I hate draws, they’re like kissing your sister.. errr so I’ve heard. But in this case I’ll gladly take the point on offer as truth be told we were a bit lucky to get that. Schalke came out firing and had everal decent half chances early on until almost against the run of play, we scored the opening goal. A poorly judged headed clearance fell kindly for Giroud and after he had in truth made a bit of a mess of this gift, Walcott managed to nip in, bobble the ball past the defence and tap in to an empty net. This goal was not so dissimilar from the one Schalke scored against us from Coquelin’s misjudged clearing header in the first match. That one was personal error but the second one was a decent counter-attack starting at Walcott and switching to the other wing for Podolski to swing in a decent corner which Giroud threw his whole body at to successfully head into the net. I simply love this action by Giroud and it reminds me of just what a star player we have gotten ourselves. Not only does he show intelligent movement on and off the ball, good technical ability, aerial dominance and physical strength, he’s willing to do anything to get on the end of a cross to score for us. It’s reminiscent of the English strikers of old, nose to the grindstone determination, something Arsenal has lacked for a long time.
We once again showed our lack of depth by playing Vermaelen at left back for the injured Gibbs and much like Santos, he didn’t do anything of note. He may be a little more defensively sound than Santos since he’s a natural Center Back but going forwards, he wouldn’t play wide and overlap Podolski and we didn’t carry any real threat on the left wing. With Ramsey missing from the side we also had difficulty in the center of the pitch, allowing Schalke to control the tempo of the match and so our attacking threat came from the right wing of Theo Walcott who looked rejuvenated after sitting on the bench for so much of the start of this season. He managed on several occasions to get in behind his markers and in general provided a constant hazard for Schalke, also having a part in both goals we scored. However after 2 goals we seemed to switch off as a team and Schalke really brought it. The first goal by Huntelaar was a great strike, although if there’s one small gripe I have about Mertesacker’s defending it’s that he doesn’t close down the shot option very quickly and that’s what allowed the goal, even though it all happened pretty fast from a slip by Cazorla.
The 2nd goal was inevitable due to the pressure being applied by Schalke, fingers were pointed at Vermaelen for helping the ball into the net but it was going in anyway and if anything Mannone was beaten a little too easily from a tight angle.We had a great chance right at the death to snatch 3 points but unfortunately Walcott was unable to either shoot properly or pass to the unmarked Giroud who was screaming at him. All in all it could’ve been late and great but I’ll happily take 1 point against a very good Schalke side on German soil. Holtby was again the architect in midfield pulling all the strings for them while our own maestro Cazorla, looked a bit tired at times and would definitely benefit from some rest. Defensively we have some work to do Schalke had 22 attempts on our goal so I’m rather glad their conversion rate was poor or we could’ve been in real strife. Hopefully Koscielny continues to partner Mertesacker at the heart of the defense as he’s in better form than Vermaelen and with Gibbs returning soon we should see both a stronger overall defensive line and a much larger attacking threat down the left wing like at the start of the season. Our no. Keeper Szcznesny is also due to return which is great news since although Mannone has made some good saves in his absence, he is still not very consistent for my eyes and both Szczesny and Fabianski are better options.
Fulham next so look out for my preview on Saturday. With a lot of players injured and Wilshere suspended this might be a tricky fixture but is certainly one we can take 3 points from. Till then Come On You Gunners!