Sometimes, it feels like Arsenal doesn’t even really want to break out of its long run of European futility. For most of its first Champions League match of the season at Paris Saint-Germain, the Gunners looked like they were going to lose fecklessly before scratching out a flattered 1-1 tie.
In spite of consistently being one of the richest, deepest and most talented teams in Europe – no matter how stubbornly the club, its manager or its fans try to convince themselves otherwise – Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal has crashed out of the Champions League in the Round of 16 in six consecutive seasons. Before opening a 19th straight campaign in the continent’s top competition, Wenger boasted of having more experience in his squad this time around.
But when he released his lineup ahead of the visit to Paris Saint-Germain, he once again filled his beleaguered fan base into angst-induced fits.
For some reason, the professorial Wenger had seen fit to keep first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech, new midfield enforcer Granit Xhaka and still-better-than-any-alternative target man Olivier Giroud out of the team. For his hardest game of the group stage, he filled out a diluted lineup, in other words.
It didn’t take long for wingers Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to be exposed as entirely wrong for a game such as this one, against a physical and aggressive Parisian side. And it took just 42 seconds for PSG to give Arsenal a rude European awakening.
Arsenal hadn’t yet touched the ball when Serge Aurier ripped up the right and dropped a perfect cross onto the enormous forehead of the streaking Edinson Cavani to make it 1-0.