Tag Archives: Champions League

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich: A few thoughts on the 5-1 defeat

Things are getting ugly both for the manager and the club after Arsenal suffered another 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich on Tuesday. The 10-2 aggregate defeat is the worst result by an English club in the history of the Champions League. The Bavarians are definitely a good side, but they still lost to Atletico Madrid and Rostov in the group stage. So there was room for the Gunners to salvage some pride and maybe get a draw in the second leg just like when Bayern knocked them out three years ago.

Arsenal FC v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg

Photo credit: http://www.uefa.com

The Gunners have been eliminated in the last 16 of the Champions League for the seventh straight season. In that seven-year span, smaller clubs like Shaktar Donetsk, APOEL, Galatasaray, Malaga and Wolfsburg managed to reach the quarterfinals. There’s this feeling among the fans that Wenger has carried Arsenal as far as he could and that someone else needs to take over. Many supporters left the Emirates stadium before the final whistle and some displayed banners in the second half calling for an end to the French manager’s tenure.

To be honest, the Gunners produced a decent performance until Koscielny’s controversial ejection in the 53rd minute. Bayern created 12 chances compared to 8 for Arsenal. Just like in the first leg, the Bavarians did a better job at defending as a unit, making 52 ball recoveries compared to 40 for Arsenal according to the UEFA statistics, and making 24 interceptions compared to 13 for the hosts according to Squawka.

  1. Should Arsenal use an inverted pyramid?

The Gunners have leaked a lot of goals lately. One explanation is that Coquelin is winning fewer tackles than when he was paired with Cazorla. Another reason is that the Gunners are often outplayed in midfield because of Ozil’s poor work-rate. Wenger tried to provide more protection to the back four against Bayern by switching to a 4-3-3 system instead of his favored 4-2-3-1 formation. In a 4-2-3-1 system, the midfield looks like a pyramid with a playmaker on top of it. In a 4-3-3 formation, there is no playmaker and the midfield looks like an inverted pyramid.

The manager used that inverted pyramid at Stamford Bridge with Coquelin, Iwobi and Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield but it didn’t work out as Arsenal lost 3-1. Against Bayern, Wenger played Ramsey and the Ox as all-rounders in front of Xhaka, the holding midfielder. A more defensive alternative would be to play Maitland-Niles as the sweeper in front of the back four. Maitland-Niles doesn’t have Xhaka’s passing skills but he has more pace and wins more tackles.

Obviously, Ramsey and the Ox don’t play like Ozil. Therefore, the team has to adapt and play differently. Ramsey and the Ox still led the team with 2 key passes each. In his return from injury, Ramsey was a bit rusty with a passing accuracy as low as 68.2% but he managed to win 2 of 3 tackles before Coquelin replaced him in the 72nd. The Ox shone in midfield and proved his importance in the transition game by having 10 successful dribbles out of 10.

  1. Walcott was on fire

The England international showed a lot of desire and proved a bigger threat in the final third than Sanchez. Walcott put in a shift, winning 1 of 1 tackle and making 4 interceptions and 2 blocks, but he also had 9 turnovers according to whoscored.com. His first chance came from a Sanchez crossfield pass in the 11th. Walcott was clean through on goal but his poor first touch allowed Neuer to kick the ball into touch. He then met a cross from the Ox in the 17th for a header that bounced off Martinez for a corner. Three minutes later, Walcott benefited from a lucky bounce to open the scoring with an angled strike into the roof of the net. In a similar situation in the 34th, Walcott fired into the side-netting instead of cutting the ball back for Giroud. Walcott faded in the second half after Koscielny’s ejection.

  1. The additional assistant referee screwed up

Also known as the goal-line official, he denied Walcott a penalty in the 33rd. Walcott shifted the ball from his left foot to his right when a clumsy challenge from Alonso brought him down. It’s pretty clear with TV replays that Alonso was a split second late and tripped Walcott. If the referee makes the right call, it could have been 2-0 for Arsenal.

The turning point of the game was Koscielny’s red card in the 53rd. Initially, the referee awarded a penalty and gave Koscielny a yellow card for a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge on Lewandowski, who went down easily. But the goal-line official claimed it was a deliberate foul and therefore a red card. In the end, the referee followed his assistant’s advice and sent Koscielny off. To me, Koscielny’s foul was even less obvious than Alonso’s foul. Lewandowski converted the penalty to level. Down to 10 men, winning the match became mission impossible for Arsenal.

  1. Giroud can be incredibly wasteful

The France striker could have almost notched a hat trick with some clinical finishing. He beat Hummels to a loose ball in the 13th for a header that bounced off the base of the post. Then Giroud couldn’t make solid contact with Monreal’s headed pass in the 37th and sliced his effort wide. But the one chance he should have converted was his free header in the 48th. An unmarked Giroud mistimed his jump and sent Ramsey’s cross over the bar from 6 yards.

  1. Has the bust-up controversy affected Sanchez?

Sanchez did very little if we except his long ball for Walcott in the 11th. That’s so unusual from the Chile striker that fans may wonder whether the controversy over the row on the training ground has worn him down mentally. In the 68th, Sanchez was robbed on the edge of the Arsenal box by Robben, who shot past Ospina to make it 2-1. Playing on the left flank, Sanchez made no key pass and was replaced by Ozil in the 72nd.

  1. The Gunners lack defensive awareness

Twice Bayern quickly played a free kick, and twice Arsenal switched off. Lewandowski beat the offside trap to control a ball over the top in the 25th but was denied by Ospina. Then Hummels flicked home a free kick from Alonso in the 49th but the goal was disallowed for offside.

  1. Mustafi looks bad without Koscielny

It was like in the first leg when Mustafi suddenly became clueless after an injury forced Koscielny off the pitch. There were signs in the first half that Mustafi’s decision-making was dodgy. Twice he dived in, and twice he missed the ball and left the defense exposed. Mustafi only won 1 of 7 tackles according to Squawka.

Koscielny’s red card forced Mustafi to team up with Xhaka at the back. Mustafi was pulled out of position on the play that led to Lewandowski’s penalty. The last 15 minutes were a nightmare for the Germany international. Costa dribbled past Mustafi in the 76th to make a cross for Lewandowski, who struck the post with a first-time effort. Two minutes later, Costa cut inside Mustafi to curl a low shot inside the far post for a 3-1 lead. Mustafi then gave the ball away to Alonso, who fed Vidal and the Chile midfielder chipped Ospina for a 4-1 lead in the 80th. Bayern capitalized on an ill-advised offside trap set by Mustafi to seal the win in the 85th. Costa teed up Vidal, who fired past the helpless Ospina. There was no pressure on Sanches, the ballholder, and Mustafi had very little understanding with Coquelin, who had taken Xhaka’s spot at centerback.

