Schalke 2 (Huntelaar 47, Farfan 67) – Arsenal 2 (Walcott 18, Giroud 26)
Man of the Match – Lewis Holtby (Schalke)
Typical typical Arsenal! In an enthralling encounter in Gelsenkirchen, Arsenal were pegged back by an industrious and creative Schalke side, despite having a dream start.
Injury concerns meant a lack of options on the bench and on the first team sheet. Theo Walcott, still having issues with signing a new contract was given a start on the right hand side, while the much beleaguered Andre Santos was dropped to the bench, after a series of disastrous performances, to make way for Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal’s flagship defender last season.
This meant a reshuffling at the back, and Thomas Vermaelen moved to left back, with Koscielny taking his place in the centre of defence. For Schalke, there was a return for Kyriakos Papadapoulos who was named on the bench. Marco Hoger, who started at the Emirates made way for the returning USA international Jermaine Jones.
Schalke started in earnest, and it was clear they fancied their chances against a reeling Gunners side. Austrian left back, Cristian Fuchs saw his shot deflected wide, while the right flank duo of Jefferson Farfan and Astuto Uchida looked to build on their impressive display a fortnight ago, when Uchida hoodwinked Vermaelen, but ran the ball out of play.
Lukas Podolski lost the ball cheaply in midfield, thanks to some strong pressing, but Ibrahim Afellay failed to score, with Vito Mannone pulling off a fine save. Schalke skipper Benedikt Howedes header over the bar, as Arsenal nervously held on.
Per Mertesacker’s clearance was uncharacteristically headed by Roman Neudstater, into the path of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman, with time and space, hesitated, and the danger looked to be cleared by Howedes, but a fine bit of skill from Theo Walcott, to beat Unnerstall and Howedes, resulted in a simple tap-in for the Englishman.
This was Walcott’s 8th goal of the season, and just his 4th start, and surely must have given Arsene Wenger something to ponder about where to play the speedster. Arsenal seemed to be getting a stranglehold in the game, when Lukas Podolski’s cross was missed by both Giroud and Walcott.
But, the Londoners didn’t have to wait long as Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud replicated the West Ham goal, from a few weeks back, this time with Giroud heading the ball in and making up for his earlier blush. The 2-0 lead seemed to have given the away side some impetus, as Arsenal looked more and more settled.
But the Germans, were not done yet. Jefferson Farfan caused some nervous moments, but Mertesacker was on hand to clear the danger. Schalke got the goal they merited, when a slip by Cazorla, allowed the German side to snick a couple of passes, before setting up Klaas Jan Huntelaar, that Dutch goal scoring machine, not so cunty though.
His left footed shot well beat Mannone, and Schalke had something to grab on to at the stroke of half time. Schalke looked more urgent than Arsenal, but resilience, meant Schalke had to keep toiling to find their equalizer.
On the other end, Podolski’s cross was met by an acrobatic Giroud, and honestly, he had enough time to chest it down and score. Jermaine Jones then set up Huntelaar, who was one on one, but Mannone made a fantastic save, to deny the striker a second goal. Schalke upped the pressure, and Mannone had to make a barrage of saves from various sources, namely Holtby and Afellay, and Marco Hoger even had a shot cleared off the line by Mikel Arteta.
There was a moment of controversy, when Podolski and Hoger were involved in a battle for the ball, and the Schalke player probably picked up a strain, and fell to the ground. Arsenal continued playing, but seconds later the referee blew the whistle, to tend to the injured player. Podolski was visibly infuriated as he slammed the ball against an advertising hoarding, and got an yellow for his troubles.
Schalke got the equalizer moments later, when a Holtby header from an Afellay cross fell into the path of Farfan, whose shot went in off Vermaelen.
There was very little in the rest of the game, with both sides tiring. Schalke, who had put a lot in physically with their pressing, and Arsenal, already carrying several jaded players, looked to be playing for a draw.
Laurent Koscielny still found some energy to go on one of his darting runs, and it almost resulted in a goal, when Walcott, out clean through, managed to hit the post, with Koscielny close by. However, the move was ruled out as offside.
Arsenal still had another chance, when Walcott was sent clear, but he managed only to force a save of Unnerstall, with Giroud outside of him, and in a better position to score.
Positives, well, quite a few. First, Mannone was brilliant and kept us in the game. Despite some criticism from various quarters, we forget quickly that he is out third choice keeper, and has kept us in key games like QPR, Man.Utd and now Schalke. Defensively, we still look short of confidence, but Vermaelen playing at left-back looks lot more stable than Santos at left-back. I hope this combination continues till Gibbs is fit.
The goals scored by Giroud and Walcott will be a shot of confidence for both, and hopefully they can take it into the weekend against Fulham. Santi Cazorla looks a bit jaded. But, he has a busy schedule coming up. After the game against Fulham, Spain play Panama in midweek, and knowing our luck with international games in the past, he will surely start. Wilshere looked bright again, hiding the fact that Arteta was a bit anonymous.
At the end, a point would be a great result, and something any Arsenal fan would have taken before the game, considering the circumstances.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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