Arsenal vs. Schalke: Rating the Arsenal Players at the Veltins Arena

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IINovember 7, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at the Boleyn Ground on October 6, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Arsenal started very brightly at the Veltins Arena, but ended the night in very disappointing fashion, throwing away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Schalke.

Theo Walcott opened the scoring in the 18th minute, shimmying through and finishing well. Arsenal had the early lead they needed in a hostile environment, and Olivier Giroud extended it eight minutes later.

A great piece of scrappy play by Giroud kept the move alive, and when the ball eventually came in from the left, the Frenchman surged forward, without anyone marking him, and thumped the ball into the back of the net.

Before the half-hour mark, Arsenal looked in control. It looked like that lead would carry into halftime, but, out of the blue, one defensive lapse changed the tone of the game.

With Per Mertesacker way out of position, a Lewis Holtby scoop over the defence found Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the type of position that a striker who scored 48 goals last season can get into. A neat finish left Vito Mannone helpless and gave Schalke the momentum that would carry them in the second half.

Arsenal came out slightly more inspired after the break, but before long, the home side had leveled the score.

A deep cross eluded Huntelaar but was flicked on by Holtby, a thorn in Arsenal's side all night. Up stepped Jefferson Farfan on the right side of the area, and he lashed a shot that Thomas Vermaelen helped into his own net.

The rest proved to be garbage time. Arsenal will probably try to focus on the positives from a match that ended in a somewhat disappointing fashion, and Group B remains deadlocked.

Let's look at and rate each Arsenal starter's performance.

Vito Mannone: 8

If for the Italian goalkeeper, Arsenal might not have taken a single point from this fixture. Mannone was solid and consistent throughout the match, providing the type of sure-handed presence that deserved a better defence in front of him.

And he might have saved a result for Arsenal with a fabulous stop when one-on-one with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the second half. Arsenal owe a lot to their backup keeper.

Bacary Sagna: 6.5

All in all, a typically consistent, defensively minded performance from Sagna.

However, he allowed far too many Schalke attacks to flourish down his flank, and tricky midfielders like Lewis Holtby gave him problems all night.

Per Mertesacker: 6

Mertesacker was generally very composed, as he usually is, but certainly did not have his best day alongside Laurent Koscielny in the center of defence.

While the entire back four was somewhat culpable for compromising the integrity of the offside trap, Mertesacker was the most out of position when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar got behind the defence to bang home Schalke's game-changing first goal.

Laurent Koscielny: 6.5

A decent performance from the Frenchman, who, though not as spectacular as he has been in the past, showed that he should be preferred to Thomas Vermaelen at center-back.

Koscielny's reading of the game is solid and he found a couple good opportunities to go forward (even coming close to cleaning up a rebound at one point), but he still has a ways to go to find his best form.

Thomas Vermaelen: 5

Vermaelen does not like to play on the left and it was obvious why against Schalke. The captain offered little going forward (although we can forgive him for that) but was not particularly effective when forced to defend.

Multiple times, the likes of Jefferson Farfan, Ibrahim Afellay and Lewis Holtby gave Vermaelen trouble, and he did not often put a foot right. While some will excuse his pushing Farfan's shot into his own net, I think that Vermaelen could have done a bit better to boot it away for a corner kick.

How long Arsene Wenger lets him go remains to be seen.

Mikel Arteta: 7

Mikel Arteta played like, well, Mikel Arteta. What more is there to say, really? He put in a typically understated and underappreciated defensive performance and his tidy passing helped Arsenal's midfield tick.

Jack Wilshere: 7

How nice it feels to be writing performance ratings for Jack Wilshere again. In his third game back from a 17-month period on the sidelines, Wilshere looked a bit more polished and sharp than his first two games, but the signs of rust were still there.

He lacks a bit of pace and his first touch is occasionally a bit Gervinho-esque, but no one else in this Arsenal team brings the ball forward with his intensity and distributes it to the flanks like Wilshere.

Santi Cazorla: 7.5

I was really disappointed when Arsene Wenger took Cazorla off to introduce Francis Coquelin late in the match because it felt a bit like the manager was conceding the draw.

Cazorla was Arsenal's brightest attacking light throughout the match, weaving and spinning through the web of Schalke's midfield and defence, trying threatening passes when no one else would.

Lukas Podolski: 6

I looked for Lukas Podolski to rebound against a German team, but he once again looked like a bottle of Champagne that has been left sitting on the counter for too long.

In other words, flat. Get it? See the analogy? Sorry, I'm just too bored with Podolski's relatively ineffectual performance to try to remember major contributions he made to the game.

His most interesting highlight was probably rattling the touchline advertising after a promising attack was stopped because of a Schalke player's injury, earning Podolski a yellow card.

Theo Walcott: 7

As far as Theo Walcott's performances go, this was a pretty good one. He used his speed to good effect on the right wing, and even dinked in a goal against the run of play with some good skill in the 18th minute.

There were just too many crosses, though, that ended up in no-man's land or sailed over everyone and out of the penalty box. I don't fault him too much for not converting the winner in the 95th minute, but it sure would have been nice if he could have gotten the ball out from under his feet.

Olivier Giroud: 6.5

Good for Giroud for getting an emphatic goal and helping my case that he is a first-class striker. His header came as the result of awful defending from Schalke, and was very nicely put away.

However, as has been his issue in recent games, Giroud faded more and more as time went by. Though he suffered from a lack of service, his presence in the team is essential, especially when Arsenal are looking for options late in a match.

On days like today, he could have turned one point into three.


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