  1. Why did Xhaka play as a defender?

I was surprised by Wenger’s decision to play Xhaka as a centerback after Koscielny’s ejection. It was a risky gamble that backfired. I expected the manager to limit the damage by sending on Paulista for Giroud.

Xhaka’s lack of pace is a greater liability at the back than in midfield. For some reason, he ventured high up the pitch in the 78th and lost possession to Rafinha. Pulled out of position, Xhaka fouled Rafinha with a mistimed tackle, but the referee played advantage and Costa got hold of the loose ball to score Bayern’s third goal.

  1. Ospina needs to work on his distribution

The Colombia goalkeeper made two good saves, keeping out Vidal’s header with a reflex save in the 24th and parrying Lewandowski’s powerful strike in the 64th. But his poor distribution led to Bayern’s second goal.


The Arsenal board must act before it’s too late

How much time does a good manager need to rebuild a squad?

This is a key question that must be taken into account when assessing Wenger’s performance at Arsenal. Two to three years would seem a fair answer. Spurs were a team in sixth place when Pochettino took over in the summer of 2014. Within two seasons, Pochettino turned Tottenham into a title contender. By contrast, two years were not enough for Van Gaal to restore the Red Devils to their former glory. The Dutch manager was sacked and replaced by Mourinho last summer. Maybe Van Gaal would have found the right recipe in his third season at Manchester United but the board lost patience after the club missed out on a Champions League spot.


Photo credit: http://www.arsenal.com

That kind of task can prove difficult in one of the most competitive leagues in the world. Klopp has almost turned Liverpool into a contender within a year and half. The German manager will still need at least one more season before the Reds become a genuine threat for the Premier League title because their defense is still too porous. In his first season at Manchester City, Guardiola is facing similar problems. The Citizens have lost too much ground in the title race because they have leaked too many goals. You can expect a spending spree from City on defenders this summer.

Wenger is also rebuilding his squad. Obviously, the big difference is that Wenger has been the Arsenal manager for 20 years. The Frenchman has been heavily criticized by the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade for not winning the league since 2004. I think that time frame is unfair for the simple reason that the club was losing its best players from 2006 to 2012 besides reimbursing the cost of the Emirates stadium. In fact, the club is not done yet with the payments for the new stadium. The Gunners have a net debt of 101 million pounds, according to the latest financial results released a few days ago.

Losing the golden touch

If Wenger deserves some criticism, that can only be for the last four years when the club finally had some money to spend in the transfer market. Signing Ozil in the summer of 2013 was the signal that Arsenal could afford to be ambitious again. The Gunners added Sanchez, Welbeck, Chambers, Debuchy and Ospina in 2014, then Paulista and Cech in 2015 and Elneny, Xhaka, Mustafi, Perez and Holding last year.

Should the board not renew Wenger’s contract because many of those recruits have disappointed? You could argue that Wenger has lost his golden touch in the transfer market and is therefore unlikely to improve the squad this summer. For years, the Gunners have been accused of lacking character, leadership and physicality. Despite some significant spending since 2013, Wenger still hasn’t fixed those flaws as the losses at Chelsea and Bayern Munich showed.

Those who read my blog know that I am not part of the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade. In previous posts like ‘What went wrong for Arsenal this season’ (25 March 2016), ‘How complacency is crippling the club’ (21 May 2016), and ‘Reflecting on Wenger’s 20 years at Arsenal’ (12 October 2016), I have acknowledged the manager’s historic contribution to the club but also pointed out his limitations in taking Arsenal to the next level, i.e., becoming a genuine contender again.

Clearing the dead wood

In my assessment of Wenger’s contract situation, what has really tipped the scales is the massive overhaul needed this summer. There’s a lot of dead wood to clear and I just don’t think that Wenger is ruthless enough to do it. The manager was too sentimental in 2015 with Arteta and Rosicky, whose contracts were extended although they were past their prime and had fitness issues. Rosicky only played one game last season while Arteta was involved in 15 games but for a total of just 416 minutes.

The club has pretty much become a retirement home by also extending the contracts of Mertesacker and Cazorla. Mertesacker hasn’t played this season because of a knee injury while Cazorla is set to miss the rest of this campaign because of an ankle injury. Wenger values their experience and the advice they can provide to the youngsters. But if you look at next season, it’s two spots lost in the squad.

To me, it’s clear that the manager has mellowed in his old age. When Arsenal won the Premier League in 1998, 2002 and 2004, each of those titles was preceded by a relentless activity in the transfer market. I believe a younger Wenger would have released Arteta and Rosicky in 2015 and Mertesacker and Cazorla this summer.

Issues at the back

If we have a look at what the squad needs, then it becomes obvious that such a massive task is not tailored for Wenger. In goal, we have three flawed players: Cech is past his prime and his slow legs have cost Arsenal two penalties this season; Ospina can’t command his own area; and Szczesny, on loan at Roma, is error-prone and has attitude issues on and off the pitch. At rightback, Debuchy and Jenkinson are not good enough, even as back-up players, and should be shipped out. It’s quite telling that Paulista is the manager’s second choice in that position behind Bellerin.

At centerback, we have six defenders: Koscielny, Mustafi, Paulista, Holding, Mertesacker and Chambers, on loan at Middlesbrough. That’s simply too many players for two starting spots. Chambers is not good enough and must be sold; Holding needs a loan to speed up his development; and Mertesacker will probably act as an informal assistant coach since his lack of pace is a liability when the team plays a high defensive line. If the club had not extended Mertesacker’s contract, there would have been a spot available for Koscielny’s potential successor. Let’s not forget that Koscielny will turn 32 this year and might decline like Vidic did at the same age.

At leftback, Monreal and Gibbs have struggled this season to stop dangerous crosses. Monreal is performing a notch below the level of his 2014-15 season while Gibbs is a decent back-up option but not a starter. I doubt Bramall could be the answer at leftback next season. As you can see, there are plenty of moves required just to improve our defense. It gets even more shambolic when we analyze the midfield and the offense.

