We learned as Arsenal are held
Arsenal spent £35million on Granit Xhaka this summer and yet Arsene Wenger still does not trust him in the biggest games. He was on the bench here, just as he was for last Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford, the big home win over Chelsea and the trip to Paris back in September.
Wenger is only willing to play Xhaka, it feels, in the easier games, where he can trust him. This is a curious situation, to say the least.
Arsenal would not have signed Xhaka without thorough research. But he might need to prove that he can be trusted not to get booked before he can become a regular.
Dropping Xhaka meant that Aaron Ramsey started and he proved again that he does offer something different to the Arsenal midfield.
Even playing after recent injections for a broken toe, Ramsey provided those cutting forward runs which give Arsenal a better option in the box.
None of Arsenal’s other midfielders do that and, with a sequence of games, Ramsey would certainly become the incisive goal-threat he has been here in the past.
Whether he can get that run, in his favoured central midfield position, is another question.
Unai Emery was brought in to toughen PSG up, to drive out the complacency that cost them in the Champions League last year, a year when they should have won the competition.
And while they came into this game trying to be compact and rigorous, they let it slip. Grzegorz Krychowiak made a reckless lunge on Alexis Sanchez for the equaliser.
PSG failed to clear a simple ball in the box for the goal that gave Arsenal the lead. While Arsenal eventually let PSG back into the game, they will not always be that lucky.
Hector Bellerin is one of the best full-backs in Europe, and was courted by Europe’s best teams until he signed his new contract. Carl Jenkinson is a good player but for the last two seasons Arsenal loaned him out to West Ham United.
The difference between the two players was clear here, as Arsenal desperately lacked Bellerin’s pace and delivery out on the right. Alexis Sanchez, moved back to an inside-right role, looked exasperated with Jenkinson at times as he failed to provide the support Arsenal needed.
He may only be a right back, but Bellerin is one of the most important men to Arsenal’s game. They need him back quickly.
The other man that Arsenal miss is Santi Cazorla. Arsenal are meant to be a possession team but they lose all their intelligence and control when he does not play. Here, they struggled to set the tempo or create chances, or to find their front men in good positions.
Ramsey’s runs were good, and Coquelin defended well, but there is no substitute for intelligent passing. This was Arsenal’s third big game in a row, after Tottenham and Manchester United, and they have been outplayed in all three.
Cazorla is unlikely to be back before Christmas, though, meaning Arsenal have plenty more of this to come. –
Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka (left) tackles Paris Saint-Germain’s Hatem Ben Arfa during their Champions League group A match yesterday. –