailed it, but by a whisker. Alexis will love the significance of his first competitive goal for Arsenal. Let us also acknowledge significant decsions by a poor referee that could have changed the outcome. I have no issue with Debuchy’s first half challenge in the area, but Jack was a lucky boy. Given what happened later I have to acknowledge we dodged one bullet, maybe.
That doesn’t excuse a card happy official from showing a second yellow, and red card, to Debuchy for a perfectly innocent challenge in which he wins the ball. Cue the ramp up in nervousness among the faithful.
The outcome was as precious a 1-0 as we have produced in recent years. The questions remain. I am loathe to spark the debate again about using the resources clearly available to strengthen the squad. It goes round and round and pits Gooner against Gooner. We know we are short, squad wise, of a quality centre back. We know another defensive midfielder, preferably a beast of a player, would be welcome, and who the hell couldn’t do without a goalscoring centre-forward?
That being said let’s just savour the evening, and a first goal of many for Alexis. Now, time to get some more ice. Long story…