Letting Ozil go?

I divide the midfield into three categories: defensive midfielders, attacking midfielders, and all-around midfielders who can both defend and attack. Elneny, Coquelin, Xhaka and Maitland-Niles are mostly defensive midfielders. Xhaka can be an attacking threat with his long-range strikes and balls over the top, but his limited dribbling and running skills force him to be a deep-lying playmaker. Elneny and Coquelin are utility midfielders not good enough to start for a contending team. They are basically cheap versions of PSG workhorse Matuidi. Coquelin has better tackling skills than Elneny but his end product and positional play can be questionable. I have high hopes for Maitland-Niles but he’s only 19. The English teenager can win tackles and has more tactical discipline than Coquelin. He could do for Arsenal what Kante is doing for Chelsea.

All-around midfielders play an important role nowadays because of the emphasis put on the transition game, whether it’s capitalizing on turnovers or stopping counterattacks. On paper, we have four all-around midfielders with Cazorla, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere, on loan at Bournemouth. The trouble is that Cazorla, Ramsey and Wilshere are injury-prone players. Wilshere is having an injury-free season with Bournemouth, but he’s not playing any European game, which makes a huge difference in terms of physical recovery. And the Ox lacks experience in midfield as he has mostly played on the wings under Wenger.

The difference between an all-around midfielder and an attacking midfielder is the capacity to contribute defensively. Ozil, Iwobi and Reine-Adelaide can’t properly defend and fall therefore in the latter category. I wouldn’t mind letting Ozil go this summer, especially if he wants to earn more than 200,000 pounds a week. The cash from his transfer would help Arsenal sign a player with a stronger work ethic and whose game is better tailored for a high press. At 19, Reine-Adelaide is too soft for the Premier League and would need a loan to toughen up. Iwobi has great potential but you can’t expect much consistency from a 20-year-old kid.

More than 10 moves needed

The forward positions are quite a mess. Sanogo and Campbell, on loan at Sporting Lisbon, should be shipped out. The manager has built the attack around Sanchez this season but the Chile international is not the complete centerforward. Sanchez can’t win aerial duels and his hold-up play is poor. If the club can’t convince Sanchez to stay, then Arsenal should cash in this summer and play differently with Giroud, Welbeck or Perez up front. Walcott has decent stats this season but his poor work-rate doesn’t justify a starting spot. And does Akpom, on loan at Brighton, still have a future as a Gunner?

Basically, more than 10 moves would be required this summer to improve the squad and the chemistry in the dressing room. If the board and the management balk, the Arsenal team will be one or two years late in its development because you can be sure that the managers at Liverpool, Manchester United and City will be ruthless in the transfer market.

If the board is serious about finding Wenger’s successor, they must have a shortlist by now. The timing can be delicate for a changing of the guard. No Arsenal fan wants to see Wenger sacked in the middle of the season like Ranieri. By contrast, Ferguson had the perfect send-off but the Manchester United board mismanaged his succession.

If the Arsenal board can’t sign a top manager this summer, then extending Wenger’s contract by a year could be a wise move to buy a bit of time, assuming the Gunners finish in the Top 4. On the other hand, letting Wenger at the helm of the club would be a risky choice if they finish outside the Top 4. The atmosphere could become toxic next season, especially with a polarised fan base.

What the next Arsenal manager must have

There should be at least three requirements met by the next Arsenal manager: he must be good at developing youngsters otherwise academy players like Bellerin and Iwobi wouldn’t have joined the first team; he must have a shrewd transfer policy because Arsenal can’t compete financially with Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs; and he must have a good knowledge of European football to help the club go further in the Champions League.

Let’s have a look at some of the names tossed around: Howe, Simeone, Tuchel, Allegri, Jardim, Henry, Blanc, Koeman and Puel. For a club like Arsenal, Howe is simply not good enough. Some pundits have claimed that Wenger was a relatively unknown manager when Arsenal hired him, but there’s a massive difference between Howe and Wenger’s situation in 1996. Wenger won the French league with Monaco in 1988 and led the French club to the semifinals of the 1994 Champions League. Howe has done a good job at Bournemouth but has no experience of European football and has never managed a big club.

Simeone is a popular name although his team plays more defensive football than Arsenal. He won the Spanish league and the Europa League with Atletico Madrid and led the Spanish club to two runner-up finishes in the Champions League. The Argentine manager also showed some flair in the transfer market by signing Griezmann and Oblak and he helped youngsters like Koke and Saul Niguez blossom at the top level. The only question mark is whether Simeone would contemplate a move to the Premier League.

Tuchel is an intriguing name. He has 7 seasons under his belt as a manager in the Bundesliga but no experience outside Germany as a player or manager. Would he be good enough for a club like Arsenal? Borussia Dortmund finished second in the German league last year but has quickly dropped out of the title race this term.

The Monaco connection

Allegri is the bookmakers’ favorite. The Italian manager won Serie A with AC Milan and Juventus and reached the Champions League final with the Bianconeri two years ago. Known as a tactical expert, Allegri shouldn’t struggle to adjust to the Premier League. The only question mark is about his ability to develop youngsters. There are mostly seasoned players in the Juventus squad and the few youngsters learned their trade at smaller clubs.

Jardim has at least one thing in common with Wenger: the Monaco connection. The Portuguese manager is known for his shrewd transfer policy and his capacity to trust youngsters. He built the tightest defense in the French league to lead Monaco to a third-place finish in 2015. Although PSG keeps spending more money than Monaco, Jardim has tweaked his tactics to lead the French league this season. With 2.89 league goals per game, Monaco has the most prolific attack among the top European clubs.

Arsenal fans have fond memories of Henry, but I don’t think he’s ready yet to become a manager at this club. Some pundits might mention Guardiola and Zidane as successful examples of players who quickly moved into high-profile managerial roles, but the circumstances are really different. Guardiola and Zidane had very little rebuilding to do at Barcelona and Madrid, and they also had leaders in their respective squads.

Blanc is available after PSG sacked him last summer. He won the French league with Bordeaux and then PSG, but the comparison with his successor, Emery, doesn’t look good. Emery has trusted youngsters like Kimpembe and Nkunku while Blanc was reluctant to use Coman, who finally joined Juventus in 2014. PSG under Blanc struggled against the top teams in the Champions League, losing to Barcelona and Manchester City in the 2015 and 2016 quarterfinals. The French club adopted a more aggressive approach under Emery and managed to thrash Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of their last-16 encounter this month.

Becoming a sporting director?

Koeman and Puel have plenty of experience but are outsiders compared to Simeone, Allegri and Jardim. Koeman has a great knowledge of European football but hasn’t managed a big club since a poor spell at Valencia. Puel has probably won more admirers after Southampton’s good performance in the League Cup final but the lack of silverware on his resume, with just the French league title in 2000, could deter the Arsenal board.

What worries me is that there is no football expert on the Arsenal board. That will make the transition even more difficult. Remember, Arsenal hired Wenger in 1996 because Dein, then a vice-chairman at the club, recommended him. The board might be tempted by a clean break, but it was clearly a mistake in Manchester United’s case. The Red Devils felt that Ferguson’s presence would be an additional weight on Moyes’ shoulders. In the end, Moyes got plenty of freedom but the transition was a mess. I hope the Arsenal board can convince Wenger to become a sporting director although the Frenchman believes he still has a couple of years left in him as a manager. Big clubs like Bayern Munich and Barcelona have sporting directors on their staff.

Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal: A few thoughts on the 5-1 disaster

The Champions League tie is dead after the Gunners suffered a humiliating 5-1 defeat in the first leg of their last-16 encounter with Bayern Munich on Wednesday. Arsenal managed to reach halftime with the score tied at 1-1 although the Bavarians were the better team. But the floodgates opened after Koscielny picked up a hamstring injury in the 48th minute.

Bayern vs. Arsenal.jpg

Photo credit: Getty Images

The Gunners conceded 3 goals in a 10-minute span to trail 4-1 by the 63rd. The scoreline and the stats don’t lie: Bayern completely outplayed Arsenal, making 516 more passes, creating 14 more chances and hitting 17 more shots, according to the UEFA stats.

  1. Talent means nothing without hard work

Anybody who watched PSG’s 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona on Tuesday could see two similarities with Bayern’s 5-1 demolition of Arsenal. The Spanish side lost because of some poor work-rate and a soft midfield. A quick look at the last 3 goals shows those flaws. The Parisians capitalized on a turnover to take a 2-0 lead as Rabiot dispossessed Messi while Iniesta failed to close down Verratti. By contrast, PSG played the ball out from the back to score the third and fourth goals. Messi and Gomes failed to track Kurzawa for the third goal and Iniesta failed to challenge Di Maria. Then Cavani was able to make it 4-0 because Meunier easily skipped past Neymar before outpacing Iniesta.

  1. Arsenal’s work-rate is not good enough

The Gunners were not as lazy as Barcelona. According to the UEFA stats, the Bavarians ran 109.5 km compared to 108.1 km for Arsenal, which is better than the 105.1 km covered by Barcelona compared to 113.3 km for PSG. The Gunners raised their intensity, winning 18 tackles of 34 compared to 12 of 33 for Bayern, according to Squawka. But it wasn’t enough because Arsenal didn’t defend as a unit. Bayern did a better job at hunting in packs, making 55 ball recoveries compared to 46 for the English side.

The Bavarians love dominating ball possession. A smart way to unsettle them would have been to press high up the pitch like PSG did against Barcelona. Unfortunately, the Gunners were not able to coordinate their pressing efforts. Sanchez often showed signs of frustration because his teammates didn’t help him harry the Bayern defense.

The poor defensive contribution from the attacking players cost Arsenal two goals. Lahm made a cross for Lewandowski, who headed home for a 2-1 lead in the 53rd. Gibbs had to deal with both Robben and Lahm on that play because Iwobi failed to track Lahm. Iwobi was also late for a block attempt in the 15th but Ospina stopped Robben’s low drive. Then Alcantara easily skipped past Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 56th and slipped the ball to Alonso, who was not closed down by Sanchez. With plenty of time on the ball, Alonso picked out Lewandowski, who played Alcantara in for Bayern’s third goal.

  1. Arsenal’s midfield is too soft

Coquelin, Xhaka and Ozil combined to win just 6 of 14 tackles compared to 9 of 18 for Alcantara, Vidal and Alonso. Surprisingly, Ozil put in a good shift, winning 4 of 6 tackles, more than any other Arsenal player. But Ozil couldn’t prevent Alonso and Vidal from dictating play because Coquelin sat too deep while Sanchez focused his pressing efforts on Martinez and Hummels.

Coquelin was the symbol of Arsenal’s softness. Vidal outmuscled the French midfielder in the eighth minute to fire a long-range strike that Ospina saved. Three minutes later, Robben cut inside Coquelin to open the scoring with a drive into the far corner. Coquelin was too slow to react and make a block on that play. He won none of the 3 tackles he made.

Oxlade-Chamberlain moved into central midfield when Giroud replaced Coquelin in the 77th. The England international showed his naivety by dribbling on the edge of his own box and losing possession to Kimmich in the 88th. The ball fell to Muller, who shot past Ospina to seal the win. The Ox led all players with 6 turnovers, according to whoscored.com, and had a passing accuracy of 61%, the lowest percentage among all the midfielders.

If we except Sanchez’s penalty, the Bavarians kept the Arsenal forwards quiet. Ozil and Xhaka ended up having the best chances from open play. In the 40th, the Ox cut the ball back for Xhaka, who volleyed straight at Neuer from 17 yards. On the stroke of halftime, Sanchez fed Ozil, whose angled strike was saved by Neuer. Ozil finished the game with only 1 key pass because the Gunners were starved of possession. Somehow, Arsenal could have reached halftime with the lead against the run of play.

  1. A change of tactics implies a change of manager

The best way to beat Bayern is to implement a pressing game like PSG did against Barcelona on Tuesday or like Atletico Madrid did against the German side last season. Pochettino at Tottenham and Klopp at Liverpool have been able to impose that style of play in the Premier League. Unfortunately, the Gunners don’t have that defensive culture and it’s hard to see how the club could tactically change under Wenger.

The only time Arsenal recently relied on a pressing game to beat a big team was in the 3-0 win over Manchester United last season. It lasted just one half and was not as impressive as the pressing game used by Liverpool, Atletico Madrid or even PSG. Under Wenger, the Gunners prefer to absorb the pressure and hit the big teams on the fast break like in the 2-0 win over Bayern last season or the victories over Pellegrini’s Manchester City.

