Arsenal kept their Champions League hopes alive with a 3-0 win over Dynamo Zagreb at the Emirates on Tuesday night.
Arsene Wenger went with his strongest possible side for what was a ‘must win and hope’ game in the Champions League. Well, his strongest available team plus Joel Campbell.
Knowing that only a win, combined with a win for Bayern Munich, would save their hopes of being knocked out in the last 16 this season, the Gunners faced a Zagreb side who were bright from the start.
It took around seven minutes for Arsenal to really start playing, Santi Cazorla blazing over at the end of some beautiful football from the home side. One day he might stop leaning back when he shoots…one day.
As word came through that Bayern had taken the lead against Olympiacos, Arsenal were in total control of their game; pinging the ball around the pitch with confidence, especially Joel Campbell, who seemed like a different player to the one that missed that glorious chance against West Brom at the weekend.
Total control with very little real penetration.
29 minutes, however, saw Mesut Ozil get on the scoresheet, assisted by Alexis, after a fantastic run by Giroud created space. Not only did Ozil score, he scored with his head, low down. It was a superb goal, quick in the break, clever in the movement and brave in the finish.
Four minutes later it was two as Arsenal pounced on a slack clearance from the Croatians. Nacho Monreal reacted quickest and was able to pull it back to Alexis who opened his body and slotted home.
Cazorla opened Arsenal’s attack in the second half by not leaning back and thus hitting the target. The ball was parried away for a corner from which Giroud had a header clawed off the line.
Arsenal dominated again with Zagreb only showing glimmers of attacking potential or threat. Chances were carved out as the Gunners sprayed the ball around with finesse, drawing oos and ahhs from the crowd and with 66 on the clock, the boss took the chance to protect his front man; Aaron Ramsey making a welcome return from injury and replacing Giroud.
The third came not long after as Joel Campbell found Alexis who calmly took it around the keeper to grab his second of the night and his ninth of the season. Game over and job done.
The Gunners did what they needed to do, and did it in style. They now travel to Greece knowing that a win by two goals is required to progress to the knockout stages.
Having ensured at least a third place finish in the group, anything less would see the Gunners relegated to the Europa League and matches on Spursdays.