Arsenal purr but far tougher tasks await

Arsenal 6 Ludogorets 0: Bash out another win like this in Bulgaria in two weeks time and Arsenal will have all but qualified for the knock out stage of the Champions League for the 16th year running.

But they will not be getting carried away on and off the pitch in the red half of north London, for they have all been here before.

Riding high at the top of the Premier League, cruising in Europe, a comfortable home tie to win a League Cup quarter-final place and unbeaten in all competitions since the opening day of the season, but now is the time for manager Arsene Wenger to keep his club grounded.

November is a notoriously tricky month for his teams and next month brings clashes with neighbours Tottenham, Manchester United and a Champions League group decider against Paris St Germain.

None of those fixtures, however, will concern Arsenal if they can maintain this form as Mesut Ozil scored his first hat-trick for the club and Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all struck on a memorable night for the club.

“Our confidence is stronger with every win but we have to keep the vigilance as well, and the urgency to bring that into the next game,” Wenger said.

“You have to keep your feet on the ground.”

It was relentless Arsenal attacking from the opening exchanges that culminated in a chance for the in-form Walcott, who decided to pass rather than shoot with the goal at his mercy.

Maybe he knew there would be more to come against a side set up to try and soak up Arsenal’s attack and try to hit on the counter. But those tactics were proving next to useless against a confident Arsenal side at their free-flowing pass and move best.

And Alexis showed Walcott how a truly ruthless and gifted finisher deals with opportunities in the 12th minute with a sublime opening goal. He controlled an Oxlade-Chamberlain pass into the box and left two defenders floundering on their backsides with a precise drag back before lifting the ball over a stranded Vladislav Stoyanov with a sublime scoop-cum-chip into the opposite top hand corner.

Arsenal’s only danger now, as it had been before kick-off, was complacency and the Bulgarians were allowed more time on the ball as Wanderson had a shot well saved by David Ospina, Wenger’s goalkeeper of choice for this competition.

The 3,000-plus sold out away section of the ground was more than double the 1,268 followers of the Ludogorets official Twitter account. Social media does not win matches, but the fact Arsenal boast 8.27m followers is an indication in the difference in size between the clubs.

And the levels of expectation too, as the home fans began to betray their nerves with increasing cries and whistles of displeasure.

The fickle few were soon drowned out by the cheers for Arsenal’s second goal, however, as Walcott unleashed a 25-yard curler.

Two minutes into the second half and any lingering doubts that the speedy Samba skills of the largely Brazilian strike force of the Bulgarian side could fight back were banished by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s third goal of the season.

Selected ahead of Alex Iwobi, ‘The Ox’ made the most of his chance by finishing off a move largely involving left-back Kieran Gibbs, another player relishing a rare run out in a starting XI.

Whether or not either of them start again for Saturday’s visit of Middlesbrough could partly depend on the fitness of Santi Cazorla, who played his last part in this match seeming to injure himself with the brilliant pass that set up Ozil for Arsenal’s fourth goal in the 56th minute.

The goal summed up just how easily Arsenal were able to create chances all night long, but Ozil’s control and finish was superb.

He repeated the trick eight minutes from time when he converted a cross from substitute Lucas Perez to make it five in the net of the less than convincing Bulgarian keeper. His hat-trick and Arsenal’s sixth came up with the sweetest of left foot volleys.

So far, so good for Arsenal but there will be tougher tests to come.

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1):

Ospina 7; Bellerin 7, Mustafi 6, Koscielny 6, Gibbs 7; Cazorla 6 (Elneny 57, 6), Coquelin 7; Walcott 7 (Perez 62 , 6), Ozil 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7; Sanchez 8 (Iwobi 73, 6).


Stoyanov 3; Natanael 5, Minev 5, Palomino 5, Moti 4; Anicet 5, Dyakov 6; Misidjan 5 (Keseru 68, 6), Marcelinho 5, Wanderson 6 (Lukoki 77, 6); Jonathan Cafu 5.


Artia Dias (Portugal) 6/10

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