Arsenal 0 Schalke 2: The Post-Norwich Hangover Continues
“We have got over it and we will focus on our next game, that is the only way to deal with it, to put the disappointment behind us and focus on Schalke. As a team, we were not as efficient as we are used to. It can happen in the season. It is just of course at a very bad moment for us.
“I expect us to respond in a strong way because this team is very ambitious and wants to do very well.”
“We have a good opportunity, we play at home against Schalke and since we know that we won in Montpellier, our qualifying will depend on how well we do at home.” – Arsene Wenger
With Arsenal playing so badly against Norwich, anything less than a commanding performance against Schalke 04 wouldn’t have been enough for the fans. I didn’t expect an upheaval of the squad that played Norwich, but when Gervinho was redeployed back to the center forward position after weeks of mediocrity on the flanks, I felt it was a good call by the boss.
Olivier Giroud’s withdrawal from the team allowed Francis Coquelin to stake another claim in the midfield, causing Aaron Ramsey to be drafted to that unfamiliar right wing berth. Ramsey did well to locate Gervinho with a perfect pass, and with Lukas Podolski losing his marker to rush into the box, all he needed was a quick Gervinho cut back, but the Ivorian dallied on the ball and that chance went begging.
Santi Cazorla teed up Podolski with another good ball and the German wasted no time in drilling the ball into the box. Gervinho was on the end of the drilled cross but his finish was shocking to say the least. That kind of cross is bread and butter for a natural center forward.
Mikel Arteta lost the ball in midfield, allowing Schalke to hit Arsenal on the break. A through ball from Lewis Holtby saw Carl Jenkinson and Ibrahim Afellay battle for the ball. Jenkinson allegedly left the ball for Vito Mannone but the goalie and his defender weren’t in the same wavelength. Afellay got to the ball first and hit the deck after some minimal contact from Mannone, causing the ref to brandish a yellow card to the Dutch winger for diving.
On another day, that caused easily have been a penalty for Schalke.
Gervinho and Podolski connected well on the left wing, but the German’s inviting cross in the box wasn’t attacked by any Arsenal player which clearly showed how the predatory instincts of Theo Walcott, the Ox and probably Olivier Giroud were badly missed.
Cazorla made the Emirates crowd roar when he located Gervinho with a peach of a pass, but the Ivorian embarrassed himself when he tried to take on Benedikt Howedes, allowing that clear cut chance to fade away. With Arsenal failing to capitalize on their chances, Schalke grew into the game, and exposed Andre Santos’ defensive frailties countless times.
Late on, Atsuto Uchida and Jefferson Farfan made mincemeat of Andre Santos before drilling a cross for the dangerous Klass-Jan Huntelaar. The Dutchman got on the end of Uchida’s cross but his effort missed the goal by a lick of paint with Mannone rooted to the spot.
Arsenal appeared to be in the driver’s seat in the start of the second half when Cazorla’s cross was controlled superbly by Coquelin before he sent a teasing cross across the goalmouth. Ramsey attempted a feeble flick goalwards but the Schalke defense were up to the challenge.
Andre Santos continued to have a torrid evening, and his woes were compounded when Farfan eased past him before sending a cross to Hoger, that killed a bird in the sky with his attempt on goal. Farfan continued to have a great time with the atrocious Andre Santos, but his cross to Huntelaar was intercepted by Mannone.
With Gervinho being a pain to watch all night long, Dark Lord Steve Bouldimort opted for Giroud to come into the pitch, thereby putting Gervinho out of his misery. For some strange reason best known to the company that supplies nicotine-infested chewing gum to Sir Alex Ferguson, Gervinho has invoked his post-2012 AFCON spirits, and he has been having shockers week-in week-out.
After knocking at Arsenal’s door for a while, Schalke got the breakthrough when Huntelaar was located with a header in behind the two center backs, and he wasted no time in firing the ball past a hapless Mannone. Prior to the goal, Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker had been playing very well, but that lapse in concentration was enough for Huntelaar to fire his team ahead.
With minutes slowly fading away, Lord Bouldimort summoned Andrey Arshavin and the exciting Serge Gnabry for Lukas Podolski and Carl Jenkinson. Gnabry almost made an instant impact when he showed off some great footwork to evade a marker but his pass to Mertesacker didn’t match the build-up.
With Arsenal pushing for the equalizer, gaping holes were left at the back, and no one was surprised to see Farfan unmarked on the right hand side, with Andre Santos still further up the pitch. The Peruvian forward fired in a cross-field ball that was slammed home by Afellay, bringing Arsenal’s impregnable home record against non-English opposition in the Champions League to an end.
It’s worth noting that in this 45-game unbeaten run, Arsenal had ousted great European superpowers like Real Madrid, Juventus, Porto and even Barcelona, but it took an average German outfit to tear the record into shreds. Typical.
Arsenal had their first shot on target in the 93rd minute from Gnabry and that was a testament of how horrible things are panning out for Arsene Wenger’s men recently. Three defeats in four games paints the picture vividly.
Mannone (6.5) was relatively untroubled but he picked the ball out of his net twice.
Jenkinson (6.5) did well to shove off the threat Afellay posed.
Andre Santos (4.0) put up a woeful outing and it was shameful seeing him play so poorly.
Mertesacker (7.0) made a lot of vital interceptions in the cause of the game.
Vermaelen (6.5) worked in tandem with BFG, but was a bit culpable for the first goal.
Coquelin (7.0) worked his skins off in midfield.
Arteta (7.0) worked hard for his team.
Cazorla (7.0) played his way out from pockets superbly and made great passes as the game progressed. Really shameful to know that the forward line weren’t in the same wavelength.
Ramsey (6.0) struggled a lot in the game and held on the ball far to long on countless occasions.
Podolski (6.5) worked hard on the left and provided some teasing crosses into the box, but no one capitalized on them.
Gervinho (5.5) was clearly out of form and struggled in the position he once enjoyed.
Giroud (6.0) failed to stamp his authority on the game.
Arshavin (6.0) was a last cause.
Gnabry (7.0) showed off glimpses of his quality and it’s high time he gets a run-out in the first team.
There are many negatives to take away from another disappointing defeat and the mere fact that it was a home tie is a very bitter spill to swallow. Arsenal hasn’t scored in two consecutive games and this is also coupled with back to back defeats. To top it all off, Schalke has usurped the Gunners to lead the group, making the return leg one to die for for.
I’m supposed to be really gutted at the moment, but the prospect of eating ram meat courtesy of the Sallah break is enough to put a smile on this angry blogger’s face.
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