Arsenal lost their long unbeaten Champions League home record against Schalke at the Emirates tonight.
Arsene Wenger reverted to a formation which had served well earlier in the season, bringing in Francis Coquelin for Olivier Giroud, deploying Gervinho down the middle and Aaron Ramsey on the right hand side of the attacking trio.
The Ivorian really didn’t do much in the first half to suggest he was the man to play down the middle. His passing was off, when Arsenal came forward it broke down with him often and when he was put clear in the 24th minute by Cazorla, he cut back inside rather than shoot with his left foot, allowing Schalke to clear.
Previously, the Germans had a penalty claim, which wasn’t a penalty but you’ve often seen them given. Arteta lost the ball in midfield, Schalke came forward but we got a touch on the edge of the box. Jenkinson shepherded the ball back to Mannone who just needed to pick it up but delayed, allowed Affelay to run on to it and as he dived the Dutchman did likewise, earning himself a yellow card in the process.
However, the indecisive goalkeeping could have proved costly because at first glance it looked a spot kick.
The away side grew in confidence, finding much space down our left which, according to football’s most stupid pundit, Tony Gale, was all the fault of Andre Santos, ignoring the fact the Brazilian was left with two men to deal with (sometimes three) time and again. He didn’t play very well but he needed help.
Mertesacker made a series of blocks, one crucial one when Farfan stepped inside Vermaelen and shot from inside the box, and they should have scored late in the half when another move down the left created a good opening for Huntelaar, but he contrived to put his shot wide from 7 yards.
Early in the second half Arsenal almost found a way through when a move down the left fell to Coquelin in the box, but his pull back was cut out. Sadly it wasn’t a sign of things to come as Schalke found it easy going on.
A poor challenge from Santos allowed Farfan the chance to pull back for some bloke to smash over from 12 yards when he should have scored.
Gervinho’s best moment of the night came in the 69th minute when he worked space down the left and got a good cross in, but with only one Arsenal man in the box it was easily defended.
His worst moment – and there were some, let me tell you – came a few moments later when he got past Jones in the box, overran it and took a dive for which he was rightly booked.
We never looked like scoring and their goal, when it came had a whiff on inevitability about it. Head tennis outside the area saw it nodded towards our goal, Santos played Huntelaar onside as he came back towards the ball but Vermaelen wasn’t even looking at what should have been his man. The Dutchman turned and fired past Mannone to make it 1-0.
The Germans killed the game in the 86th minute. Substitute Serge Gnabry gave the ball away in midfield, again Vermaelen was found wanting by not covering the man on the ball, allowing him to play it outside Santos and the cross found Affelay at the back post to make it 2-0.
Update: having seen a replay Vermaelen was in a difficult position with Mertesacker pushed upfield a simple ball would have seen the striker through. It was a goal that came because we were looking for an equaliser but poor defending all around.
That Arsenal’s only shot on target came in the 93rd minute, from Gnabry (the 17 year old) tells you all you need to know about Arsenal’s attacking performance, and defensively we were shambolic.
Just like Norwich we deserved everything we got from that game. Which was nothing.