Arsene Wenger said there is no need to panic, after Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with PSG left them in second place in Group A. The Gunners need to win away at Basel in their last game and hope Ludogorets get a result in Paris, and outcome which looks highly unlikely. In isolation, Arsenal can have few complaints about the result; the visitors controlled long periods of the first half before Wenger’s side made more of a fist of it in the second period. Nevertheless, it was a rather scratchy performance overall. Arsenal’s midfield options are the envy of team across the Premier League, but Wenger is struggling to find a cohesive partnership and combination. Speaking after the game, the Frenchman said:
“We have a special strength in the squad, a consistency in results.
“We are unbeaten in 18 games. But we have to continue without losing and transform draws into wins.”
“We have a 90% chance to finish second, and we wanted to finish first. But we’ve not lost a game in this group.
“Overall, we’ve done the job well. Will we be lucky enough to finish first? I don’t know, and we’d have to wait for the draw.
“You can’t guess whether it’s good or bad. The advantage if you finish first is to play the second game at home.”
Wenger made several changes from the weekend’s draw with Manchester United with David Ospina, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Iwobi and Olivier Giroud all coming in. His team selection will come under scrutiny, particularly the decision not to start £35 million summer signing Granit Xhaka. The Switzerland international is exactly the sort of player who can set the tempo from midfield and link play between the defence and Mesut Ozil in the Number 10 position. He isn’t quite as nimble as Santi Cazorla in tight spots, but has arguably an even greater range of passing. Wenger went with Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey, and axis that was in place last winter as Arsenal played some of their worst football of the season.
Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas says Arsenal have lost all fluency, an assessment that is difficult to argue with. November fixtures against Spurs, United and PSG were held up as an acid test for Arsenal, and the outcome is three draws. The Gunners haven’t exactly imploded and proved their critics right, but they haven’t dispelled them either. If you were to accentuate the positive, Arsenal have played below their best against high calibre opposition and remain unbeaten. Nicholas said:
“People are saying there is a stronger mentality, and that Arsenal would have lost those games last season or the last five seasons. But if you don’t start well, you can’t get fluency into your game.
“Arsenal are a team who have to hurt you with momentum and fluency in the last 30, 40 yards of the pitch. That’s where they do their damage, that’s where they’re exciting.
“But if you get them on the halfway line, and they pass it with too many touches, they become an average side.”
Finally, Bob Wilson has question Wenger’s Champions League policy of playing second-choice goalkeeper David Ospina. This is perhaps a tad harsh on Ospina, who has excelled in this competition and was not at fault for either goal last night. However, the Arsenal legend’s view is a fairly common one; especially in English football. Rotating goalkeepers between league and cup competitions is something European clubs have done a lot recently and Wenger has followed suit. The former Arsenal goalkeeper said:
“David Ospina is a terrific goalkeeper.
“But when we’re wanting to be champions of Europe you have to play your best team. If you really want to get that title.
“And clearly, week in week out, Petr Cech is performing above David Ospina.”
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