Arsenal spent almost all of their Champions League group stage opener against Paris Saint-Germain on the back foot, though the game finished 1-1 after Alexis Sánchez cancelled out Edinson Cavani's opener in the dying minutes. Having created a string of clear-cut chances throughout the match, PSG will be extremely frustrated to only come away with a point.
The game's first goal came remarkably quickly, with the hosts taking just 42 seconds to put the ball into the back of the net. Serge Aurier's cross from the right was glanced inside the far post by an excellent Cavani header, though the Gunners' defense looked more than a little positionally suspect.
PSG continued to dominate throughout the game's opening quarter, with David Ospina called into action again to tip an Ángel Di María corner over the crossbar. Gradually Arsenal did begin to have a greater share of possession, but rarely did they manage to cause a serious scare for the hosts' impressively organised defense.
By halftime, Arsenal were very fortunate to have not been two down. Twice before the interval Cavani had two gilt-edged chances to seal a brace: he shanked wide after rounding Ospina in the first instance, and failed to bring a glorious Marco Verratti pass under control when clean through in the second. It was almost all one-way traffic.
The second half offered initial promise for Arsenal, but before long they were again under persistent PSG pressure. Their defense buckled with just over 20 minutes remaining, though Ospina was on hand to deny Cavani in a one-on-one. Within moments Di María pulled the trigger from point-blank range, only to also be thwarted by the Colombian shot-stopper.
Chances came and went for PSG, and with just over 10 minutes remaining, they were made to pay the heaviest price. A loose ball popped out to Alexis Sánchez on the edge of the penalty area, with the Chilean promptly drilling the ball into the bottom corner of Alphonse Areola's goal.
There was still time for late drama: Ospina was again called into action to prevent Cavani pulling the trigger, before Alex Iwobi drew a sprawling save from Areola at the other end. Then, in stoppage time, a bizarre incident saw the referee show harsh red cards to both Verratti and Olivier Giroud after what seemed a fairly innocuous exchange. That proved the last real action, with the game ending all square.
Paris Saint-Germain: Alphonse Areola; Maxwell, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Serge Aurier (Thomas Meunier 86'); Adrien Rabiot (Thiago Motta 74'), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Javier Pastore 80'), Marco Verratti; Blaise Matuidi, Edinson Cavani, Ángel Di María.
Goals: Cavani (1').
Red cards: Verratti (90+3')
Arsenal: David Ospina; Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Héctor Bellerín; Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin (Granit Xhaka 71'); Alex Iwobi, Mesut Özil (Mohamed Elneny 85'), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Olivier Giroud 63'); Alexis Sánchez.
Goals: Sánchez (78').
Red cards: Giroud (90+3')
1. Serge Aurier continues to impress
There was a time last season when Aurier's PSG career looked like it had reached an end. Having been filmed directing a homophobic slur at then-coach Laurent Blanc, he was excluded from the team. However, he was eventually allowed to return, and, in sporting terms, at least, PSG supporters will be delighted. He was in typically imperious form again tonight, constantly stretching the play with his tireless running and delivering an excellent cross for Cavani's goal.
2. Arsenal failed to get to grips with PSG's midfield
Though PSG lined up in a nominal 4-3-3, it wasn't a typical 4-3-3. The two ‘wingers', Di María and Matuidi, have been more used to playing through the middle in recent seasons, and so spent much of the game wandering infield from out wide. Their movement, combined with the industrious running of Rabiot, and the excellent passing of Verratti, completely overwhelmed Arsenal's defense. With midfielders Coquelin and Cazorla swamped, their center backs were far too easily drawn out of position: it certainly didn't make for pretty viewing. Arsenal were lucky PSG didn't make more of their chances.
3. Arsenal's strikerless experiment failed
Arsène Wenger opted to take the bold decision of starting Sánchez as Arsenal's center forward for this match, leaving Giroud on the bench. However, the experiment didn't work; Sánchez often pulled wide with no one filling the vacant space up front, making life incredibly easy for PSG's center backs. Not only did it neutralize Arsenal's attacking threat but it heaped the pressure on their defenders, with no presence up top to hold up possession. It was no surprise when Wenger admitted tactical defeat just past the hour, bringing Giroud on for Oxlade-Chamberlain. That paved the way for Sánchez to move back out wide, from where he netted the late equalizer.