In our first away trip, in the Europa League, a mix of fringe players and youth players managed to leave Ukraine with a 4-2 win.
Giroud finally gets his century.
For a long time, it seems liked his goal will never come especially in the early parts of the game where it seemed like he was providing for others rather them setting him up. This was compounded when Walcott would not even acknowledge Giroud’s presence when there was an option of shooting. Finally, though the pendulum swung in his favour as a penalty was given for a nothing challenge early in the second half. He expertly dispatched the penalty and gave arsenal some breathing space. I am sure leading up to the game Giroud was licking his lips at the prospect of possibly coming away with the match ball but as the game progressed we ended up lumping this ball up to him in the hope he would fend off the challenges of the BATE defence and hold it up for us. All in all, it wasn’t the night he was hoping for but nevertheless he has his 100th goal.
Wilshere stakes his claim but Wenger must be cautious.
With another 90 minutes under his belt we are starting to see Wilshere return to what he likes to do and what he does best. His partnership with Giroud is one that we have seen in the past and it was on show tonight as they combined brilliantly to create our opening goal of the night. He one-two with Giroud showed what he does with his sharp acceleration and vision to pick out Walcott in the box. He did not just dart through himself though as he mixed up his game with defence splitting passes from the edge of the box. He was comfortably out best player from an attacking sense and later on in the game when we were on the back foot he defended with the same vigour and energy as you would expect from him. However, we must remember that he is still on the comeback trail so we must slow reintroduce him into the fold, as Wenger is quite rightly currently doing. The reduced quality of the Europa league does allow him to play dominate games, as he did today, and at the same time allow him to build his fitness and rediscover his rhythm.
Baptism of Fire for Willock and Reiss Nelson
After 25 minutes, with Arsenal three goals up and cruising, Joe Willock and Nelson were able to get time to twist and turn on the ball. Nelson in particular was eager to show his silky skills every time he got on it. Basically, BATE paid us a lot respect and we had silenced their fans then all of a sudden -out of nowhere – BATE scored then the game changed. With the fans fanning their flames, BATE starting mounting attacks with an increasing frequency with Ospina being called into action more than we would like. In the first half, we were able to tame most of the pressure but in the second half we surrendered possession as we started to tire. This is where Willock and Nelson would have started to realise the step up in quality, but also pressure. When playing for the under-23s they would usually play in front of a couple hundred fans and even when they played in the Carabao cup at the emirates the pressure is not so great as most fans are supporting them. However away in Ukraine with BATE bonkers fans causing a minor tremor every time BATE create a decent chance the atmosphere can be overwhelming. They didn’t crack under it but we did give up possession as we started to tire and they started to control the game. Welcome to Senior European Football boys.
The downsides of naming an inexperienced bench.
As a follow up to the previous point, when our player showed signs of tiredness and in need of from fresh experienced legs, Wenger would have looked to his bench and his most experienced option would have been Chuba Akpom. From the 65th minute onwards we had more or less surrendered possession and got men behind the ball and more importantly when we did win the ball back we tended to go long for Giroud to fight for. Although, he is very good at holding up the ball he was just at too much of a disadvantage for it to be significant. This is when we need someone to come in and calm us down, demand the ball under pressure and use his freshness to break away from pressure but the issue was that everybody on that bench was unproven at this level. Although we all love seeing our future prospects in the first team, it was telling when McGuane, who is one of our most promising midfielders cleared the ball up the field under no pressure. Sometimes we do need the experienced back-ups to use that experience to help the younger guys see out games.