Another tactical issue is marking duties on set pieces. Alcantara capitalized on a goalmouth scramble from a corner to give Bayern a 4-1 lead with a low drive in the 63rd. He had plenty of time to control the ball and pull the trigger because no Gunner patrolled the edge of the box.

  1. The Gunners must anticipate life without Koscielny

The Arsenal defense completely disintegrated after Koscielny picked up a hamstring injury in the 48th and was replaced by Paulista. Koscielny had Lewandowski in his pocket and even earned a penalty by drawing a foul from the Poland striker in the 29th. His only mistake came in the 43rd when he was not tight to Lewandowski, who met a cross from Alaba to head over the bar. Koscielny won 3 of 3 tackles before leaving the pitch.

The France centerback will turn 32 this year. The staff will have to carefully monitor his fitness. Vidic led Manchester United to the Premier League title in 2013 but suddenly lost a step the following season at the age of 32. Mertesacker’s lack of pace and Paulista’s dodgy decision-making definitely prevent them from becoming the cornerstone of the Arsenal defense.

On paper, Mustafi could lead the back four, but his performance in Munich was a disappointment. He was booked in the 15th for a rash tackle on Alcantara. Then, Lewandowski outjumped Mustafi for Bayern’s second goal and Mustafi failed to spot Alcantara’s run for the third.

  1. Arsenal will need to look for a leftback this summer

Whether it’s Gibbs or Monreal, the Gunners have been highly vulnerable to crosses from the left flank this season. Ancelotti obviously spotted that weakness as Costa sometimes joined Lahm and Robben on that flank to provide numerical superiority.

Gibbs got the nod over Monreal on Wednesday and struggled to stop crosses from Lahm, who led all players with 4 key passes. The English fullback was very lucky not to get sent off in the 61st when Robben pounced on a rebound to hit an effort that Gibbs deflected out with his hand. It looked worse than Hull midfielder Clucas’ deliberate handball. Basically, it should have been a red card and a penalty.

  1. Ospina has been brilliant this season

The Colombia goalkeeper saved Arsenal from defeat against PSG in the group stage and made 6 saves against Bayern to prevent a more embarrassing loss. Some were routine saves but three were really good saves. He kept out Martinez’s header with a reflex save in the 63rd, tipped Robben’s strike over the bar in the 81st and turned Costa’s curling shot around the post in the 82nd.

  1. Groundhog Day is no surprise

We should have expected that outcome since the Bavarians have better players than Arsenal in almost every position. The German side has also reached at least the semifinals in the past 5 seasons while the Gunners have been knocked out in the last 16 in the past 6 seasons. The tie is dead after the first leg just like in 2013 when Bayern won 3-1 in London and three years ago when the Bavarians won 2-0 at the Emirates stadium.

Basel vs. Arsenal: A few thoughts on the 4-1 win

Perez notched a hat trick in a 4-1 rout of Basel on Tuesday to help Arsenal finish first in Group A of the Champions League after Paris Saint-Germain surrendered the top spot by drawing at home against Ludogorets. This is the first time since 2011 that the Gunners won their group. There’s no guarantee that they will get an easy draw for the last 16 but at least they will host the second leg of their tie.

  1. First start for the Xhaka-Ramsey duo

The manager was not scared of experimenting in a Champions League match as he partnered Xhaka with Ramsey for the first time in central midfield. They got off to a shaky start, especially with Basel pressing high up the pitch to force turnovers. Xhaka in the 11th minute and Ramsey in the 14th cheaply gave the ball away on the edge of the Arsenal box. Ramsey played in a too high position in the opening minutes, leaving Xhaka a bit isolated in midfield.


Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Ramsey made the necessary tactical adjustment by playing in a deeper position. The key for Ramsey is really to figure out when to defend and when to roam forward. He killed a counterattack in the 63rd by blocking Lang’s cross. One game is obviously a small sample but the Xhaka-Ramsey duo looks quite complementary, definitely more than the Coquelin-Elneny tandem. On the other hand, the Xhaka-Coquelin partnership seems to provide more protection to the back four than the Xhaka-Ramsey duo.

Xhaka acted like a deep-lying playmaker, making 111 passes compared to 63 for Ozil and 60 for Ramsey, and reaching a passing accuracy of 93.7%, the highest percentage among the starting midfielders, according to whoscored.com. However, Xhaka’s defensive performance was questionable as he won none of the 8 tackles he made, while Ramsey won 3 of 4 tackles. Maybe it had something to do with his brother’s presence in the Basel team.

  1. Perez can be clinical

Starting on the right wing, Perez had 3 shots and scored 3 goals. You can’t be more clinical than that. Perez capitalized on a missed clearance from Balanta to control Gibbs’ underhit cross and score from close range in the eighth minute. He then smashed home a rebound in the 16th after Vaclik had saved Gibbs’ low strike. The Spaniard made it 3-0 in the 47th when Sanchez inadvertently diverted Gibbs’ high pass with a poor touch. The ball fell to Perez, who fired into the bottom corner from a tight angle.

Perez tried to contribute defensively but won none of the 5 tackles he made, according to Squawka. In the 18th, he failed to track Traore, whose low drive sailed wide of the far post. Perez showed smart movement inside the box with his first two goals as well as electric pace with his third. His understanding with Gibbs in the Basel game and with Ozil in the 6-0 win over Ludogorets is the sign of a good integration in the team. That means Perez can step up if Walcott suffers from a dip in form.

  1. Holding is learning the ropes with Koscielny

In their third start together, Holding and Koscielny produced a mixed performance. They did fine in the first half but made a couple of mistakes after the break. Koscielny won only 1 of 4 tackles compared to 1 of 3 tackles for Holding. The good news for Holding is that he won 70% of his duels, the highest percentage among Arsenal defenders according to the club’s website, and reached a passing accuracy of 92.8%, much better than when he started playing for the club.

The bad news for Holding is that he needs to improve his focus. Holding was guilty of ball-watching when Delgado headed Lang’s cross over the bar in the 43rd. Then his risky pass in the 78th was intercepted by Calla and led to Basel’s goal. Doumbia played a one-two with Janko before flicking the ball over Ospina. Holding, Koscielny and Gibbs were all guilty on that play. Holding showed poor judgment, Koscielny was ridiculed by Doumbia’s roulette, and Gibbs played Janko onside.

