Arsenal travelled to Switzerland on Tuesday night in a Champions League game that saw the Gunners battling for top spot and Basel for Europa League football. The Gunners started the game well with Perez tapping in two quick goals, which effectively killed the game. In the second-half, it was much the same with Perez completing his hattrick while Ozil laid it on a plate for Iwobi to score Arsenal’s fourth. Basel did get a goal towards the end but Arsenal outclassed throughout the whole game. So Here are the four things we learned:
1. Perez Shines
The inclusion of Lucas Perez in the starting line-up split the fans’ opinion, but the former Deportivo man stepped up to the occasion. Firing in off two assists from Kieran Gibbs in the first-half and slotting away early from a Sanchez delivery in the second, the Spaniard claimed his first Champions League hattrick.
Drawing criticisms for his lack of pace and over-dependence on the left foot, Perez showed his strengths in terms of positioning, clever runs and even finishing with the weaker foot. The doubters will have been silenced with three goals in under 50 minutes, and Lucas’ performance will surely put him on Arsene Wenger’s radar as a more regular contributor to this Arsenal side.
2. Gibbs Ready To Start
Kieran Gibbs played a near perfect game against Basel (ignoring the poor marking for the goal) and showed his value with well timed runs and penetrative passes. Setting up Perez twice and covering the flank with ease, Gibbs has begun to create a clear gap between himself and Monreal. Where the latter has defensive stability, his lack of pace has often cost the Gunners this season. With Gibbs maturing as a defender and having long developed his traits as a pacy leftback as an alternative to Monreal, the first-team does not seem to be too far out of Kieran’s reach.
3. Fluid Football
Arsenal arrived in Switzerland having to win in order to stand any chance of finishing top of their Champions League group. Coming up against a Basel team with a good record against English opposition at home, the Gunners needed to put in quite a shift to give themselves a chance and they did more than that.
The ease with which possession was turned into dominance and dominance into goals was a wonderful sight to behold. The passing was direct, the buildup play was patient and the conversion in front of goal was clinical. This is the performance that Gunners fans expect, and a performance that saw Arsenal pick Basel apart with seemingly little effort. If Arsene Wenger’s men can reproduce this fluidity, the Premier League and Champions League charge may yet deliver silverware.
4. Top of the Pile
Five years of Arsenal finishing second and being knocked out by a group winning team has been a regular occurrence for Arsenal over the last few years, on Tuesday tonight, they finally ended that. With Ludogorets having somehow sealed a result in Paris, Arsenal finished atop Group A with 14 points to put a positive end to an inspiring group stage run.
In past seasons the Gunners would fall to the bigger sides in their groups and fail to make up the ground in the remaining games, ultimately fighting it out for second place rather than competing for the top spot. Having gotten two positive results against a determined PSG side, Arsenal have played it smart and taken the points where they were up for grabs. This is a very positive sign for the Gunners, and the change in mentality and personnel has been clear and evident this season.
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