In the past, if you'll recall, we've done reviews using a "good, bad, ugly" format. We kind of got out of the habit of doing those, for whatever reason, so I decided that it was a good time to bring something similar back - but in this age of time-saving and budget-tightening and refinement, I'm reducing the categories by 33% and sticking with a binary of Positives and Negatives. It was often the case that we couldn't draw a bright line between Bad and Ugly in our reviews, so maybe this will keep things a little clearer. Let us know if the format works, or if you prefer the GBU style - we're not wedded to either one, we just want to get back to doing something like this after matches again.
1. One thing that can be said about Arsenal is that they are very, very good with their backs to the wall. Leaving aside for the moment that they are generally the ones who put their own backs to the wall, at least in the Champions League, I don't know how anybody can look at yesterday's game and say that Arsenal didn't play like they knew what they had to do from the off. They played a monster of a game that fell just short.
2. Mesut Özil. Was this his most complete performance as an Arsenal player? I would say it's right up there. Whether this is the result of his fabled bulking up during his injury layoff or something else, I don't know, but he was a beast yesterday. The best part? He was a beast on both sides of the ball, tracking back and defending when he had to as well as doing his Özil stuff when he was on the ball. This is the player Arsene wanted last season, and this is the player he is.
3. Aaron Ramsey. He's generally a positive, but yesterday he was a...Double Positive? Super sub? Whatever you want to call it, that's what he was, coming on at the hour mark and scoring Arsenal's second 19 minutes later. It wasn't enough to advance, but Ramsey's influence on the game once he entered was striking.
1. Arsenal's play after Ramsey's goal. At that point, there's still 12 or so minutes to go, and Arsenal were pretty much bossing every area of the field. So of course, it was time after the second goal to just start hoicking balls into the Monaco penalty area and hoping for a lucky rebound, right? I have no idea if that was something the players just started doing, or if that instruction came from the bench, but either way, it was a pointless change of tactics away from what had worked so well throughout the game up to that point, and it was annoying.
2. Alexis Sanchez. Is he exhausted? Is he finally being found out a bit by defenders? Probably a bit of both, but either way, he was shockingly poor yesterday. Earlier in the season, we were told both that he was "in the red zone" and also that he was "inexhaustible", so, I guess, thanks for clearing that up everybody - but that was also, of course, much earlier in the season. It's clear that he needs a rest, even for a week, so here's hoping we don't see him in Newcastle on Saturday. Stay home, put your feet up - we need you in April and May.
3. Arsene's puzzling substitutions. Danny Welbeck was one of the better players going forward yesterday, creating space, distributing the ball well, and generally just being a nuisance who looked dangerous. Which is why it was all the more bizarre when Arsene brought him off for Theo Walcott. I have long been critical of Arsene's seeming dogmatic approach to substitutions - never before the 70th minute, and often done in a manner unrelated to game state - but this one was one of the biggest headscratchers of all.
4. Exhaustion. Arsenal ran themselves into the ground yesterday, Sanchez and Özil particularly. Hopefully that won't have a big effect on the team for Saturday, as they can't afford to have a down week against a team that they should be able to beat easily.
The biggest negative in this game, of course, is that it had to be such an epic fightback to start with, but that's the hole Arsenal dug themselves, so.