BATE Borisov 1 Arsenal 0
Malmo 1 Chelsea 2
Last night’s Europa League highlighted the difference between the Arsenal and Chelsea managers.
Maurizio Sarri is a fanatic who plays one way.
His Plan A is Sarriball and he has no Plan B .
Unai Emery is a pragmatist who plans a different scrap in every game and often changes his formation during the match.
So Emery has a Plan B and a Plan C and D and E.
Last night Arsenal lost 1-0 to BATE and that was BATE’s first win against an English club in European competition.
Before the match we were told that BATE had not played a proper match since mid-December.
Chelsea won 2-1 in Malmo, southern Sweden.
Barkley and Giroud scored before Malmo got one back.
Before last night I thought one of these London clubs might win the Europa League and that Arsenal and Chelsea were likely play each other.
But when Montreal fouled his winger wide on the left flank, BATE were given a free kick, Arsenal’s seven defenders stood like wooden soldiers and allowed Stanislav Dragun to head in from eight yards.
The goal came in the 45th minute.
Last night Lacazette had an eventful match.
He headed a good chance over the bar in the first half. And had one nice finish correctly ruled out for offside.
In 85, when defender Filipovic grabbed Laca round the waist with both arms near the halfway line, as he was trying to reach a ball a yard away, and the Frenchman lifted his right elbow and whacked the Serb In the face. He was sent off.
Arsenal’s early kick-off was in Belarus, where Alexander Hleb, now 37, is enjoying his fifth spell with the club. He’d postponed his retirement to play against his old team.
Hleb played 89 league games for Arsenal between 2005 and 2008.
Wenger saw something happening between Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb in training, something clicking, a new style rapidly evolving. He decided to go with that.
If I look at the last 35 years of Arsenal, I’d say Graham’s team was at it’s best when they had a lot of automatic in defence and Wenger’s team was great when it had a lot of automatic in attack.
And, of course, it helped that Wenger inherited the best back five in Europe from Graham.
The only area where Emery’s Arsenal show enough fluency is when they break down the left flank.
That’s not enough automatic for me.
Plenty has been written this week about England hero Gordon Banks, our goalkeeper in the 1966 World Cup.
After Gordon lost an eye in a car crash at the age of 34, he continued to play in the NASL and had a medical to check his vision. When the doctor showed him an eye chart with a line of random letters and asked if he could read it, Banks said, “Read it? I know him. He played for Czechoslovakia.”