Arsenal 0 – 2 Schalke – Strong away win for the Royal Blues

Huub Stevens’ team continues to impress away from home in the Champions League.

Arsenal have been one of the strongest home sides in the Champions League over the last few years. The Gunners last defeat to a non Premier League side in the competition dates nine years back in time. Schalke on the other hand had lost four of their last five outings against English opposition away from home. The Royal Blues last away win on English soil dates back to 1958, when ”Die Knappen” managed to win against Wolverhampton.

Tactics and line up

Huub Stevens chose to start the same 11 players from Saturday’s outing against Dortmund. Schalke left most of the possession to Arsenal, concentrating on quick counter attacks. The Royal Blues varied their formation somewhat, at times pressing in a 4-4-2 formation, other times pressing in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Lewis Holtby had a free role in midfield, often times joining Huntelaar in attack when Schalke was out of possession, as well as drifting towards the left at times to help out Afellay and Fuchs whilst defending against Arsenal’s attacks.

Match & analysis: Arsenal allow Schalke to play to their strenghts

Arsene Wenger predicted before the match that Schalke would defend low, waiting for counter attacks whilst leaving most of the ball to his side. The French coaching legend was proven right at the beginning of the match. Schalke left 74% of the possession to Arsenal in the first 10 minutes of the match. The Gunners managed to create one chance during that time: Arteta sent Podolski on his way down the left flank. The German international managed to find Gervinho in the area, but the Ivorian striker had been followed closely by Höwedes and missed the goal.

Four minutes later Ibrahim Afellay went down in Arsenal’s box after an encounter with Arsenal’s keeper Mannone, after Frafan had managed to play him through on goal. Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson blew his whistle straight away, awarding the Dutchman a yellow card for diving.

The Royal Blues chose to press higher up the pitch after 15 minutes. The Gunners managed almost to exploit the room behind the Schalke back four. Gervinho was almost alone through on goal, but was stopped by a tackle of Höwedes after 23 minutes. Only 8 minutes later Uchida managed to lose his marker on a run down the right flank, passing the ball to Farfan who managed to take the ball towards the goal. The Peruvian’s shot from 14 meters was blocked by a last stitch effort by Per Mertesacker.

The biggest chance of the first half came after 43 minutes. Farfan had managed to send Uchida on his way towards the penalty area. The Japanesse went to the goal and found Huntelaar with a lovely cut back. The top scorer of last season’s Bundesliga campaign took the ball in his stride, but his shot from 9 meters missed the target by a couple of meters.

The second half picked up where the first had ended. Jefferson Farfan managed to win the ball high up the pitch after Arsenal had tried to clear a corner in the 50th minute. Schalke’s right winger stormed into the penalty area, and found Höwedes with a perfect lay off. The central defender skied the ball over the goal from 7 meters, however.

Schalke were at times pressing Arsenal high up the pitch. This pressure was rewarded when Ibrahim Afellay managed to head an Arsenal clearance to Huntelaar, who was alone through on goal. The striker’s shot from 15 meters was hard and caught Mannone by surprise. The Italian goalkeeper let the ball slip through, giving Schalke a well deserved 1-0.

10 minutes later Jefferson Farfan managed to find Ibrahim Afellay with an exquisit pass from the right wing that went all the way to the far post. All the Dutch winger had to do was to put his foot in the path of the ball, and in the process he scored Schalke’s second goal of the evening.

Man of the match: Jefferson Farfan

Choosing a man of the match was by no means an easy task, since several Schalke players had a good day at the office. Players like Höwedes and Neustädter were yet again in excellent form. The best performance of the match came from Jefferson Farfan, however.

The Peruvian has proven to be a difficult character off the pitch at times, but performances like this one show why most Schalke fans are fond of him. Brazilian right back Santos was Farfan’s whipping boy for most of the 90 minutes at the Emirates, never being able to handle the Peruvian’s large repertoire. Farfan’s pass to find Afellay for the 2-0 goal was exquisite as well. Farfan has often times been criticised for neglecting his defensive duties, but in the match against Arsenal even Farfan contributed his part. A great performance by Farfan from start to finish.

Conclusion: Future looks bright for Schalke

Huub Stevens can kick back with a nice glass of wine(as he often times does after important wins), being happy about his team’s performance. Schalke were throughout the 90 minutes well-organized in defense, only allowing one shot on target throughout the entire game. As the game wore on, Schalke managed to create several good chances as well.

Two wins in two vital away matches in the Champions League and a win against reigning Bundesliga champion’s Borussia Dortmund have been the cherry on top of the good start to the season for the Royal Blues. Huub Stevens team have been excellent so far this season in all three competitions. It stands to be seen whether or not Horst Heldt’s summer buys are going to provide the necessary depth as the season wears on.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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