I’ll get the positive out the way first. A draw away at the Parc Des Princes is a good result and without doubt, one that I would have readily accepted prior to kick off. It is often said that the result is the only thing that matters. In many ways that’s true, but should we repeat that performance, against one of the top sides, the only outcome will be us being on the receiving end of a hiding.
My past criticisms of David Ospina are well documented but against Paris St Germain, he didn’t let us down. With one save in particular to deny Edison Cavani during a one on one situation, catching the eye. His display wasn’t without fault though and one poor clearance in the second half, did almost cost us. Had the resulting effort from the home side, not been fired in at a comfortable height for a goalkeeper, it would have done.
It is somewhat bizarre to read comments on social media, that single me out every time Ospina makes a save. Even more so when I’ve never once criticised his reflex shot shopping. What I have criticised him for, is his distribution, handing and lack of aerial dominance. All criticisms that remain and it was clear that Angel Di Maria had identified one of these weaknesses by targeting it from his corner deliveries.
Ospina’s starting position from corners is poor and he was forced into making a far more difficult save than necessary because of this. A taller keeper, such as Peter Cech, routinely catches the aerial balls that Ospina struggles to deal with. Aerial deliveries are far more common in domestic fixtures and suggestions that Ospina deserves a regular opportunity in league games, remain wide of the mark.
Ospina’s quiet and unassuming personality ensures that some supporters turn a blind eye to many of his mistakes. Mistakes that they would crucify the flamboyant Wojciech Szszesny, for making. That said, Ospina was comfortably our best player in midweek and I appreciate that now is not the right time to be criticising him. He deserved the plaudits in Paris but I’m still to be convinced that he’s not an accident waiting to happen.
Seeing our team selection prior to kick off, it was difficult to understand Arsene’s thought process. It can be argued that with Ospina being our man of the match, he got it right by giving him the nod. I disagree, not only is Cech a superior goalkeeper but his influence on the defence, in terms of organisation, is far greater too. Barcelona may have been known to play their second string goalkeeper in the Champions League but we don’t have Messi, Neymar and Suarez keeping the opposition occupied.
Arsene’s treatment of Granit Xhaka, so far in his Arsenal career, has quite frankly, been bizarre. Granit’s performance in the victory over Watford was superb. A performance resulting in him being rewarded with a place amongst the substitutes for our subsequent two fixtures. Go figure. Not only is Granit’s style of play perfectly suited to a tough away fixture in Europe’s premier competition but what effect does Arsene’s team selection have on his confidence?
With Giroud receiving his marching orders late on, after being introduced to the action as a 63rd minute substitute, some would say Arsene was right not to start him. Again I disagree and why does Arsene always wait so long to make a change when it’s clear the way we have set up, isn’t working? I have long said that Sanchez isn’t suited to being the focal point of our attack, yet Arsene appears reluctant to accept defeat in his continued experiment.
Some of our supporters make comparisons between Alexis and Sergio Aguero due to their relatively diminutive physical stature but the formers appetite to be involved in our build up play often leaves us without a outlet. He frequently drops deep or drifts out wide and this is why he’s more effective when playing off a Giroud type forward or as a winger. I’m sure Wenger will belatedly reach the same conclusion at some stage but the sooner the better for all concerned.
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Shkodran Mustafi has featured in our last two outings and it is evident that it is going to take time for him to adapt. He’s looked assured on the ball but uncomfortable off it. I was accused elsewhere of writing him off after just two games but there’s a difference between writing someone off and sharing your initial impressions. A friend of mine said he believes Mustafi has looked cumbersome so far and it’s difficult to argue.
I’m sure once he settles in and develops a better understanding with Koscielny, he will prove to be a good addition. However, the Rob Holding and Koscielny partnership had in some ways, looked a more comfortable fit. Lets hope Shkodran starts to find his feet at Hull City this weekend…..