Wenger could have rested Koscielny to start Mustafi at the back. However, the manager preferred to partner Holding with a more seasoned centerback. Koscielny made a crucial block in the 10th and won the ball back after Ramsey had lost possession to Die in the 14th, but he also failed to challenge Janko in the air in the 51st when the Basel striker headed wide Delgado’s cross.

  1. Could the Sanchez-Ozil duo cost more than half a million pounds per week?

Wenger is aware of their importance to the team as he yanked them off in the second half. Ozil and Sanchez combined in the build-up to the first two goals. Then Sanchez sent a ball over the top for Ozil, who set up Iwobi for the fourth goal in the 54th. Sanchez didn’t score but he made 2 key passes and produced 4 through balls, the most for any player according to whoscored.com. The Chile striker also rattled the bar with a swerving free kick in the 67th. Ozil made 3 key passes, tied with two Basel players for the most. In the 73rd, he made a perfectly weighted pass for Giroud, who missed the target with a flick at the near post.

As both are negotiating a contract extension, there are rumors that they could seek to earn as much as Pogba’s 290,000 pounds per week. Sanchez and Ozil are respectively getting 130,000 and 140,000 pounds per week from the club. Offering 200,000 pounds per week would be a significant effort from Arsenal since Manchester United’s revenues dwarf any club in England. I wouldn’t be upset if the club refuses to offer more than 200,000 pounds. Any payroll increase has an impact on the transfer policy.

Also keep in mind that both Sanchez and Ozil will turn 29 next year. How many years at the top do they still have and is it worth taking such a financial risk knowing that any injury could make the contract extension backfire? Arsenal sold Van Persie when he was 29. The Dutch striker had only one great season at Manchester United before declining.

  1. Arsenal can thank Ospina for the first-place finish

In hindsight, we now know that the two points earned against PSG were crucial to top the group. Ospina made some great saves in those two games. The Colombia goalkeeper pulled off 4 saves against Basel, including one that helped Arsenal protect a 2-0 lead. Steffen cut inside Gibbs in the 40th to unleash a low strike that Ospina stopped. Ospina reacted quickly enough to collect the rebound before Janko could tap it home.


Arsenal vs. PSG: A few thoughts on the 2-2 draw

The Gunners will likely finish second in Group A of the Champions League after drawing 2-2 with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday. PSG will host Ludogorets next month and will just need to match Arsenal’s result against Basel in order to top the group. The Gunners performed a bit better than in Paris two months ago but they failed to protect a 2-1 lead in the second half.


Photo credit: http://www.arsenal.com

Wenger added more physicality to the side that earned a point in France by making 4 changes with Gibbs, Jenkinson, Ramsey and Giroud replacing Monreal, Bellerin, Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting lineup. The manager didn’t have the choice with Bellerin and Cazorla, who are still injured, while Ramsey was not available in September.

Ramsey definitely had an impact on Wednesday as he made 3 successful dribbles out of 3 and won 6 of 11 tackles, according to Squawka. No other player won or made as many tackles. The only downside to Ramsey’s relentless activity was his 8 turnovers, the most for any player according to whoscored.com. The Wales midfielder proved a valuable goal threat in the 60th minute when his shot ricocheted off Marquinhos and Verratti to give Arsenal a 2-1 lead. Ramsey also chested down a cross from Sanchez in the 79th to fire wide from 25 yards.

It was a gutsy call from Wenger to start Giroud against such a strong team. Giroud’s lack of pace let him down as he was caught offside 3 times. However, he showed his fighting spirit up front by winning 5 of 6 headers and 3 of 7 tackles, more than Ozil, Sanchez and Iwobi combined. The Frenchman created the equalizer on the stroke of halftime by robbing Krychowiak and finding Ozil. The Germany playmaker made a reverse pass for Sanchez, who was tripped by Krychowiak inside the box. Giroud converted the subsequent penalty by sending Areola the wrong way.

  1. Emery outfoxed Wenger (again)

PSG enjoyed 54% of ball possession and outplayed Arsenal by creating 11 chances and producing 14 shots compared to just 2 chances and 5 shots for the hosts. The Gunners struggled so badly in the first half that Giroud’s penalty was their first goal attempt of the game.

PSG proved the better side in September for three main reasons: Monreal and Iwobi let Aurier enjoy too much freedom down the left flank; the Gunners were outnumbered in midfield; and Verratti and Di Maria were poorly marked when they dropped back to make key passes. Wenger failed to come up with a better game plan to fix those issues in the second encounter between the two teams.

  1. Arsenal’s attacking midfielders didn’t work hard enough (again)

In Paris, Ozil, Iwobi and Oxlade-Chamberlain let Cazorla and Coquelin drown in midfield. It was pretty much the same story in London with Ozil, Sanchez and Iwobi contributing very little defensively. Ozil made no tackle while Sanchez and Iwobi lost the only tackle they attempted. By contrast, Moura won 4 of 6 tackles, Verratti 2 of 7 and Matuidi 3 of 6.

PSG won the midfield battle by starting three defensive midfielders (Krychowiak, Motta and Matuidi) and a deep-lying playmaker (Verratti). Ramsey led Arsenal with 68 passes, which is ridiculous compared to Verratti’s 107 passes and Motta’s 92 passes. I would have added more steel by starting Coquelin, Xhaka and Ramsey in midfield, even if it implied moving Ozil to the right flank.

  1. Arsenal must better protect the pocket of space behind the striker

In September, PSG used the gap between the centerforward and the duo formed by Coquelin and Cazorla as a springboard for attacks with Di Maria and Verratti often dropping back in Ozil’s zone to send pinpoint balls over the top. Obviously, the Gunners did not learn their lesson as they failed to press Verratti and Motta in that pocket of space. Verratti finished the game with 4 key passes, the most for any player. Motta created the opening goal in the 18th minute by floating between Ramsey and Ozil to feed Matuidi. Mustafi was not tight enough to Matuidi, who set up Cavani for a tap-in.

  1. The Gunners have a problem down their left flank

Aurier was denied a right of entry to the United Kingdom because he was convicted for assaulting a police officer in France. That did not prevent Gibbs and Iwobi from struggling against Moura and Meunier just like Monreal and Iwobi struggled against Di Maria and Aurier two months ago.

