Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Three Things: Arsenal Beat Galatasaray 4-1

Arsenal and Dortmund were already through to the knockout stage of the Champions League before their Match Day 6 games began. But an Arsenal win and Dortmund loss, or an Arsenal victory by six goals would see the Gunners take first. And while that second possibility might have sounded unlikely before the game began, Arsenal found themselves two up before 11 minutes and three up before 30. Suddenly there were chances to do the unthinkable. But the Gunners spurned some good chances throughout the rest of the first half and late into the second, before Galatasaray pulled one back in the 88th, from Wesley Sneider. Podolski then scored in the 92nd minute to give Arsenal their fourth.

It was an impressive performance from beginning to end showing resilience on defense, a more fluid passing game and the creation of chance after chance. It was also a good day for both Ramsey and Podolski, who had a brace each. In the end, the game didn’t change the table standings, but it should be a confidence boost for a team that really needs one. Three points for the game:

1. Rambo Returns: Aaron Ramsey has been in rather troubling form since returning from his latest injury, after a brilliant, though injury-shortened campaign last season (including scoring the winner in the come-from-behind FA Cup). But he has looked his old self in the last two, chipping in three goals, an assist and contributing more on the defensive end. They will need his goals, creativity and work rate going forward and it is great to see him returning to form. His second goal, in particular, reminded of the Welshman at his best, scoring a stunner on the half volley from outside the box. Maybe a fifth movie is in the making?

2. Podolski Ponderings: there has never been a question about Podolski’s finishing, it is more about his work rate, movement, hold-up play (if at the #9) or ability to cover the left back (if playing as a winger). But he did ask some questions of Wenger today, particularly as the Gunners have had some problems putting the ball in the net this season. He had two quality finishes and was unlucky not to score two others – a fine save and the crossbar costing him the hat trick (or more). And he even finished a full 90 minutes effectively, with the second goal coming in extra time. Has he earned a little more time on the pitch? Hard to say, though Sanchez could move to the right or play in the number 10 and let Podolski go back out on the left wing.

3. Wenger Wailing: Quiz – you are three nil up at halftime, having scored five goals in your last two halves, and you need three more goals to win the group (you are close to that average). Do you a) Push the team forward to try and score the needed three additional goals, b) Play on the break, but make sure you have players on the pitch who can finish, or c) Take out the hottest player on the team and put in a couple of teenagers. Any sane person would do a, or at worst b, particularly given the reality they have gone out in the first round of the knock out stage for five years running. But not Wenger! And thus sums up the last decade or so. Any Arsenal fan has certainly heard about the verbal assault Arsene received on the London Tube a couple days ago and few would argue they were warranted or appropriate. But even looking at the victory today, beyond the point I already made, is the reminder that if we had actually done against Anderlecht up three nil what we did today in the second half, we would have topped the group. Those mistakes, of not managing a game where we need goals or one that was turning against the team, is symptomatic of Wenger and of the mediocrity too many fans have accepted for too long. Sure there are other teams that are jealous of Arsenal’s consistency, but even Liverpool has won more trophies in the past decade (including that elusive UCL title). I think the time has finally come, and assume Wenger will leave – or be pushed out – in May. Some continue to make the tired argument that we are risking getting worse under someone else – I, for one, am willing to take that risk.

Arsenal are through to the knockout stage with a little added momentum though, and will hope to get a kinder draw than the ones they have received four of the past five years (AC Milan was the break between Barcelona twice and Bayern twice – the last time they actually won their group). Liverpool, on the other hand, saw their European return end on a sour note, as they could only draw against Basel with a late Gerrard equalizer and are thus on their way to the Europa League. Chelsea will join Arsenal in the Final 16, but Man City’s future depends completely on beating Roma at Roma tomorrow. COYG!

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