Here's Alan Alger's superb regular column Three Things We Learned as our must-read Gooner print writer reflects on a job well done, but calls for more protection from officials for our players.
Just what was ordered…
A relatively routine 2-0 win was exactly what we needed after the controversies of our weekend defeat. While the opposition weren’t up to much, we have to praise our own defensive qualities for hardly giving them a sniff.
Whenever there was a small element of danger from the Spanish side it was quickly snuffed out. William Saliba was a stand-out of six defenders from our squad that were involved in the 90 minutes. Saliba’s record when starting matches since the start of last season is incredible and further reason why those who say we bottled it last season are talking nonsense.
The young Frenchman has won 32 of 48 games for the club and has a loss % of under 15% - simply astonishing at this highest of levels. You can therefore see how much we missed him in the run-in of the last campaign.
I also dread to think how much he might be worth, in case the club get any ideas. Following the rebuild, keeping talent will be the next big task for Mikel and the club hierarchy.
Another bit of praise for our players is that we defended in a fair manner and didn’t resort to nasty and cynical fouls.
We need more protection…
Sevilla committed eight of the games 27 fouls within the first half, including two awful challenges on Bukayo Saka. It’s absolutely ridiculous that he has become fair game for what used to be called a ‘reducer’, back when the game was far more agricultural.
It’s not something you expect from continental opposition and certainly not assisted by Champions League officials who should be at the top of their game.
Saka was eventually withdrawn, just as the away team’s foul count went up to 15, including two more brutal challenges near the benches as the game petered out. In a further extension of the baffling officiating we’re seeing at the moment, Declan Rice was the one eventually carded for remonstrating - as he saw his England teammate have to leave the pitch crocked.
More protection is needed for Saka, especially after he was also targeted at the start of the Newcastle game on Saturday. Don’t expect anything different from our next few Premier League opponents either.
Havertz suffering from a lack of the spectacular…
I don’t think Kai Havertz has had many, if any, absolutely awful games since he joined us.
On the flip side we all know he hasn’t had any stellar ones either. He was unlucky not to score on Wednesday night, but made a good contribution. Although to reinforce the confusion of assessing his short time at the club, the performance was just that - good, not great. Havertz looks a little lost at the moment, like he’s dancing to a slightly different beat than the rest of the team.
There was a period early in the second half last night where he barely drifted more than 10 yards away from Bukayo Saka on the wing, and I’m sure it wasn’t a tactic of purposely doubling up advised by Mikel Arteta.
He needs to find his own purpose and have a couple of 8 out of 10 games rather than the steady 6s and 7s he’s been producing. He’s been lumbered with quite a heavy price tag and that comes with immediate demands from Gooners.
Thankfully most of us are absolutely willing him to come good and not ready to discard him just yet.