Arsenal ensured qualification from the Champions League group stage for the 17th consecutive season with a dramatic 3-2 win over Ludogorets in Bulgaria. Having beaten the hosts 6-0 at the Emirates a fortnight ago, this was a far more exacting test for the Gunners as they found themselves two nil down after 15 minutes. Jonathan Cafu turned in from close range from Wanderson’s free kick before Claudiu Keseru, Olivier Giroud’s former teammate at Tours, doubled their lead three minutes later. Granit Xhaka steered home Mesut Ozil’s pull back to get the visitors back in it, before Giroud’s glancing header put them in level at the break. The second half was a more cagey and bitty affair, but was lit up by a sumptuous moment of quality from Ozil.
He latched onto Mohamed Elneny’s chipped through ball, lifted the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper before steeping inside not one but two Ludogorets defenders to slide the ball into an unguarded net. What could have been a forgettable group stage game will now be discussed in N5 for years to come. The result sets an effective play off with PSG at the Emirates. We suggested three things we learnt from last night’s slightly bizarre encounter.
Mesut Ozil Has Added A Fresh Dimension To His Game
There is no need to go over the intricacies of Ozil’s goal last night, but it was another example of his willingness to run beyond the centre forward. The former Real Madrid man has always had this in his locker; he glides across the ground effortlessly and is far quicker than many assume. However, his runs in behind have been rather sporadic and off-the-cuff in the past, but have been far more regular this season. Many suggested that Alexis Sanchez’s presence as a ‘false nine’ was the cause of this, because when he dropped off it demanded that somebody move into the space he vacates. However, last night Ozil was doing this even with Olivier Giroud up front. Francis Coquelin even took it upon himself to do this on occasion. In the past, Arsenal were very reliant on pacey individuals such as Theo Walcott to provide this quality. They still miss him when he is absent, but is encouraging for Arsenal fans that there is a collective strategy in place rather than a system completely reliant on individuals.