Not the best performance to put it mildly, but Arsenal are still 5 points clear at the top of Group H in the Europa League.
A 0-0 tie in front of the Arsenal faithful won’t be the momentum Arsenal were looking for ahead of Sunday’s big match against City. Then again, many of the inclusions - if not all - are players we likely will not be seeing this weekend. With FC Cologne taking all 3 points against BATE in a 5-2 drubbing, Arsenal solidify their place in the round of 32.
While there were not many good moments, there are four players that really stood out and helped their stock in terms of playing more consistently in the Premier League
1) Matt Macey
Macey looked very good in his performance tonight. A cool save from a tricky header in the opening minutes to put the ball out of play when Arsenal were caught out got him in his groove. That led to quite a save that Macey tipped off the bar. Just take a look at this:
Macey finished the game with 3 saves and 71% passing. Not bad from the first Englishman to play keeper for Arsenal since they settled into the Emirates.
2) Joe Willock
This kid has a very bright future, and tonight was another example of the potential he has. He consistently controlled the game from the midfield position, and arguably was the only one of the middle four to look like he belonged out there. 82% passing, 3 dribbles completed, 2 tackles, and a comfort level that will pay dividends in his development. A lackluster shot and 2 dispossessed take-on’s were the only thing that he could’ve improved on.
3) Mohamed Elneny
The Egyptian looked cool, calm, and composed being played out of position in the back line. The position did not stop him from moving forward during attacks and creating chances for a team that looked dull all 90 minutes. Elneny understands his role at Arsenal, but hopefully more performances like this will leave Wenger with a difficult decision come FA Cup and lower-prestige Premier League matches. 67/78 passing tonight and a tackle makes for a decent match.
4) Jack Wilshere
Jack’s cleared shot off the line was the closest Arsenal came to goal the entire match.
Again a strong performance from Jack, who improved his presence as the game went on. 1 shot, 5 dribbles, 91% passing, and 1 tackle made for another great game from Wilshere. I am admittedly a Wilshere fan, but you cannot argue his ability in these past few performances. Hoping to see him sub in on Sunday.
There were some incredibly frustrating parts of tonight.
I am not usually one to call out the refereeing in most games, but a blatant handball in the box and multiple assaults on Arsenal went seemingly unnoticed by an official who did not want to call it both ways. There was a few times when I actually jumped out of my chair and yelled. Some call it passion, others call it insanity.
2) Francis Coquelin
This seems to be the end of Francis Coquelin’s run of form. He didn’t seem to put a ball right tonight from the blow of the first whistle. There were poor passes, dribbles that had no control to them, and many more blunders. The Frenchman will need to show a significant turnaround in the next few weeks if we wants to see any time outside of the Carabao Cup or Europa League competitions. I would say there is an argument 6 people stand between him and the number 1 spot in the midfield.
3) Theo Walcott
Where did it all go wrong for Theo? Many expected these appearances to be a way for him to solidify himself more consistently in the Premier League matches. £150,000 in weekly wages is up there for one of the most ridiculous contracts in professional sports. Twitter annihilated Theo, and justifiably so. He didn’t seem to be on the pitch most of the time, and in the second half he whiffed a nice ball from El-Neny which at the least should have been on target. See below:
Here is to hoping the City match goes our way on Sunday, and that we begin preparing for a knockout round in the Europa League which may include the likes of a blazing Lazio team, and CL 3rd place finishers like Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid.