I bet Arsene Wenger is mightily relieved that he chose to field as strong an Arsenal team as possible in our Champions League away tie with Ludogorets Razgrad last night. With a crucial north London derby clash with Tottenham in the Premier League this weekend and with the home tie against the Bulgarians finishing 6-0, the manager could have been tempted to rest some of the big stars.
He didn’t though, and it was just as well because we needed our best players and especially the brilliance of Mesut Ozil to snatch a vital win, as the Germany international provided the assist for Granit Xhaka to score our first and start the fightback as well as scoring the winner in the dying minutes.
When the ball hit the back of the net after Ozil had chipped the Ludogorets keeper and beaten two defenders, there was double delight and relief for the manager, because he admitted after the match in comments reported by Sky Sports that he thought our skilful midfield star had fluffed his lines and messed up the chance.
Wenger said, “I would say great players make the right decisions in the game situations they face.
“They take the optimum solution. To me, it didn’t look like the optimum solution. You wanted him to take the chance earlier. But he had enough skill to prove he was right.
“When the ball was in the back of the net, it was clear it had been the optimum solution.”
It was not only the brilliance of Ozil that rescued Arsenal after going two goals down though, but strong character and fighting spirit throughout the side, something that has been proven to be much more in evidence with the Gunners this season.
He went on, “I give credit to the team spirit for that.
“You get belief with positive results, and this shows a healthy mentality in the group. The two together come out in these kind of games.
“We were caught cold and were 2-0 down. After that, I felt we kept our composure, didn’t panic and came slowly back. It was good to be 2-2 at half-time.
“We dropped a bit physically in the second half, but continued to dominate even if we were exposed to counter-attacks.”
So yet again Arsenal rescued a game that in other seasons we might well not have, so with Ozil on fire and everyone fighting hard for the cause, will this be Arsenal’s year?