Arsenal got their Champions League campaign for
12/13, 13/14, 14/15, 15/16, 16/17 underway in familiar fashion with an underwhelming performance against a side they had reasonable expectations of beating.
To be fair, we were warned when Arsene Wenger confused the entire footballing world by deciding to start Alex Iwobi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin and David Ospina with Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud, Granit Xhaka, and Lucas on the bench.
I’d hardly had a chance to make sure my rum was strong enough for the game when PSG were ahead, 44 seconds from kick-off. Serge Aurier, who wasn’t even supposed to be playing, found Edinson Cavani, who isn’t supposed to be any good, for him to sweep home to give the hosts the lead.
From there, it was like the first 20 against Southampton – slow and sloppy from Arsenal against a team that just wanted it more. Except for the whole first half.
I’d go over what happened but I don’t think I should waste the words. Pick a game at random against a big side, and chances are you’ll have in your memory a carbon-copy of the first half of this game.
Employing an enthusiastic, but s**t press, Coquelin was booked for winning the ball and we just looked like we hadn’t really got a clue what to do. Alexis dropped deeper and deeper and Ospina did his best to get sent off when he tried to clean out Cavani only for the forward to do the honest thing, stay on his feet and see his empty-goal effort go wide.
Half time and Arsenal were so lucky that they were only one down.
It was no surprise that there were no changes at the break despite the side desperately needing a few. Coquelin, the Ox and Iwobi all should have been replaced by Xhaka, Giroud and Lucas, allowing Sanchez to move out to the right where he would have been far more effective with Lucas on the left and Giroud through the middle.
Giroud. A man the French media had spent the day discussing in terms of how much PSG hate playing against him.
To be fair, we all told Arsene to spend some f**king money. We didn't actually specify what to do after that.
— Lee Hurley (@HLeeHurley) September 13, 2016
So we lined up for the second as we did the first although we immediately looked better as we pressed and managed to string together some things that looked remarkably like passes.
Just after the hour mark, Olivier Giroud replaced the Ox with Arsenal fans almost crying tears of happiness at the sight. Perhaps that had been Wenger’s plan all along, to make people appreciate Oli. It would make more sense than thinking he picked that starting XI to win the game.
I give Dave Ospina a load of stick, most of it deserved, but he pulled out two big saves to deny PSG a second and third, but had Cavani the brain to lift it over the Arsenal keeper who was already sprawled on the ground, or been Ibra, it would have been goodnight Gooners.
It wasn’t ,so when he was called on to make a third, he kept us right in it. This was a game that was shaping up to have David Ospina as Arsenal’s best player.
Yeah. I know.
As Lucas stood awaiting his introduction, Mesut Ozil picked out Iwobi whose volley was struck so sweet it was sickening, but it was blocked. With a little luck, it fell to Alexis who made no mistake.
Somehow, Arsenal were level and things made even less sense.
Ospina then pulled off a quite brilliant save to deny Cavani, down at the striker’s feet, as the universe started to question it’s own existence in the face of such craziness.
Then it was Arsenal’s turn as the game swung from end-to-end.
With five minutes remaining, Arsene reached for his last sub and instead of Lucas he called Elneny to replace Mesut. He was going to do his best to hold what he inexplicably had, and he succeeded.
There was still time for Olivier Giroud and Veratti to pick up a second yellow each for something the ref didn’t even see, a ridiculous end to a stupid evening on so many fronts.
Wenger will point to the result as proving his initial selection correct, but Arsenal finished the game with an XI on the pitch that probably should have started. That they weren’t punished was more to do with PSG’s finishing that anything else.
Arsenal also ended up with a whole point more than they deserved.
That’s the luck of Champions, right?