Game in a sentence

The spectators at Veltins Arena see two games in one match, with the home side overcoming a two goal deficit to add to Arsenal’s woes.

Observations

  • Andre Santos found the bench, after slipping and falling, as Arsene Wenger moved captain Thomas Vermaelen to left back and inserted Laurent Koscielny beside Per Mertesacker. It was a move greeted with a sigh of relief from Gooners thoroughly dissatisfied with the Brazilian’s antics. In their last meeting Die Königsblauen destroyed Arsenal on the flanks. Even with the scourge of Santos removed the Gunners would be in tough. Schalke had only lost one match at home this year — against Bayern Munich.
  • Vermaelen’s chief task on this day, dealing with Jefferson Farfan, would determine Arsenal’s fate. The first half saw the visitors on the attack for most of the 45 minutes, a welcome change from Saturday’s weak performance.
  • In the 18th minute Theo Walcott opened the scoring on a broken play. Olivier Giroud fought his way into the box only to be taken down by Roman Neustädter. Walcott took over and did extremely well to control the ball and find the back of the net. In a 180 from their last meeting, Arsenal dominated the wing play early.
  • Lukas Podolski was the best player on the pitch in the first half. In the 26th minute, the German’s cross found Giroud unmarked in the box. 2-0 Arsenal. The Frenchman tormented Joel Matip and Benedikt Höwedes.
  • They were home free. Heading into the half with a two goal lead in a tough place to play would’ve been incredibly uplifting for Wenger’s club. Nothing ever works out for this club, at least currently. Santi Cazorla’s slip  – he wasn’t alone, players were falling all over the place — led to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s goal just before half. With momentum gone the Gunners were in trouble.
  • We saw this against Manchester United — Arsenal reverted to a 4-1-4-1 formation with Mikel Arteta acting as the back four’s babysitter. Schalke had an excellent chance five minutes into the final period. A Mertesacker slip allowed Huntelaar in alone with Vito Mannone. The Arsenal keeper did extremely well to keep his side ahead. Though the score remained 2-1,  it was clear an equalizer was coming.
  • Schalke was the better team in the second half, Ibrahim Afellay and Farfan turned a negative into a positive, reasserting themselves on the flanks and the Peruvian leveled the game in the 67th minute. Farfan was alone in the box, Vermaelen trapped between his former and current roles. Though the goal was not aesthetically appealing, Schalke deserved it. 20 minutes of concentrated pressure in the attacking zone was bound to produce.
  • The last twenty minutes were relatively uneventful. Lewis Holtby — who was fantastic throughout — and Jermaine Jones quelled any Arsenal attempts to move forward. It seemed as though both teams were comfortable with a draw, even though the result at Karaiskakis Stadium indicated otherwise.
  • In the most uninspiring substitution in footballing history, Wenger introduced Santos and Francis Coquelin for Cazorla and Podolski. Arsenal’s lack of depth was readily apparent once again.
  • Walcott’s last minute chance was the last gasp in a game that died with 20 minutes to go.
  • A quick look at the stat line tells the story. Schalke dominated in tackles, shots on goal and corners. Arsenal’s willingness to sit back and let their opponents dictate play is a trend that has been on display for the last month.
  • Group B remains muddled. Schalke is still on top with Arsenal trailing by a point and Olympiacos a point behind them. Plenty to play for with two matches remaining.

Three Stars

1. Lewis Holtby

2. Vito Mannone

3. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar