Arsenal’s passage in the Europa league competition wasn’t really in doubt but their position was. Having immediately dismissed the likelihood of a 5-0 loss to the Belgium side, a draw was the most probable outcome but ….this is Arsenal.
If there’s a hard way to do it, Arsenal will take it at the expense of all easier routes and Ljungberg’s decision to shuffle the pack nearly ended in disaster.
Some of the same faces remained, the ones that supporters are less inclined to see such as David Luiz and his emerging replacement in the realms of chaos and indecision, Sokratis.
In came the immensely talented Saka, Nelson, Smith Rowe, Mavropanos and Maitland-Niles and in all honesty it was the youngster who looked like they wanted a positive result, whereas the more experienced personnel looked slightly off the pace at times.
Against West Ham, Arsenal enjoyed nine minutes of sublime quality that ended a winless run. Against a dominant and competitive Standard Liège it was just three.
The Belgium side were in control against Arsenal and scored two goals to the good and were good for at least another goal but Arsenal suddenly woke from their slumber and started performing. What’s new ?
Bukayo Saka, another one of Arsenal’s emerging gems set up Lacazette (78) to halve the deficit and then scored an exquisite equaliser. In the 81st minute Saka played a cute one two with Gabby Martinelli before unleashing s delightful curling effort, which more than made up for the inactivity and lack of potency.
Arsenal have had more than their fair share of luck in this competition and ended up, somehow heading the group.
They went behind twice in farcical style with two deflections, the first when Samuel Bastien was allowed enough room to land a passenger plane in the 47th minute which found the net off an obliging Sokratis.
Selim Amallah seized a duff piece piece of possession by Joe Willock and he made hast with the gift, his effort clipping the unfortunate Mavropanos (69) on its way into the corner of the net.
Although the night ended reasonably well for Arsenal, it’s clear there is no quick fix available. Arsenal have no fluency, no urgency and are at best capable of a spluttering draw against routine opposition.
Nothing will be resolved until the Arsenal defence is reconfigured and some quality is injected. Ljungberg can tinker with the tactics until hell freezes over and like his predecessor, who didn’t have the tools to start with, this season will contain more of these frustrating and indifferent moments.