Good Morning Positivistas.
A hard-earned but deserved point earned in Paris last night against a home side who performed better than I anticipated and on the back of a performance from us, over the 94 minutes, that I would give no more than 7/10.
I was not remotely surprised to see David Ospina start. He is a top ‘keeper and needs time on the pitch. I was surprised to see Xhaka on the bench but Le Coq and Santi is evidently AW’s current preferred starting combination.
It appeared that new man Emery had told his lads in blue to get into us from referee Kassai’s first whistle. An understandable tactic and one that clearly paid an immediate dividend with a good run and cross from Aurier, and a great angled header from Cavani. We were barely off our stool when we found ourselves flat on our collective backs in 42 seconds. Ouch!
Thereafter for the next 15 minutes PSG worked with feverish energy to deny every Arsenal player any time and space. We could barely get the ball let alone keep possession and our hosts’ aspirations to be among the genuine CL contenders were amply demonstrated. I imagine this is what the home crowd are used to with so little domestic competition. We were holding on, but only just.
However, after that opening 15-20 minute frantic phase, their pace dropped a notch and gradually, very gradually, we began to get control of the ball. We began to string two or three passes together, we approached their box with just a hint of threat. My view was that the remainder of the first half was 50/50. We had more possession and spent more time in their half. They sat back and relied on a breakaway or error, with Cavani failing to hit the target with one fair chance, and missing the ball altogether eight yards out. £55 million eh – what does it get you nowadays?
The second 45 I thought we began with more pace and energy, and tightened up in midfield. Passing that had been wayward became a little more careful. Defensively the threat of Aurier raiding Nacho’s territory was quelled after a testing first 45 for the Spaniard.
To and fro the game went, a couple of heart-in-mouth moments which Ospina dealt with well. He is a goalkeeper, that is what he does although the apparently incredulous commentators, each time he made a save, did not appear to really ‘get’ that. By full time the collective media narrative had been changed to these Parisian goal scoring chances being “missed” by Cavani and/or Di Maria, with David seemingly a passive bystander.
For us as the half progressed, with Olivier on and Sanchez in his more familiar flank role, we created a couple of half chances for us but without really testing the delightfully named Alphonse Areola.
In the end however the home side cracked, as we knew they must. For one of the few times in the evening we had a lot of players in the box, Iwobi was faster to the ball than the home defenders, his blocked shot hammered back past Areola. One half-chance to Alexis, one goal. Excellent finishing. PSG looked shocked, I don’t know why. These things happen if you are only 1-0 up.
The final 15 minutes whizzed by, chances at both ends. Well done to both teams who went for the result rather than settle for what was, for both, an acceptable point.
Standout for Arsenal on the night was Iwobi, Ospina, Le Coq and Santi. Given he was on an early card Francis definitely deserved a pat on the back. When he did get on for the final 20 minutes I also thought Granit did well. He brought just the correct length and width of steel and at just the right time.
The mainstream media last night was focussed on PSG’s Cavani and Aurier last night, the former as a figure of ridicule in the end, the latter for a good attacking full back effort. I was also much struck by Matuidi who worked well as a wide attacking midfielder. He is big, fast and tough and Hector does not have to face any like that in England.
The red cards? I did not see it. I may look later.
Enjoy your Tuesday. A spare day before the game at Hull on Saturday. I am off to Leeds in a few minutes so I shall be living the dream.