Arsenal 3 Dinamo Zagreb 0
( Özil 29, Alexis 33, 69 )

Arsenal finally produced the type of football everyone knows they are capable of in the Champions League, and finally earned the type of result their football deserves in their Group F campaign. Alexis Sanchez capped a superb game, striking a memorable double, following an excellent low header from Mesut Ozil for the opener for which Alexis provided the assist. With Barcelona seeing off Olympiakos 4-0 in the group’s other game, for Arsenal to progress to the last 16, the maths is quite simple. The Gunners have to win by a two goal margin when they face Olympiakos in their final group game, or by any winning scoreline in which they score three or more goals. On the strengths of this performance, Arsene Wenger’s side will be favourites to progress, but given the significance of what is at stake, they will not be taking anything for granted.

With Francis Coquelin sidelined for up to 12 weeks with a medial ligament damage to his right knee – Wenger confirmed he does not require surgery, Mathieu Flamini was drafted in to fill the void left by the France defensive midfielder. Aaron Ramsey was onthe subs bench, and back almost a month to the day he was injured in the Emirates stadium’ clash against Bayern Munich.

There was a nervy opening from the home side, with Zagreb enjoying an early passage of play and a quick succession of corners. Arsenal held firm however and soon began to pass and move in their customary way. Özil and Alexis began to flex their strides and muscle, with Joel Campbell worrying the visitors with his pacy wing play.

The Costa Rica striker fed Santi Cazorla, but his shot was scooped over the bar after 7 minutes. Moments earlier and a delicious ball from Özil to Alexis on the right deserved better than an ultimate loss of Arsenal possession.

Campbell was involved again, and this time he found Giroud who despite being clattered into by his marker, wasn’t given a free kick. More attacking from the right and a sweet move which saw Campbell find Özil, he returned the ball to Campbell to play in Alexis. The striker seemed to want a touch too much however and got crowded out at the vital moment.

Given his successful summer exertions with Chile, Wenger has regularly talked of wanting to rest Alexis. However one moment when he won, then lost and then harried back to regain possession sums up the desire and a reason for why he hasn’t been ‘allowed ‘ to rest his striker.

Zagreb were strong and athletic, but it was Arsenal who were in control, and that would soon translate into the games opener with a swift flowing move.

Flamini broke out from deep to find Alexis. He pierced Zagreb’s defence from the left and sent in a perfect cross for Özil to swoop his header to beat Eduardo as the Gunners took a deserved lead after 29 minutes.

A mere four minutes later and Arsenal doubled their lead. Leonardo Sigali attempted to play out from his half, but the alert Monreal pounced to retake possession, and then surged forward to find Alexis to strike with an easy tap in for a 2-0 scoreline.
Just before the break, Özil had the strength to hold off a challenge, while being held, to gets a shot away but Eduardo managed to palm the ball away for a corner. It was brilliant stuff!

Another move of finesse involving Cazorla, Özil Sanchez and Monreal deserved a goal but Eduardo again denied Özil.

Arsenal continued their offensive forays early into the second half. Cazorla forced Eduardo to parry the ball for another corner, from which Giroud almost bundled in a third but Eduardo and his defence contrived to keep it the ball out.

Campbell switched over to the left and got a volley away when the move looked to have broken down.

Campbell was enjoying perhaps his best game for the Gunners. A fast break from a free kick, saw the Arsenal 28 race away but chance was mopped up by the Zagreb defence.

Giroud made way for Ramsey after 64 minutes and his addition was welcome relief to the Gunners’ faithful and perhaps the first of the many injured players to return.

Arsenal were comfortable, with their defence of Hector Bellerin, Lauernt Koscielny, Per Mertersacker and Monreal all moving in defensive unison and crucially remaining focussed.

The Gunners grabbed a third goal after 75 minutes. Campbell found Alexis, who remained calm to hold off his marker before rounding Eduardo to hit into high into the Zagreb net.

Alexis had a deserved double and one piece of skill was unbelievable to watch. Bellerin’s long ball, was controlled with his shoulder blades and Alexis had the presence of mind to continue from his own ‘pass,’ to the roar of the Emirates stadium faithful. Perhaps Alexis deserved a penalty as he chased onto Ramsey’s long ball out, but a home hat-trick for the Arsenal 17 wasn’t to be.

A final piece of skill as Alexis beat his marker to lob up to Özil. The German’s glancing header proved to be too good for Eduardo, but sadly for the home team it was just the wrong side of his uptight.

Wenger knows that Champions League last 16 progression now comes down to a one game shoot out against Olympiacos in Athens. Arsenal will be ready and may have more of their players available for that vital fixture in a fortnight.