CL: Match Report – Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray – Fireworks at the Emirates
Originally posted on Little Bit Arsenal
Galatasaray brought the flares, but Arsenal brought the flair. Our fireworks dwarfed theirs. It’s like that scene played out all over America on the 4th of July. Your dad tells you to invite your friends over for his fireworks display, only for you to be humiliated by your show-off neighbor who bought the professional grade shit which he then uses to create a full scale reproduction of Pearl Harbor including the hiring of professional actors and a fly over by 3 of his college buddies from the National Guard.
The good news is…Arsenal were the show-off neighbour. Welbeck, Alexis, Ox and Cazorla were the rockets, and Ozil was the professionally hired pyrotechnician, forgotten as the skies lit up. Fireworks are not brilliant because of the fireworks. They are brilliant because of the setup, the timers, the synchronization, the dance…and the fireworks.
Arsenal went into this tie with a win essential for their season. A loss might have conjured a way to damage all 3 remaining competitions. Stella hasn’t found her Groove yet, apart from in the first half against Aston Villa, and with Stamford Bridge looming, a strong, confident, clinical performance was critical for this injury ravaged squad. We needed a statement win with minimal drama and absolutely no injuries. We got almost all of that.
The good news for Arsene was he had absolutely no selection headaches. He had 11 men left standing to pick from, in all reality. All he needed to do was to arrange their positions. Even the formation was pretty much decided for him given the available players: 4-2-3-1. When the team sheet was released all the debate among supporters and journos was whether Santi or the Ox would play on the wing and conversely who would then play alongside Flamini.
On the day, Arsene surprised many by playing Cazorla as a CM. Ozil would play in the middle as the #10, with Ox and Alexis on the wings.
Right from the off it worked a treat, aided it must be said by Prandelli setting up Gala with 3 at the back. Fair play, they came to play! But it allowed so much space for Welbeck, Ox, Sanchez and Ozil to plunder with their pace and movement, connected by Cazorla’s deadly distribution. If you give that Arsenal XI an extra half a yard (and we seemed to have it all over the pitch on Wednesday night) they will have your liver with fava beans and a glass of Chianti. Fuffuffuffuffu.
In the early exchanges, all of our front 3 looked dangerous, and the interplay was superb, up until the final third, where the decision-making, the synchronicity, let us down. We dominated the first 20 minutes.
When the first goal came, it was simplicity itself. Gibbs poked it up the left wing to Sanchez who was executing a Wide Receivers route drifting from inside to outside on the left wing where he picked up the ball and arced infield again. Spotting Welbeck’s angled run going left, Sanchez released a perfectly weighted ball to where Welbeck was pointing and the England striker dispatched his shot through the legs of the keeper. The Gala 3 man defense was twisted into a pretzel.
9 minutes later, Flamini won a header in midfield off a poor goal kick from Gala. The hopeful header was knocked back by a Gala midfielder towards his Centerback, Melo. But Welbeck out muscled the defender, and sprinted away before “routinely” slotting away his second. The hat trick was clearly on.
The Gala “fans” then let off their flares. It’s probably hilarious the first few times you do that. But they do it every match. Grow up, you pratts. There’s an actual football game on to watch. Oh, and by the way, you’re getting stuffed in it.
On the stroke of 40 minutes, Ox (unmarked) in midfield, passed to Ozil, (unmarked) in midfield, who crafted a deft pass forward to Sanchez on the left who was largely unmarked. Sanchez cut inside to fire across the goal to make it 3-0. He didn’t need Welbeck and Ox who were also unmarked in the box. Gala were in disarray at this point.
And they were starting to show their frustration with rotational fouling on Sanchez, including a nailed-on red-carder of a 2 footed tackle that escaped full punishment. Flamini The Avenger decided to even the score by putting in a 1.5 footed tackle on Sneijder just before half time. Many criticized him for rashness, but he sent a clear message: “We know where your delicate playmaker lives.”
Prandelli had not only gone with a back 3 but had elected to play Sneijder as a deep-lying playmaker. It wasn’t adding up.
When they came out for the 2nd half, Gala setup with a back 4 and with Sneijder playing from an advanced position where he could be his own danger man. But not before Welbeck got his hat trick on 51 minutes from a dinked finish off a through ball from his England colleague for years to come, Chamberlain.
We were rampant.
In truth, we had many great attacking moments involving our front 5 throughout the game. More goals seemed inevitable. It was at this point you thought: “4-0. Good enough. Let’s just see this out. No injuries, no drama.”
But Arsenal and a Champions League red card go together like unprotected sex and the clap. On 60 minutes, Szczesny came charging out to cut off the on-rushing Burak, and got himself sent off. It’s an unjust rule but Szczesny should know it well by now. And it was needless at 4-0 up.
Poor old Ospina. He gets his chance only to realize his first act is to face a penalty, stone cold. Burak sent him the wrong way and made it 4-1. With Arsenal down to 10 men, it was game on again.
And Sanchez didn’t look happy when pulled off to bring Ospina on. After the match, Wenger uncharacteristically blamed the conceded goal on Sanchez losing possession in our half. Perhaps Arsene is relying on the fact that he has no English yet.
On 67 minutes, Rosicky came on for Ox, and played a nice cameo to help wipe away his nightmare performance against the Spuds at the weekend.
On 77 minutes, Jack came on for Ozil who had looked tired for much of the evening and yet still filled his usual highlight reel. Journalists will say he looked tired, disinterested and had a poor game. The match commentator worried when Arsenal fans would take to Ozil. Bless them. They don’t get it.
Jack did well but more importantly showed he was fully fit.
Ospina had plenty to do in his 20+ minutes, pulling off a couple of fine saves with Sneijder in particular getting closer and closer to finding his range. But Arsenal still had its chances on the counter with the most memorable being a last minute counter with Welbeck receiving the ball wide right on the halfway line, finding Wilshere in the center, who lobs it over the defense to an onrushing Santi, sprinting into the box. His chipped finish is cleared just before it crosses the line by a sliding Semih. And then the final whistle.
The match ball and the night would be Danny Welbeck’s.
At 23 years of age, going on 24, Danny Welbeck is right where you want him to be as a Gooner, in his career and in his club.
When Welbeck was signed on deadline day, reactions ranged from “meh,” to “we could have got Balotelli for that money.” Gooners asked each “should I be happy about this signing?” No one seemed sure. Even Arsene couldn’t be arsed to tell us what we should think for the week after the signing.
Correctly valued, I believe the signing should have been met with scenes of jubilation, grown men falling to their knees and crying in the street, three men from the East should have shown up on camels bearing gold, frankincense and mihr, mirrr, muhuhurrr, oh damn it, moisturizer, and a two-headed lion cub should have been born on that very same night.
Fascinatingly, Arsene said this in the presser after the match in answer to a question about what had surprised him about Welbeck so far:
“That he’s a good finisher…That was a surprise that he’s technically clean and that he’s a good passer of the ball. I didn’t know he was so quick. Honestly, I knew he was quick but he can be electric when he starts – he has great pace.”
So…Arsene didn’t know he was that technical, that good a passer, that fast or that good a finisher. That doesn’t leave much for a striker. I think we got lucky with this signing but I’ll take it.
Arsene also waxed lyrical about his teamwork and on a night where he could have decided he had done more than his share up front, he was to be found defending every inch of the pitch till the last minute. This boy is a little bit special.