FC Schalke 04 came out of the gates energized in their second match against Arsenal Tuesday evening in Gelsenkirchen, but it was the Gunners who grabbed the first two goals as Schalke had to fight back for a 2-2 Champions League result. The fixture leaves Schalke on top of the Group B standings with 8 points after four matches, with Arsenal now at 7 points and Olympiacos having now earned six points with their Tuesday win over Montpellier.
Tactics and Formations
Huub Stevens started the same XI that lost to bogeyteam Hoffenheim 3-2 last Saturday, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar playing up front and Lewis Holtby behind him and Jefferson Farfan and Ibrahim Afellay on the wings. Jermaine Jones and former Gladbach man Roman Neustädter as holding midfielders. Stevens’ backline consisted of Christian Fuchs, Joel Matip, captain Benedikt Höwedes and Astuto Uchida from left to right with Lars Unnerstall again in goal for the Royal Blues.
Veteran Arsenal manager Arsene Wegner made up his lineup card without the options of attacking internationals Alex Chamberlain and Gervinho. Wegner made wholesale changes to the starting XI that lost to Schalke at the Emirates on October 24, exchanging Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna on the backline for André Santos and Carl Jenkinson, inserting Jack Wilshire and Theo Walcott in the place of Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin while slotting in Olivier Giroud in place of Gervinho. Wegner’s starting XI was more similar to the lineup he deployed in Saturday’s 2-1 away loss to Manchester United.
First Half — Schalke Dismay
Despite domestic disappointment, a win by Arsenal would have put them in the Group B Champions League lead, but it was Die Knappen of Gelsenkirchen who came out livelier, with Afellay testing Arsenal 24 year-old goalkeeper Vito Mannone in the 9th minute while Höwedes just missed on a header provided by Farfan three minutes later. Unfortunately for the home side, Arsenal earned the game’s first tally when Neustädter made an uncharacteristic blunder, back-heading a ball that fell to Frenchman Giroud. The former Montpellier man attacked forward from what appeared to be an offside position. Höwedes made a brilliant sliding tackle to take the ball away, but it fell to a trailing Walcott, who powered around the fallen Höwedes and Unnerstall to neatly finish and give the Gunners a 1-0 lead.
Giroud did get his goal, though, albeit eight minutes later. The Arsenal newcomer saved a rare Gunner’s attack by getting off a pass to another Arsenal newcomer, German international Lukas Podolski, on the left. Prinz Poldi beat Marco Höger, who had just entered the match as a replacement for injured right back Uchida, and delivered a quality cross to Giroud, who nodded in to double Arsenal’s lead. The half wore on with Arsenal defending well and looking capable of taking a 2-0 lead into intermission despite Schalke holding 57% of possession and doubling Arsenal’s attempt on goal. But the predatory Klaas-Jan Huntelaar gave Schalke renewed life. In stoppage time, a high ball was redirected with a Rockettes-like lifted leg by English-German Lewis Holtby to Huntelaar inside the box, and the Dutch marksman delivered his eighth career Champions League strike, left-footing a low drive past a diving Mannone to make the score 2-1 on the final play of the half.
Second Half- Schalke Redemption
The Hunter’s goal, along with the crowd at the Veltins Arena, lifted Schalke to a higher level of play as the second half began. Although Giroud had a chance two minutes after intermission ended, Huntelaar provided danger from a through ball from Jermaine Jones before Jones himself and Höwedes had shot attempts blocked. At the hour Jones missed on a header while Höger became another Schalke man to have his shot blocked by a Gunner before going off with injury, replaced by Kyriakos Papadopoulos in the 66th minute. With so many chances on goal, including missed header attempts by Neustädter and Holtby, it seemed only a matter of time until Schalke levelled. That moment came in the 67th minute, when the fleet Jefferson Farfan shot from the right, his attempt going off a desperately retreating Thomas Vermaelen and into the Arsenal goal.
Neither team could grab a game-winner, despite Schalke efforts by Jones and Huntelaar along with a ‘hold your breath’ attempt by Walcott at game’s end. Another careless Schalke ball backwards found Walcott, who muscled through but was stoned by an upright Unnerstall and unable to score as Walcott did in the first half as the Englishman’s shot deflected harmlessly off of the goalkeeper’s legs with the match ending in a 2-2 draw.
Huub Stevens’ side ended the match statistical victors, launching 22 shots to only 8 for the Londoners, holding 59% of possession and a 10-3 edge in corner kicks earned. According to UEFA statistics, Die Knappen created 43 good chances to only 23 for the Gunners, but unfortunately their superiority in numbers does not change a share of the points with Wegner’s side. Still, one could imagine most Schalke fans nodding happily if told before the group competition that the Royal Blues would take four of six points from Arsenal, even a diminished Arsenal side from seasons past. Schalke’s next CL runout will occur on November 21, when they host Olimpiacos, before their final group stage match December 4th away to Montpellier. In domestic play, second place Schalke will host Werder Bremen on Saturday.
For Arsenal, the draw keeps them very much alive in the chance to advance from Champions League group play. The Gunners are now seventh in the EPL table, not a neighborhood Arsenal fans are comfortable with but their 4-3-3 domestic record does include a +2 point differential. Still trying to regroup from the transfer loss of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, Arsenal did well to finish its fewer chances Tuesday and overall were solid in defending, two attributes Wegner can build on.
Header courtesy of dpa
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