Arsenal have found a rich vein of form. They have won seven straight in all competitions and, while not all of them were pretty, that sort of result sheet just seems to give a team that extra confidence. Last night, it shone through as they brushed aside visitors Ludogorets Razgrad handily to remain level with PSG atop the Group A table, with the goal differential advantage. Arsenal now only need another win to clinch their spot in the knockout rounds.
The win made number 100 for Arsene Wenger in Europe and it couldn’t have come in a more Wenger style. Blistering attacks, pretty passes and thumping goals. Despite some solid play by Ludogorets, they never were truly in it. By the second half, Arsenal were in top gear and might have seen a few more goals on their day.
A fun game, all around.
No more Mr Assist Guy. Mesut Özil has done everything for this team, usually sitting in the driver seat of the attack. It has led to some criticism as, even though he would provide a large amount of assists and key passes, it didn’t always look like he was involved. Hard to say that now. He’s brushed aside all talk of an assist drought by recording his first professional career hattrick and first assist of the season yesterday. Özil has knocked in six goals in ten games and looked as dangerous as ever. Always involved, Mesut now can’t be defended as though he’ll only pass.
Oh, hey, the rest of the attack, too. The other three goals came from a brilliant outing by the Arsenal attack. Alexis Sanchez’ was pure skill; Theo Walcott’s an astute play to find space up top to thunder a shot home; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s was just what he needed, expertly placing a lucky bounce in the far corner. It was a promising display all around.
Perfect Substitutions. Often in games where a team is crusing, substitutions throw off the balance and kill the game rather than provide a boost you’d need in a closer affair. In what could be called the biggest positive of the game, Wenger’s substitutions all performed extremely well. Mohamed Elneny took over control of the midfield in place of Santi Cazorla (who had a fairly anonymous game for the most part, assist aside). Alex Iwobi continued solid play taking over for Alexis. But it is Lucas Perez who made a case for more playing time. Coming on in the 62nd minute... wait, is that right? Wow, that’s early. Anyway, Lucas provided creativity, industry and carved out two of Özil’s goals with excellent assists. More of that and one doesn’t worry about Arsenal’s strikeforce beyond the future of Olivier Giroud.
Francis Coquelin. Few players will ever divide fans this seasons like Coquelin but when he’s effective, he’s quite effective. He had a very good game, coming into the squad in the place of Granit Xhaka. He was involved, made excellent interceptions the way we all know he can and distributed the ball effectively. I’ll be damned if I know what his position is, watching him pop up in the right back position as Hector Bellerin moved forward as well as crossing the ball across the face of the Ludogorets goal from the left moments later, but if he’s managing to stick to his role, Coquelin is showing more positives than negatives.
Defense shaky early. In the second half, Arsenal were sweeping everyone away. In the first, Ludogorets had some joy. The visitors had a good share of the ball and more than a few moves that progressed too smoothly through the Arsenal midfield and defense. Hard to say where to place the blame here but too often in the first, Ludogorets advanced with ease and it took some heroics from David Ospina or Shkodran Mustafi to deny them. Wasn’t the strongest performance after taking the lead; fortunately, they appeared to right that ship in the second.
Ludogorets high line. Early in the match, Ludogorets learned the lessons of not adjusting. Both Walcott and Alexis had a few chances to break and couldn’t quite find the cutting pass or shot to make them pay. However, the high line still held and Alexis made up for the early misses with the first goal. Then on the second, they got too used to rushing back, leaving acres of space for Theo to find Arsenal’s second. After that, the Ludogorets defense was largely overrun, opening up the romp. It wasn’t a good day for them.
Nah, can’t think of anything. That was fun and good and I’m not going to put this voodoo on anyone today. Onward!