Arsenal set for second place finish in UCL group after 2-2 draw with PSG
Arsenal drew 2-2 with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in their Group A Uefa Champions League (UCL) clash at the Emirates Stadium tonight.
The result leaves the French champions favourites to claim top spot in the Group A table.
Arsenal are now reliant on PSG slipping up at home to Ludogorets in Matchday 6.
The Gunners are away to Basel in the final round of group fixtures.
You can’t knock Arsenal’s consistency in reaching the last 16 of the competition.
They have done so every season in the Champions League’s current format, which has been in existence since 2003-04.
But finishing second in their group has led to tougher ties as the competition switches to the knock-out format.
Arsenal have exited t the last-16 stage in the past six seasons have included two losses to Barcelona, two to Bayern Munich and one each to AC Milan and Monaco.
Arsene Wenger had said before the match tonight that a win for his side would make a statement.
Unfortunately Arsenal were second best for most of the contest and can count themselves fortunate to have drawn the match.
Wenger went with an attacking line-up. Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey were paired together in central midfield.
Whilst Olivier Giroud was recalled to start-up front, with Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi in support.
It was a bold selection, but Arsenal struggled to cope with PSG’s possession game and incisive attacking threat.
There was a muted atmosphere amongst the home support and it was no surprise when PSG took the lead.
Edison Cavani who scored in 44 seconds when the teams met in Paris in September, was on hand to prod the ball home from about a yard out to open the scoring.
The nervy looking Arsenal defence had been opened up by a well-timed Blaise Matuidi run and his cross gave Cavani the simplest of chances.
Against the run of play Olivier Giroud equalised for Arsenal just before half-time from a penalty spot.
Grzegorz Krychowiak gave the penalty away with foul on Alexis Sanchez.
Giroud sent the keeper Areola the wrong way, with what was Arsenal’s first shot of any kind in the match.
It continued Giroud’s remarkable recent scoring record. He has scored with nine of his last 11 shots on target for Arsenal in all competitions, having scored with just two of his 22 before that
Even more remarkably Arsenal took the lead on the hour mark. When the pin-balled around the PSG penalty-box, before rebounding off Marco Verratti and flying into his own net.
After being the much better side in the first match and only drawing, PSG must have thought it wasn’t going to be their night again.
But they equalised in the 77th minute when a Lucas’ header from a corner took a deflection off the head of Alex Iwobi, and went past David Ospina into the net.
Cavani then missed two great chances to seal a win for PSG and make the Matchday 6 fixtures irrelevant. The first when he broke clear but chipped weakly into the hands of David Ospina saved, and then he sent a point-blank header wide of the goal from a Lucas’ cross.
He really is a frustrating striker. He gets into great positions but misses more than he scores. Amazingly though only Lionel Messi (18) has scored more goals than Cavani (16) in all competitions among players in the big five European leagues this season.
So despite another below-par performance Arsenal remain unbeaten since the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Qualification for the last 16 of the competition had already been achieved before tonight. If it is to be another second place group finish Arsenal will be hoping for a favourable last 16 draw and surely the run of going at this stage of the competition has to come to an end sometime – hopefully it will be this season!!
Arsenal: Ospina 7, Jenkinson 5 (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Gibbs 6, Mustafi 6, Koscielny 6, Coquelin 6 (Walcott), Ramsey 5, Iwobi 6 (Xhaka), Ozil 5, Sanchez 6, Giroud 6