In the 20+ years I have been doing Arseblog, Arsenal have been involved in some low quality games of football. Last night’s 1-0 win over Bodo/Glimt is right up there with the worst of them.
A 1-0 win away in Europe is always a decent result, but make no bones about it, there wasn’t much to enjoy from our performance and, if we’re being objective about this, the home side deserved something from it based on the opportunities they had.
The highlight of the first half was Bukayo Saka sparking into life, briefly, playing a give and go with Albert Sambi Lokonga, and scoring what you might call an unconventional goal. His attempt was blocked by a defender, the ball bounced up, deflected back off him and into the back of the net with the keeper stranded. We had one or two moments after that. Saka shot wide with his left foot, and there was a chance for Eddie Nketiah to trouble the keeper but he made poor contact on the turn,
The best chances came at the other end. Pellegrino went clean through on goal but his finish lacked sparkle and he curled it wide with just Matt Turner to beat. In the second half, we continued a theme by taking some of the most terrible shots the game of football has ever seen, while Bodo/Glimt failed to make the most of their opportunities.
Turner made a decent save from some lad; Solbakken was allowed time and space to fire over from just outside the box; and around the hour mark they really should have been level but Espejord contrived to put the ball over the bar from about 8 yards out. Defensively we were a bit all over the place, and it says something that our stand-out player on the night was our goalkeeper. I think there are always going to be questions about his distribution, but he read the game well, and was smart and alert to clear potential danger on more than one occasion.
Having started a pretty strong team, Mikel Arteta made changes throughout the second half, and the looming threat of an injury on an artificial pitch seemed like a consideration. These surfaces are far, far better than they used to be, but you could see the Arsenal players misjudged the roll of the ball when making passes more than once, and I don’t know if this is even possible, but it felt like there was an instruction not to do anything that might cause a tweak or a strain. You hear it said a team didn’t get out of first gear, at times it looked like we were in neutral.
Nevertheless, it’s a win, and an important one for the sake of the group. It means we’ll finish top if we beat PSV in the next game, and after that there are two more group stage games when Mikel Arteta can properly rest his ‘first’ team players and maybe give a chance or two to some Academy kids.
Update: Me fail maths? That’s unpossible. PSV could still win the group even if we beat them …
Afterwards, the manager said:
“Really happy to win here against a team that has won the last 14 games in European competitions in a row, so they deserve a lot credit to do that.
“We have talked about this in the last few days that was the challenge, in different conditions, in different contexts, making a lot of changes, find a way to win, and we’ve done it.
“Quality-wise, in terms of dominance and how we want to play, obviously there are a lot of things to get better than what we done today, but it’s another win, move on, now it’s Leeds.”
And I don’t really know what else I can add to that. It’s a win. The win is good. The performance was sub-par. We appear to have come away from it without any injuries. That’s good … and now we turn our attention to Leeds. This is the reality of the Europa League group stage. The games, with all due respect to the competition and the opposition, are essentially disposable. They very rarely get stored away in the memory banks, forgotten almost as quickly as they happen. Get the points, and move on. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
We will have a podcast for you a bit later this morning, so keep eyes peeled for that. For now, take it easy.