The Champion’s League is where we start this month, with a trip to The Netherlands to face PSV. Although Ospina and Elneny get starts, we otherwise keep a strong line up, as we aim for top spot in the group.
We start off well, and a beautiful cross field pass from Giroud sets Sanchez free after 14 minutes, and he chips the goalkeeper perfectly. He was just offside, but the goal stands, and I’ll take it after our last encounter. We’re in charge for the rest of the first half, but fail to add to our lead.
We’re even better in the second half, but again wasteful in front of goal. Ozil has a bad game and comes off for Ramsey, and as the second half enters the last 20 minutes, we chuck on Kessie to shore up midfield and Belotti to replace the ineffective Giroud.
PSV 0-2 Arsenal
It works a treat, we create a couple of really good chances, including Aaron Ramsey nearly destroying the crossbar on 73 minutes. Eventually, we are rewarded for our patience, with Belotti clinically finishing a Theo Walcott through ball. Giroud’s place is coming increasingly under threat.
Next up in the league is Sunderland away. Despite another international break on the horizon, we rest a few players, as most of them will be travelling far and wide representing their countries. We give Lucas a run out on the right as an inside forward. I’ll try anything to get some more productivity out of that position.
It’s not a great first half by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re on top and create a couple of good chances, but once again don’t convert. Giroud is particularly profligate. Gibbs hits the bar (by accident…).
The second half is even, Sunderland have come out to play. And then, the turning point; Giroud goes off injured.
Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal
Belotti comes on, and immediately belts home after an Ozil through ball. 10 minutes later, and it’s an Arsenal classic. Gabriel does his finest Steve Bould impression, flicking on an Ozil corner for Michael Keane to head in from short range. An oldie, but a goodie. Sunderland have given us a fright, but we got the points when not at our best. Lucas was rubbish.
We’re away again for our next game, at Anfield against top of the league Liverpool. I don’t know what Joachim Low is doing to his players during international duty, but Ozil and Mustafi are knackered again. We go back to the 4123 and will try and keep it tight.
The first half is close. Both teams have a couple of chances, the best of which fall to Giroud and Cazorla. They both fail to convert. The second half continues in a similar vein.
After 61 minutes we take off Coquelin and Sanchez (who is tired after his travels with Chile) for Ramsey and Iwobi.
After 62 minutes, Keane is victim to another unlucky deflection and we’re down 1-0.
We bring Belotti on for the (again) ineffective Giroud and go on the attack. With ten to go, Belotti misses a sitter.
Liverpool 1-0 Arsenal
I suppose it was a quite typical early season clash between contenders. Not a great game, and neither side really going for it.
It’s a harsh result for us, despite the stats, 14 of Liverpool’s 17 efforts were from long range, and we made the 3 best chances.
We could do without a trip to Turin after that. Our fourth away match in a row is against Juve, and we need to avoid defeat to solidify our chances of winning the group. We cast aside the 4123 in favour of our strongest team.
If Paulo Dybala could shoot, we’d lose this game by four.
Juventus 2-2 Arsenal
Higuain scores after 15, catching Mustafi out of position, but Coquelin hits back 3 minutes later from the edge of the box. The rest of the half is end to end, with Juve shading it, but after 32 minutes Coquelin scores again! This time rising above the Juventus defence to power home a header from Bellerin’s inch perfect cross.
We have an effort early in the second half, but then it’s all Juve. Dybala’s finishing is criminal, otherwise we’d be dead and buried. Just when I start to believe we can hold onto the victory, Higuain scores again with 8 minutes to go. They almost beat us, and deserved to, but Mandzukic hits the bar at the death.
I have concerns about my tactic at this point. Our results aren’t bad, but I’m carrying the right winger in domestic games (though Theo’s played very well in European fixtures), and am getting very little out of Ozil. One goal and three assists in 12 starts isn’t good enough from our second best player. So I make some tweaks on the training field (see next post).
Our last game of the month is our first one at home. We play the slightly tweaked tactic, and give a rest to everyone but Petr Cech.
Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace
It’s a thoroughly deserved victory as we outplay a Palace team with only fouling in their gameplan. Somehow our only goals come through a marvelous Lucas free kick, and a tap in by Lucas after his penalty is saved. Confusingly, this goal is marked down not only as a penalty scored, but two missed penalties. Huh?!
Very little evidence to show any improvements from the 2.0 tactic, but the 2nd team comfortably won, and played well, so we’ll see how it goes. We got something out of the right wing, but as it was set pieces, it feels a little irrelevant to the tactic.
We’re up to second, but with only three points separating the top five, everything is to play for.