Moura proved a thorn in Arsenal’s side with 3 key passes. Cavani made a run in behind Koscielny in the 63rd to collect a through ball from Moura but a heavy touch from the Uruguay striker allowed Ospina to gather the ball. PSG could have scored the winner in the 82nd when Gibbs failed to stop a cross from Moura. Cavani ghosted past Mustafi at the far post but headed wide Moura’s offering.

  1. Iwobi’s poor run of form continues

Iwobi has performed poorly since October. Yet, Wenger has kept his trust in the Nigeria international despite an apparent sophomore slump. Iwobi won only 14.3% of his duels according to the club’s website, the lowest percentage among all the midfielders. He was dispossessed four times in the first 15 minutes by running into traffic instead of releasing the ball more quickly. Iwobi’s confidence is low and you can feel that he’s trying too hard.

At 20, Iwobi is still a work in progress, so there’s no reason to panic. But he must improve his defensive awareness. Iwobi allowed Meunier to make a couple of dangerous crosses in the first half. When Iwobi switched to the right flank in the middle of the second half, he failed to close down Maxwell in the 76th, forcing Gibbs to head out the cross from the PSG fullback.

  1. You can’t switch off at the top level

The Gunners looked listless in the first half like in their game against Manchester United. They lacked the will or the energy to press PSG when the French club had the ball and slowed the pace of the game. Arsenal also made basic marking mistakes on corners. Cavani escaped marking to head a corner in the 15th. The ball bounced off Silva and was cleared off the line by Gibbs.

PSG capitalized on another corner to equalize in the 76th. Jenkinson was not tight enough to Moura, who headed a corner at the far post. Iwobi diverted the ball into his own net, wrongfooting Ospina who seemed in a good position to make the save. Jenkinson is five inches taller than Moura and would have won the header if he had properly marked the Brazilian winger.

  1. There’s a huge gap in quality between Jenkinson and Bellerin

No Arsenal fan can be surprised that Bellerin recently signed a contract extension. Debuchy is clearly past his prime while Jenkinson is a decent starter for an average side but not a big club. Jenkinson only won 20% of his duels according to the club’s website, the lowest percentage among all the defenders. He’s obviously guilty for PSG’s equalizer and will also need to work on his delivery. Jenkinson overhit a pass for Ramsey in the 30th and sent a cross out of play in the 42nd. Besides the cross that led to Arsenal’s second goal, his main positive contribution was a clearance that prevented Matuidi from connecting with a cross from Moura in the 72nd. Jenkinson made no tackle and none of his two dribbling attempts was successful, while Gibbs won 2 of 5 tackles and made 2 successful dribbles out of 4.

  1. Koscielny and Mustafi had a hard time with the pace of Cavani and Moura

Koscielny gave the ball away to Moura in the 52nd and picked up a yellow card by fouling the Brazilian winger, who almost punished Arsenal with the subsequent curling free kick that rattled the bar. Moura then outpaced both Koscielny and Mustafi in the 79th to feed Cavani, whose lob attempt was saved by Ospina. Cavani also made runs in behind Mustafi in the sixth minute and the 82nd but lacked the finishing touch.


Ludogorets vs. Arsenal: A few thoughts on the 3-2 win

Ozil showed great composure in the closing minutes to lead Arsenal to a 3-2 victory over Ludogorets on Tuesday. The Gunners kept the top spot in Group A of the Champions League as they qualified for the knockout phase of the lucrative European competition for the 14th straight season.


Photo credit: http://www.arsenal.com

The club’s website claimed it was the 17th straight season, but a quick look in the archives shows that Arsenal did not reach the knockout phase in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons after finishing third in the second group stage when the competition had a different format.

  1. The Gunners can win their group

Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are level on points but the Gunners have a better goal difference. Since both teams drew 1-1 in September, it means Arsenal would finish first with a victory over the French club in three weeks. A draw at the Emirates could also be enough if the score is 0-0 or 1-1 (assuming the Gunners beat Basel while the Parisians defeat Ludogorets in December). However, PSG would snatch the top spot with a 2-2 draw because of the away goal rule.

  1. You need 100% in the Champions League

The Gunners probably thought they had a lot of maneuvering room in Bulgaria after thrashing Ludogorets 6-0 two weeks ago. Unfortunately, they were punished for missing 5% of focus and commitment by conceding two goals in the first 15 minutes. They should have remembered the 2-1 loss to Dinamo Zagreb last season.

  1. What the fans pay for

If you are a neutral football fan, you usually go to the stadium to watch great players and beautiful goals. Ozil’s overall performance on Tuesday was definitely worth the admission price. His winning goal was pure class. Ozil beat the offside trap in the 88th minute to collect a long ball from Elneny. Clean through on goal, Ozil froze time by lifting the ball over the goalkeeper and cutting inside two defenders before slotting into an empty net.

Ozil could have opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Coquelin played him in, but the Germany playmaker could only muster a tame shot straight at Borjan. He also led the team with 4 key passes, setting up Xhaka for Arsenal’s first goal in the 20th and finding the Ox in the 84th for a first-time effort that could have been the winner but missed the target.

  1. Sanchez’s off day

The Chile forward started on the left wing for the first time this season. Sanchez had made all his starts in the centerforward position before Tuesday’s game, but Giroud’s inclusion in the starting lineup meant that Sanchez had to shift back to the position where he played in his first two seasons at the club.

It was a night to forget for Sanchez, who missed the target with his two goal attempts and had 5 turnovers according to whoscored.com. His worst moment was when he chased a through ball from Xhaka in the 73rd. Sanchez’s poor first touch allowed Borjan to gather the ball. Somehow, Sanchez still managed to make 3 key passes despite a poor game by his standards.

  1. Wenger has a lot of faith in Ramsey

Ramsey looked so rusty in his short cameo against Sunderland last weekend that I never assumed the manager would start him in a Champions League game. Yet, Ramsey got the nod over Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi, who are both sharper physically than the Wales midfielder.

Let’s give Ramsey some credit for making the cross for Giroud’s equalizer in the 42nd and having 3 successful dribbles out of 5 according to Squawka. However, I thought Ramsey was a liability in the team’s passing game. Before the Ox replaced him in the 75th, Ramsey made 74 passes (trailing only Mustafi) but only one was a key pass. I believe Ramsey is a bigger threat with his runs than when he carries the ball. His lack of match fitness showed as none of his three goal attempts was on target.

