Friday, October 3, 2014

Arsenal 4 Galatasaray 1

After a disappointing draw in the north London derby last weekend, the Arsenal fans' mood was mixed on the 18th anniversary of Arsene Wenger's taking charge of the club. Although we all appreciated what he has achieved over the last 18 years, a question was raised after the derby draw whether he was the right person to guide the club to more success. Going into the north London derby, Arsenal were strong favourites as they had far more quality in the team on paper than their opponents after adding two world-class players in the past two summers. As much as Pochettino's tactics and his players' executing of them were praised, Wenger's tactical prowess was questioned.

In addition to the motivation to celebrate the boss' anniversary, this was a must-win game for Arsenal after they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Dortmund. Home wins are always vital in the Champions League campaigns, and also it was imperative for us to win in order to get out of the bottom of the group quickly.

Although the two teams had only met once apart from Galatasaray's 2-1 win in the Emirates Cup, the Turkish side's poor stats on the English soil made Arsenal heavy favourites, but few predicted such a comfortable win for Arsenal, which was not a surprise after the last weekend's derby draw. A tight game was expected.

Arsene Wenger was forced to make 3 changes from the side that started against Tottenham due to injury blows suffered during the north London derby. Mathieu Flamini replaced Mikel Arteta. After the costly mistake the French midfielder made last weekend, some expected Francis Coquelin might get a chance, but the boss opted for the experience. Santi Cazorla came in for Aaron Ramsey, who is expected to be sidelined for up to four weeks, in a deeper position than the Spaniard usually plays. Alexis Sanchez started in place of Jack Wilshere, who started on the bench after recovering from an ankle problem he suffered 4 days ago. As these changes were implemented, Arsenal began in a 4-2-3-1, with Mesut Özil in his favourite No. 10 role. It became clear that Wenger's tactics were better thought out than his counterpart's. Prandelli set his team up in a 3-5-2 formation, which turned out to be disastrous, giving too much space for Arsenal's speedy front men to exploit.

On top of the result and Danny Wellbeck's hat-trick, there are so many positives to take from this game. Despite all the possession Arsenal had in the first half, their three goals came from swift counter-attack, not the end-results of intricate build-up play in and around the box. This is what we expected from the signings of Alexis and then Welbz. It was refreshing and pleasing after we had seen Arsenal's tiki-taka football against the solid wall of defence fail so often. We hope to see the same formation and style of play more often, especially with Walcott's return imminent, but without a powerful defensive midfielder and solid defence, it is very difficult to play counter-attacking football against better teams.

Against Aston Villa, we thought the Welbz-Özil partnership could take off, and we now see the potential of the Welbz-Alexis partnership. After the north London derby, newspaper reports emerged that Sanchez was dropped because he slows down Arsenal's passing game. This game told us that he will certainly fit in Arsenal's counter-attacking football.

Wojciech Szczesny's red card was the sole blemish on an otherwise perfect night for us. His substitute, David Ospina, could not stop us from conceding a goal and the sending-off allowed the Turkish side get back into the game. Anti-Arsenals say that Arsenal were as good as Galatasaray were poor, but as Wenger pointed out after the match, they can be a dangerous side when they are allowed to play. Galatasaray took full advantage of their numerical superiority and gave us a scare even though we had a three-goal cushion. On the bright side, Ospina proved that he was still the same keeper we saw in the World Cup. We shouldn't miss the Pole too much against Anderlecht.

The win saw Arsenal leapfrog both Galatasaray and Anderlecht to second in the group table. With back-to-back clashes with Anderlecht coming up next in the Champions League rounds, we have a good chance of strengthening our position to qualify for the next round. But before that, a big match at Stamford Bridge awaits us next.

Players ratings

Szczesny: 5
His concentration level was questioned after this game. He rushed out of his area in the first half when Koscielny was totally in control of the situation. Then, in the 60th minute, he was sent off for hauling down Yelmaz. This is not the first time. He should have learnt by now. 

Chambers: 6
His passing left a lot to be desired at times.

Mertesacker: 7
Made 9 clearances.

Koscielny: 7

Gibbs: 7

Linked well with Alexis and one of those link-plays led to Welbz's first goal.

Flamini: 6
If he continues to lose possession in dangerous areas at this rate, he could soon be a liability. Shown a yellow card for a needless foul on Sneijder. To start with, what was he doing there in the Galatasaray half?

Cazorla: 7
He put in a good shift in his unfamiliar deep-lying midfielder role. Made 4 tackles and 1 interception, making more passes (76) than any other Arsenal player. He even made a breaking run towards the end of the game. Unlucky not to score as his shot was cleared off the line.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 8
Set up Welbz's third goal. Energetic display as usual. Set up a goal for Welbz to complete his hat-trick.

Özil: 7
In comparison with Alexis' passion and industry, Özil gets unfair stick because of his subtle and efficient style. He did his job quietly, providing an assist for Alexis with a brilliant through ball. Made an impressive 5 key passes.

Alexis: 8
Scored one and set up another for Welbz. Very industrious.

Welbeck: 9
Stats-based's Man of the Match with a 10.0 rating. Had 6 shots, of which 4 were on target. Scored his first career hat-trick. His movements outside the box earned plaudits as well. He was still trying to make forward runs even when nothing appeared to be left in his tank. A true team player. Even after the match, his humility caught people's hearts.


Ospina: 7
Replaced Alexis in the 60th minutes following the sending off of Szczesny. Made some stunning saves.

Rosicky: 6
Had a poor game against Southampton and once again not up to his usual high standard. Replaced the Ox in the 67th minute. 

Wilshere: 6
Replaced Özil in the 76th minute. 

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