Arsenal: Ospina, Gabriel, Holding, Koscielny, Gibbs; Xhaka, Ramsey; Iwobi, Ozil, Perez; Sanchez.
Subs: Cech, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud
Lucas Perez netted his first hat-trick for Arsenal as Arsene Wenger’s men secured a 4-1 win away at Basel that, coupled with Ludogorets’ 2-2 draw against Paris Saint Germain, proved enough to secure top spot in Champions League Group A.
Kieran Gibbs assisted the Spaniard for all three of his goals and Alex Iwobi rounded off a fine move as the Gunners raced to a four-goal advantage before the hour-mark. Seydou Doumbia grabbed a late consolation for the Swiss who missed out on the opportunity to secure a spot in the Europa League.
Given Basel’s decent home record against English clubs in Europe, Arsenal might have been forgiven for expecting a fast a furious start from the hosts. Instead, the team in white happily sat back and watched Wenger’s men knock the ball around neatly.
In the blink of an eye – assuming it takes you 16 minutes to blink – the Gunners were two goals up. The build-up to the first goal featured a neat Alexis chipped pass to Gibbs whose precise cut-back from the byline was controlled by Lucas Perez who tapped home from a yard out. (1-0)
Amazingly the same duo combined to double the lead. After a delicious through ball by Ozil, Gibbs, who has been a delightful outlet on the left all season, hammered a low shot goalwards and the rebound fell straight to Perez who nabbed himself a second. The Spaniard, making his first ever Champions League start, looked almost apologetic in his celebrations. (2-0)
Two goals up so early, Arsenal understandably took their foot off the gas. At the other end, Basel started to produce chances. Ospina made an eye-catching save from a lad who was offside and another chap fired a decent effort wide on the diagonal. They also had a cross that nearly flew into the top corner; not that our man Dave gave a damn as he watched it sail over the bar with a ‘could not give a flying fuck’ nonchalance only rivalled by George Clooney in a Nespresso advert.
When called upon in earnest, Ospina did deliver some fun keeper showboating, pouncing like a cat on a loose ball that resulted from his own fumbled save. It was as if the Colombian was teasing the Swiss.
Within two minutes of the restart Lucas had his hat-trick…and again it was Kieran Gibbs with the assist. This time the left-back produced a defence splitting pass and the Spaniard tucked home on the run with his right foot. Three goals from three attempts, not half bad. (3-0)
With Basel shell-shocked, Arsenal decided to stick the knife in. Koscielny, Ramsey and Sanchez fed Ozil who teed up Alex Iwobi to score his first of the season. (4-0)
By the hour mark the biggest threat to a Gunners victory was the light mist that had wafted over the pitch. Would our players fall to the ground with a tickly cough or pulmonary tuberculosis? Thankfully no. Belated kudos to Vic Akers for listening to Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast and fielding us in the ridiculously OTT neon yellow shorts.
Just before being substituted, Alexis Sanchez smacked the bar with the best free-kick that hasn’t actually gone in this season. The Chilean completely bamboozled the Basel keeper with a swerving, dipping shot that pinged across the bar. The poor bloke couldn’t believe it hadn’t actually gone in.
The home crowd finally had something to cheer when Seydou Doumbia reduced the arrears with 13 minutes remaining. Taking advantage of Holding’s only major mistake of the game, the former Newcastle player played a tidy one-two and flicked the ball over Ospina. (4-1)
As news filtered in from Paris that Ludogorets had achieved an unlikely draw, Arsene Wenger could be seen in the dugout with a wry smile on his face. No doubt, he knows we’ll get a ridiculously difficult draw in the knockout stages despite coming top.