Defeated: it’s been a while since that’s happened.
But it was going to happen sooner or later, and it’s better for it to happen in a game where the consequences of defeat are not that huge. Wenger must have thought so too, hence the experimental line-up. “It is a gamble but at some stage I have to take one” he said on the eve of the match.
Which is a fair point. Gallas, Adebayor, Sagna and Co will need a breather at certain stages of the season, and that is especially true just after an international break and just prior to a December in which we will have to play nine games (as opposed to five in November), of which six are away.
I didn’t see the whole game, so it’s hard for me to dissect. But various match reports suggest that, while Bendtner held the line well and Eboue was a real threat, Swiss Phil was shaky at the back. (I’m being diplomatic – The Independent calls his error for the Seville equaliser a “howler”).
It’s a big time for the big Swiss. He’s got the chance to step in for the whole of January in the absence of Toure, but he really needs to find some assurance, and fast. I know he’s been in and out of the side this season, and injured, but he just doesn’t fill me with confidence at all.
Of course, Seville deserve credit too. They looked really dangerous on the break and stretched our makeshift defence. They deserved the win.
“I am upset as we lost the game, and the changes were a gamble, but I do not regret that,” said the boss afterwards. “I wanted some players to be exposed to the top level. They deserved to win. I am not worried that the defeat will have a knock-on effect. It was not our usual team.”
The knock-on of this of course is that it looks very likely that we will finish second in this group, thereby facing a so-called big gun.
I don’t think it matters much. It’s not as if romping our group last season helped us much when we drew PSV Eindhoven. And the year before, we drew Real Madrid in the first knockout stage, and look what happened then.
The fact is, if you want to win the European Cup, you need to dispatch the big teams at some point.