It was a tale of how momentum tells a story at the Emirates Stadium with Paris Saint-Germain coming out on fire before giving up the lead to Arsenal with half an hour to play. The French side got momentum back in their favor, though, with Lucas Moura’s crucial header giving PSG a 2-2 draw and putting them firmly in control of their Champions League group.
The match started off with Paris Saint-Germain in absolutely dominant form, abusing Arsenal’s midfield and defense continually and looking as though the Gunners were very lucky not to be conceding a goal a minute. So when Edinson Cavani and Blaise Matuidi combined to absolutely tear apart Arsenal’s defense in the 18th minute, no one was surprised and it looked like that would just be the start of a bad day for the English side.
But Arsenal were able to just barely hang on, and a huge stroke of luck came their way right before halftime when Grzegorz Krychowiak made a huge mistake, sliding through Alexis Sanchez in the penalty area to hand the Gunners a penalty. Olivier Giroud made no mistake in putting the spot kick away, giving Arsenal a goal on their very first shot of the match, and the entire tone of the match changed in that moment.
Arsenal came out swinging in the second half, and while they still struggled in the final third they still made PSG very nervous — and those nerves lead to a disastrous own goal, with Marco Veratti inadvertently turning the ball into his own net to give Arsenal the lead. That kicked off a desperate period in the match, with the game turning into a wide open, back-and-forth affair that could have gone either way.
In the end, the momentum broke in Paris Saint-Germain’s favor, with Lucas Moura getting the equalizer on a corner kick, heading the ball in with a slight deflection off Alex Iwobi and taking the wind out of Arsenal’s sails. PSG were able to largely keep the ball away from Arsenal after leveling the score, and while they missed out on a couple of key chances of their own to get a win, they’ll definitely take a draw that puts them into the driver’s seat for coming out on top of their Champions League group.
Arsenal: David Ospina; Carl Jenkinson (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 81’), Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs; Francis Coquelin (Theo Walcott 80’), Aaron Ramsey; Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özilm Alex Iwobi (Granit Xhaka 78’); Olivier Giroud
Goals: Giroud (pen. 45’), Veratti O.G. (60’)
Paris Saint-Germain: Alphonse Areola; Thomas Meunier, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Maxwell; Marco Veratti, Grzegorz Krychowiak (Hatem Ben Arfa 66’), Thiago Motta; Lucas Moura (Jese 89’), Edinson Cavani, Blaise Matuidi
Goals: Cavani (18’), Moura (77’)
Three things we learned
Arsenal’s midfield was really, really bad in the first half
A lot of focus will go to Arsenal not getting a single shot off in the first half until their late penalty kick, or to their bad defensive gaffe that gifted PSG their first goal, but let’s not overlook the terrible showing by Arsenal’s midfield. In a match when they had to keep possession and discipline against an aggressive and opportunistic PSG midfield, they instead did — well, anything but that.
The pivot duo of Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin was consistently sloppy in possession, giving away the ball repeatedly and struggling to move the ball up even when they did keep possession. And when PSG were on the ball, they did very little to keep the French side in check, with Ramsey often well out of position and Coquelin making rash challenges or just plain getting beaten. It wasn’t the kind of performance Arsenal needed at all, and perhaps they got away with one by getting a draw anyways, because even though the midfield was better in the second half, they still weren’t very good.
PSG got way too complacent and nearly lost because of it
Let’s just put this as bluntly as possible: if Paris Saint-Germain had actually played the match through after scoring their first goal, they would have destroyed Arsenal. They probably could have won 4-0 or 5-0 with how they were playing. Instead, they decided that after half an hour, their 1-0 lead was good enough, and they could take the rest of the game off.
We know by now how well that worked out (hint: not very). And while PSG did try to kick things back up in the second half, they had a hard time getting back into gear after switching off the way they did. They never quite got back to the same rampaging, dominant form they had early in the match, though they were back on top of the run of play after going down 2-1. Still, PSG has to see this match as a wasted opportunity, even if it did work out for them in the end.
Edinson Cavani is so frustrating
When Cavani is on, he’s easily one of the best strikers in the world. But when he’s not, it’s so frustrating to watch him play. Even within the space of one game he’ll swing from making a rampaging run to score easy goals like his strike in the 18th minute, to making a poor run and not getting enough on a chip to clear a goalkeeper, or turning an easy, point-blank header around the outside of the post. If he could could keep himself together for even the span of one game he could be an incredible player, but instead we wind up saying "what if" about him more than we celebrate his achievements.