Coming off the back of two positive away results at the end of October, it was hoped Arsenal would progress further in what looked like a run of relatively favourable fixtures at the start of November. After beating Burnley the Gunners bottled a 3-0 goal lead against Anderlecht, before loosing 2-1 against both Swansea and Manchester United. For some sections of the Arsenal fan base the United result was the last straw and many called for Wenger’s head. Some parity was restored in wins against Dortmund and West Brom, but questions marks still remain about the manager’s performance. One bright spark though, were the performances of Alexis Sanchez, who performed exceptionally in what was a difficult run for the side.
Arsenal 3-0 Burnley – 1st November
Arsenal scorers (Alexis 2, Chambers)
Arsenal eased past Burnley to record their third successive victory in all competitions. Against the Premiership’s bottom club Alexis Sanchez was a constant menace all afternoon, scoring twice, whilst Calum Chambers also netted his first professional goal.
Arsenal dominated the first-half, creating chance after chance, but somehow both sides went in level at the break. It was a valiant defensive effort from Burnley, however the deadlock was finally broken 25 minutes into the second half. Sanchez, who had already squandered numerous chances, showed great determination and bravery to bullet a header past Tom Heaton. This goal lifted the tension in the stands and the players responded on the pitch, showing much more freedom in their play. Three minutes later, after the ball wasn’t cleared from a corner, Chambers poked home to score his first senior goal. On 83 minutes Theo Walcott made his return after his long injury lay-off and was greeted by huge cheers from the Arsenal faithful. Into added time, and the icing was put on the cake as Sanchez tricked his way into the 6-yard box before slotting home the simplest of finishes.
A great win for Arsenal, added to by Theo Walcott’s long-awaited return.
Man of the Match: Calum Chambers- A solid defensive display added to by his threat in the final third, assisting Sanchez before scoring his first goal for the club.
Arsenal 3-3 Anderlecht – 4th November
Arsenal scorers- (Arteta pen, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain) Anderlecht scorers- (Vanden Borre 2, Mitrovic)
A win would have effectively sealed qualification to the next round, whilst also giving the Gunners a fantastic opportunity of topping the group. With 58 minutes gone it appeared as though the job was done, with Chamberlain netting an impressive third. But in 29 second half minutes the unthinkable happened as Arsenal’s lead incredibly evaporated, culminating in a 90th minute equaliser.
Arsenal started brightly and took control of the match with two quick goals, firstly through Arteta, the 500th competitive goal scored by Arsenal at the Emirates, before Sanchez netted a fantastic volley after his initial free-kick was blocked. Chamberlain scored Arsenal’s third in the 58th minute and it looked as though that would be that.
From nowhere though, the Belgians suddenly mounted an incredible come-back. Vanden Borre side footed home after suspicions of offside, before slotting home a penalty to make it 3-2. Despite this scare it looked as though the Gunners would just about hold on, but Mitrovic popped up with a wonderful header to break Arsenal hearts. This was a shell-shocking result for the North Londoners, and huge questions were raised surrounding the manager and his players.
Man of the Match: Alexis Sanchez- Another stellar showing, another great goal. Worked his socks off but his team mates unfortunately let him down.
Swansea 2-1 Arsenal– 9th November
Swansea scorers (Sigurdsson, Gomis) Arsenal scorer (Sanchez)
The Anderlecht game was extremely demoralising and a much improved display was expected against the Swans.
Arsenal’s games against the Welsh giants often don’t get going until the second half and this followed the usual pattern. After a slow start, Swansea started to find comfort down the Arsenal right, with Jefferson Montero tormenting Chambers time and time again. The Gunners struggled to show any attacking fluency but defended in a robust, disciplined manner and went in 0-0 at half-time.
Arsenal’s attacking play was far better in the second half and chances were starting to be created, with the ever impressive Chamberlain and Sanchez behind most of Arsenal’s good work. The deadlock was broken in the 63rd minute, when Sanchez slammed home after a fine counter-attack.
Arsenal continued to bomb forward and the warning signs were all too evident. Nothing was done to protect Chambers on the right-hand side and Arsenal continued to break with far too many numbers, interested in scoring goals rather than try to protect their precious advantage. The equaliser came with 15 minutes to go, as Sigurdsson scored a wonderful free-kick which was given away in desperation, due to the Gunners lack of players at the back. Three minutes later, and the nail in the coffin. Batefembi Gomis rose highest to head home the winner, further raising questions about Arsenal’s gung-ho approach in matches, especially when in the lead.
Man of the Match: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain- key to Arsenal’s goal, and provided a constant outlet throughout the 90 minutes.
Arsenal 1–2 Man.United- 22nd November
Arsenal scorer (Giroud) Man.United scorers (Gibbs OG, Rooney)
In what was one of Arsenal’s better performances of the season the Gunners somehow lost to Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United.
On another day Arsene Wenger’s men could have gone in at half-time three or four goals to the good. Jack Wilshere, who had a positive game before going off injured, missed Arsenal’s best chance, failing to convert from 6 yards against the fantastic David De Gea.
Arsenal continued to show flair and good attacking fluency in the second half, but were undone when Valencia hit a cross-cum-shot into the box, eventually diverted in by the unlucky Kieran Gibbs. The Gunners continued to attack in large numbers but were caught out in the 82nd minute, Wayne Rooney chipping substitute Martinez to send the travelling United fans into rapturous celebration. A huge chunk of added time was given at the end of 90 minutes and this allowed Arsenal to set up a grand-stand finish, Giroud wonderfully firing a volley past De Gea.
In the end though it wasn’t to be for Arsenal, and the missed chances in the first half definitely came back to haunt the North Londoners.
Man of the Match: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain- Passing was accurate and never stopped running at the opposition. Best player on the pitch yet again.
Arsenal 2-0 Borussia Dortmund– 26th November
Arsenal scorers (Sanogo, Alexis)
Arsenal sealed qualification to the round of 16 with a comfortable victory over Dortmund.
The match got off to a flyer and with only two minutes on the clock Sanogo finally opened his Arsenal account. This goal visibly settled any pre-match tensions on the pitch and in the stands.
Throughout, Arsenal defended extremely well and were very disciplined. It was clear they had worked on a pressing game in training and any time Dortmund did break past the midfield, the defence stood firm to block out any danger. Into the second half and victory was sealed as the excellent Sanchez produced another beauty, curling the ball past the helpless Weidenfeller.
Instead of looking for more goals, Wenger’s men sat in and protected their lead. This was pleasing to see, with victory clearly providing the players with a big confidence boost.
Man of the Match: Mikel Arteta- I’m often critical of the Spaniard but he screened in front of the defence ever so well. A shame to see him go off injured.
West Brom 0-1 Arsenal- 29th November
Arsenal scorer (Welbeck)
Arsenal won their first league game in three to get back on track in the chase for the Champions League. Danny Welbeck netted his sixth goal for the Gunners in what was an impressive victory at the Hawthorns.
Arsenal dominated the early proceedings, and should’ve gone ahead after numerous chances were wasted, in particular from Sanchez and Cazorla. Aaron Ramsey also missed a good chance and for the fourth game running the Gunners went in 0-0 at half-time.
Arsenal’s pressure finally told in the second half, Cazorla worked his magic down the left hand side before providing a precise cross for Welbeck, who stooped to send the Gunners one up. The game should’ve been killed off as Arsenal failed numerous times to get a second.
West Brom started to up the ante in the final ten, going close a couple of times. Thankfully Arsenal held on though, in the process moving up to 6th in the table.
Man of the Match: Santi Cazorla- made the goal with an inch perfect cross. Slowly looks as though he’s coming back into form.