The second match of the UEFA Champions League group stage between Arsenal and PSG was a bit of a war and most certainly scrappy.
With possession about even, PSG seemed to have more high-quality chances, but incisive play from the hosts made the score stay knotted up at two apiece.
Luck struck each team on Wednesday night in North London as Arsenal did the classic “kick the ball toward the goal and hope for the best” tactic and made it work as the ball took a hard deflection off Marco Verratti and ended up past PSG ‘keeper Alphonse Areola.
Lady Luck also favoured PSG, as a far-post header from Lucas going towards goal was nodded on by Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, putting it out of the reach of David Ospina.
A win would have locked up the top spot in Group A, a feat that the Gunners have not accomplished in a terribly long time. With one match-day left Arsenal will have to win and score as many as possible against Basel on December 6th in order to ensure they top the group.
Here are the three stars from the draw at the Emirates:
Third Star: Aaron Ramsey
In the Welshman’s typical fashion, he was the engine of the team even though he is still coming off an injury. He was everywhere on the pitch and worked as hard as anyone else out there, and he played a key part on offense as a playmaker and a shooter, and he was the main catalyst behind the Verratti own goal.
Though the team still misses the creativity of Santi Cazorla in midfield, Ramsey was an upgrade on Mohamed Elneny, who spent the past few weeks playing alongside Francis Coquelin at the double pivot in front of the back line. If Wenger finds out how to use Ramsey and Xhaka at the same time effectively, then the team may not miss the Spanish maestro anymore.
Second Star: Alexis Sanchez
He won the penalty for Arsenal that was converted by Olivier Giroud, and he made the PSG back line quake in their boots the entire match. Going up against an inexperienced Thomas Meunier, Alexis took full advantage of that mismatch and got himself into great positions for shots.
Like Ramsey, he ran the entire match and set up good chances for his teammates and himself. He went back to his usual position on the wing with ease after starting at center forward for most of the season, and with Olivier Giroud in good form, the attack looks much more intimidating with Alexis at his usual position out wide, where he can work with the ball more.
First Star: Lucas Moura
Moura was a threat to the Arsenal defence and to David Ospina’s goal for the majority of the match, and his positioning paid off when he scored a fine header that took a deflection to get past Ospina. He stretched the Arsenal back line and caused problems behind, forcing Laurent Koscielny to act quickly several times.
Whether he was out near the touchline or towards the center, the sheer pace the Brazilian has scared an Arsenal back line that missed its fastest player, Hector Bellerin. Moura also did quite well to create for his teammates, and the score could have been much higher if Edinson Cavani was a half-decent forward.
Certainly not the best result but far from the worst one possible, Arsenal will go into this weekend’s match against Bournemouth with things to build upon and things to learn from as a result of the fifth Champions League match of the season. The Gunners did get a bit lucky with the penalty call and the own goal, so the attack will have to be much sharper in future matches if the team is going to succeed.
With a game against a weaker side in Bournemouth coming up, Wenger’s men cannot get complacent if they want to build up their form after this slight disappointment. There is still a good chance of clinching the top spot in the group, which would lead to a much kinder drawn than ones the team has faced in recent years. If Arsenal can do that, then the second half of the season should look much easier than it usually does.