The first game of this seasons Champions League campaign took us to Paris, in what is arguably our toughest game of the group. PSG have had a great run in Europe’s premiere competition in recent years, and will be most bookies favourite for top spot, but with a new coach, lacklustre striking options and a defensive injury crisis, there was no better time to get this match out of the way.
Or so we thought. PSG scored the quickest goal against us in Champions League history – 42 seconds to be precise – and Mustafi will have nightmares after leaving Cavani unopposed to flick in a header.
The rest of the game was pretty much one way traffic, as our tactics were wrong, and the man who shouldn’t have even been in the team – David Ospina – kept us in the game. Then, Giroud came on.
The bearded Frenchman’s cameo didn’t involve a goal, nor an assist, but it was as if we transformed and realised how we are supposed to play. Our first shot on target – in the 77th minute – led to our goal from Alexis Sanchez, and we left Paris with our incredible record playing in France intact – we still have never suffered a loss in France.
There was much to ponder during the ninety minutes, but here are five things that stood out from the game that will generate much consternation and hubbub on social networks. What do you think? –
Three strange calls, but only one cannot be explained
Ospina named as keeper. Coquelin in ahead of Xhaka. Sanchez up front ahead of Giroud. Three calls that had fans scratching their heads, but only one could really call itself a mystery. Ospina pretty much answered all critics with a performance that kept us in the game. Surely a man of the match display, and despite some questionable distribution, he really put to rest the ghosts of his horror show in last seasons Champions League. With Sanchez instead of Giroud, surely if he was playing on the last shoulder of the defence, and running onto slide rule passes, he would prosper, but our tactics didn’t suit him. Nevertheless, you can see the method in the madness in naming him in the lineup. Leaving Xhaka out of the lineup, after doing the same against Southampton last weekend? I can see no justification. Xhaka must play.
Ozil is only warming up
People will use his exquisite pass to Iwobi which eventually led to our equaliser, but on the whole, Ozil was lacking. He always contributes to any attack, and he is quite excellent at creating space with a simple pass, but he is expected to make the difference. Against Southampton and PSG, he was off the boil. He will improve, but right now, we need him firing.
Sanchez has all the attributes, but must stay out wide
Sanchez had seventy minutes against Thiago Silva and Marquinhos in a central area, but didn’t make a dent. As soon as Giroud came on the field and Sanchez reverted to type, the growling, dangerous Chilean returned. He was easily contained when playing as a sole striker, but he has all the attributes to succeed. What would help is if our football was played in a manner that suited him. He has electric pace, and if given space, he will score. If you whizz multiple crosses into the box, then Alexis will not prosper. The jury is out on whether he can play as a striker, but the team could at least help him!
Giroud needs to play
As mentioned above, we had seventy minutes of blunted, futile football. An hour and ten minutes where we seemed unable to hirt a team that on paper, is on a par with ours. Then, Giroud came on, and our play instantly clicked into gear. Love or loathe him, he has a great touch, he brings people into play, and our strengths suit him. He needs to play, until we learn how to adapt. Mind you, we will have to do without him for the next game, as he will be suspended. Should be a rocky ride!!
The Ox needs to step up
The Ox has had numerous opportunities, and arguably has had more runs in the team than Theo Walcott. Yet, his end product is just as woeful as in previous seasons. Yes, once in every ten mazy runs will reap a goal or set piece, but overall, he must utilise what talent he has, and practice efficiency. His stats are beyond dire, and any other player would have been jettisoned. Time is running out.