Finally a stress-free game for the Gunners as Arsenal have settled the score with Dinamo Zagreb. The Croats were no match for our team and they should feel very lucky with just a three-goal margin at the end of the game. We should certainly have scored a few more but I will take a 3:0 victory without injuries any day of the week.
Here are the key points.
1.Petr Čech didn’t allow any upsets.
The Czech legend is yet to concede a goal in the Champions League at home as he has kept a clean sheet against Bayern and Dinamo respectively. The Croatian side didn’t create too much trouble for Čech but they got close to scoring by accident, however the tall Czech was there to prevent it. He might turn out to be a crucial man in our decisive game against Olympiacos.
2.Dinamo couldn’t deal with Hector Bellerin’s pace.
The Spanish wonderkid has been immense this season and his return from injury was one of the rare positives from the game against West Brom. Dinamo couldn’t handle him either as the Spaniard kept doing what he regularly does. Bellerin gives width to our attack, stretches the opponents and offers an opportunity for our right winger to make underlapping runs. With all due respect to Mathieu Debuchy, who had a solid cameo, Bellerin is irreplaceable at the moment.
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3.Nacho Monreal made a crucial attacking contribution.
Our best defender this season made a crucial interception to start the move that led to our second goal. Monreal’s progress in 2015 is second only to that of Francis Coquelin.
4.Mathieu Flamini gave us some hope.
The combative midfielder gave a tidy performance against Dinamo Zagreb which is important given how serious Coquelin’s injury is and that Mikel Arteta – who is also injured – can’t provide decent cover for the crocked Frenchman anyway. Whilst it is true that you can beat only what is in front of you, we will get more realistic insight into Flamini’s ability to replace Coquelin in the forthcoming matches against opponents like Norwich.
5.Who took Santi Cazorla’s shooting boots away?
The Spaniard hasn’t scored a goal from open play since Newcastle in December 2014 and is yet to open his account this season. The thing is, it’s not like he hasn’t had opportunities to score. From the very first match of the season – against Chelsea in the Community Shield – Santi’s shots go anywhere but where they should have gone. During November he has had three shots from promising situations that were more dangerous to UFOs than to our opponents. He should have made the score-line against Bayern more acceptable, he should have earned us a point against West Brom and he should have scored the opener against Dinamo but instead, he sent the ball miles over the bar each time. It’s impossible not to like Santi’s quick feet, dribbling and passing but it’s not too much to ask for a goal or two from him.
6.Aaron Ramsey is back!!!
Arsenal have had so many injuries this year that Ramsey’s return deserves three exclamation marks. Indeed, having a player of Rambo’s versatility means Arsene Wenger has quite a few options at his disposal. Rambo can play on either wing even if we all know that his best position is in the middle of the pitch. Welcome back, Rambo!
7.Mesut Özil was brilliant… Again.
We have been running out of compliments for the German for quite some time as the best No. 10 in the world has had a brilliant season so far. The King of Assists scored his very first header in the Champions League but it was his overall performance that was astonishing. Only a heroic save from Dinamo’s goalkeeper Eduardo prevented Özil from finishing a preposterously good solo-effort as the Portuguese deflected the German’s shot away, while he was also close to scoring another header in the second half. May his form last forever!
8.Alexis Sánchez can play as a No. 9 as well.
The world-class forward has scored nine goals in all competitions so far – he is level with Giroud now – and it seems that Arsene Wenger has been thinking about giving Alexis a central role in our attack. Personally, I don’t like that idea but not because I think that Alexis can’t play as a No. 9. Au contraire, he is more than competitive in that role, but because I believe Nacho Monreal’s emergence is connected with Alexis playing in front of him. It’s not important whether Alexis plays as a winger or as a striker though as either way he will be the best or one of the best on the pitch.
9.Joel Campbell has shown some of his qualities.
I will repeat it again: it’s one thing to perform against Dinamo Zagreb and completely another to do it against Norwich or any other English side that will give energetic and a physically demanding performance. However, we can be pleased with what we saw from Campbell against Dinamo Zagreb. When I watched him at the 2014 World Cup, it wasn’t just his composure that I liked but also his ability to pick a perfect pass for a team-mate. He did exactly that to create our third goal. He should now add consistency to his game so that we can count on him for the rest of the season.
10.We hold the key to our future.
Bayern didn’t spare Olympiacos from a big defeat either as the German giants scored four past Roberto. Thanks to a goal swing of seven, we have a superior goal-difference to the Greeks and we can go through the Round of 16 not just by beating Olympiacos with a two-goal margin but with a narrow victory as well, if we score at least three goals, that is. There is a slim hope that we’ll have Theo Walcott back for that game too and you can’t have too much fire-power in a match where you have to score at least twice. Olympiacos’ stadium is a volcano but we can survive the heat.
Our next match is against Norwich away on Sunday. We need a victory to improve our league position, especially given that first-placed Leicester and second-placed Manchester United play each other. Who knows, if results go our way, we might be top of the table after the weekend!
P.S It’s “Dinamo Zagreb”, not “Zagreb”.
It doesn’t really matter now as we have already played both of our matches against the Croatian side but I’ve noticed that most of English media and blogs refer to them as “Zagreb”. There is a completely different club in Croatia called “Zagreb” that is a member of the Croatian First Division. Therefore, “Dinamo Zagreb” should be referred to either as “Dinamo” or “Dinamo Zagreb”. I know that I wouldn’t be pleased if someone refers to “Arsenal FC” as “North London” or “London”.