  1. Mustafi’s poor performance

The Germany international had his first poor game at the club. Winning duels inside the area is the top priority for any centerback. Unfortunately, Mustafi lost two key duels that led to goals for Ludogorets. Cafu beat Mustafi to the ball to volley home a free kick in the 12th. Three minutes later, Mustafi was not tight enough to Keseru, who made a run in behind Koscielny to convert a cross from Cafu. Mustafi won only 1 of 5 tackles according to Squawka and 28.6% of his duels, the lowest percentage among the defenders according to the club’s website.

  1. Ospina must improve his command of the area

The Colombia goalkeeper prevented Ludogorets from taking the lead in the second half by stopping Wanderson’s low drive in the 64th and denying him in the 66th. But he also proved shaky on two corners in the first half. Did Ospina’s lack of authority make his teammates nervous on set pieces? Ludogorets could have equalized from a corner in stoppage time, but Marcelinho got in the way of Palomino’s downward header.

  1. There’s a reason why Gibbs and Jenkinson are second choices

Jenkinson finished the game with 6 fouls, more than any other player. He especially struggled against Wanderson, who made 3 key passes. Jenkinson was out of position in the 15th when Wanderson led a counterattack for Ludogorets’ second goal. Wanderson picked out Cafu on the opposite flank and the Brazilian forward dribbled past Gibbs to feed Keseru for a tap-in.

Both Arsenal fullbacks were again in trouble in the 66th. Gibbs failed to close down Marcelinho, who had plenty of time to send a ball over the top for Wanderson. Jenkinson failed to cover Mustafi on that play as Wanderson beat the offside trap but was denied by Ospina. Gibbs only won 1 of 4 tackles according to Squawka.

  1. Wenger has the North London derby on his mind

Bellerin, Monreal, Walcott and Cazorla were left out of the squad. Bellerin, Monreal and Walcott could have played in Bulgaria despite nursing muscle strains. But the manager preferred to look at the bigger picture and did not want to risk any injury so early in the season. In the end, Wenger’s choices paid off with a win over Ludogorets and three players fully fit for Sunday’s North London derby.

Arsenal vs. Ludogorets: A few thoughts on the 6-0 win

Ozil notched a hat trick in the second half to lead Arsenal to a 6-0 rout of Ludogorets on Wednesday as the Gunners leapfrogged Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference at the top of Group A in the Champions League. Confidence is high at the club after that seventh straight victory in all competitions.

  1. Redefining Ozil’s role

Ozil definitely stole the show with his performance. Wenger recently said “Ozil can score when he wants” based on what he saw on the training ground. The manager tried to turn Ozil into a nine and a half last season. It didn’t work right away as Ozil finished the 2015-16 season with 19 assists and 6 goals in the Premier League, typical stats for a No. 10. However, things look different this season with 3 goals and 0 assist in 7 Premier League games so far. Those stats are quite unusual for a traditional playmaker.


Photo credit: http://www.arsenal.com

Basically, Ozil is becoming a nine and a half like Baggio or Bergkamp. That role means Ozil can still make assists but is more often in a position to score than a No. 10. It also means that Ozil can focus on the final third instead of engineering the build-up play. That change of role makes sense since Ozil has decent pace as well as some flair for finding space. Ozil set up Walcott for the second goal in the 42nd minute before collecting a long ball from Cazorla to make it 4-0 in the 56th.

  1. Total football with the Sanzil magic

Sanchez started his Arsenal career on the left wing. Wenger decided this season to turn Sanchez into a false nine like Messi under Guardiola or Totti under Spalletti. Whereas Giroud plays like a traditional target man, Sanchez often drops back to make pinpoint crosses or create space for his teammates. That means Sanchez and Ozil are pretty much interchangeable. On some plays, Sanchez will be the passer and Ozil the finisher. On some other plays, Ozil will deliver the final ball so that Sanchez can score. Sanchez took a pass from Oxlade-Chamberlain to open the scoring with a lob in the 12th.

  1. Injecting competition in the squad

You need rotation throughout the season to protect your regular starters from injuries as well as to keep them on their toes. Monreal, Xhaka and Iwobi performed poorly in the 3-2 win over Swansea last weekend and were therefore replaced by Gibbs, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting lineup. Coquelin had the best defensive stats with 9 tackles and 6 interceptions, more than any other player according to whoscored.com. Gibbs performed well too with 6 tackles and 3 interceptions.

The first half was a mixed bag for the Ox, who wasted counterattacking opportunities in the 28th and 40th with a poor final ball. But he managed to grow into the game, finishing the match with 4 key passes, more than any other player, and giving Arsenal a 3-0 lead in the 47th following a poor clearance from the Ludogorets defense. The Ox also forced Stoyanov into a fine save with a volley in the 68th. He will definitely get more chances to start with that kind of end product.

  1. The Gunners are too playful

The Bulgarian side was no threat until Sanchez opened the scoring. Usually, you play more cautiously after taking the lead. The opposite happened with Arsenal. They felt they could quickly add a second goal and gave plenty of space to Ludogorets. A lack of pressure on the ballholder combined with mistakes from the centerbacks gifted the visitors two clear-cut chances. Misidjan was clean through on goal in the 28th after Mustafi missed his header but Ospina knocked the ball away. Four minutes later, Misidjan was again bearing down on goal as Koscielny failed to clear a long ball. Ospina tipped the ball away on the 18-yard line. Misidjan chased the loose ball to set up Wanderson for a low drive that clipped the post.

Ospina’s quick legs prevented Arsenal from conceding an equalizer in the first half. The Colombia goalkeeper also parried an angled strike from Wanderson in the 19th and denied Cafu in the 23rd. The Bulgarian side did not have any scoring chance in the second half. Surprisingly, Ludogorets kept playing with a high defensive line despite the devastating runs in behind from the Gunners.

  1. Perez the supersub

The Spanish forward came off the bench in the 62nd to replace Walcott and made a significant contribution. He crossed the ball for Ozil, who netted from close range for a 5-0 lead in the 82nd. Perez then set up the Germany playmaker for a volley to seal the win in the 87th. His versatility means Perez can play up front or on the wings.

  1. Walcott should accept his limitations

The England international is a player who does a lot of damage with his runs off the ball. He’s more awkward on the ball because of his limited dribbling and passing skills.He lost possession twice in the opening minutes while running into traffic. His shooting boots look better than last season but I still believe he’s a give-and-go player.