Football: For the second game in succession Arsenal's meek attack failed to concern an opposition keeper. For the second game in succession they were punished without mercy.
Schalke, like Norwich who beat Arsenal at Carrow Road last Saturday, did not dominate the Gunners but they did not need to. Confidence comes in facing a team that never looks like scoring.
The Germans grew in stature as this game wore on and eventually claimed a deserved victory when, in the 76th minute, Holland international Klaas-Jan Huntelaar evaded the offside trap — not difficult, it must be said, with left-back Andre Santos strolling back like a pensioner walking his dog on a Sunday morning — before firing past keeper Vito Mannone. Nine minutes later, the match was put to bed completely when Jefferson Farfan crossed for Ibrahim Afellay to blast home from close range.
Arsenal sit ninth in the Premier League and their troubles, it seems, are extending to the European stage. Schalke now top Group B after three matches, with Arsenal in second, nursing their wounds after their first home defeat in the competition since 2009.
Early season forecasts had suggested that the Gunners have thrived, even become a more diverse outfit, in the absence of Robin van Persie, who was sold to Manchester United over the summer. But that opinion must surely be re-evaluated as the home side, managed by Steve Bould with Arsene Wenger who was serving the last of a three-match touchline ban, continually struggled to create chances.
What few opportunities Arsenal had — and virtually all were of a speculative nature — fell to Gervinho, who lead his side's attack alone. It is not only Gervinho's fault that Schalke keeper Lars Unnerstall did not have a save to make all evening. Yet he is no van Persie — and Arsenal do not appear to have anyone in their ranks even remotely up to filling the departed Dutchman's boots.
When Gervinho was removed by Bould on 75 minutes there were ironic cheers from the home fans, their fury only heightened by recent news that they pay the highest season ticket prices in the land. However the Ivorian's replacement, Olivier Giroud, is hardly flavour of the month either, having scored only twice in 11 matches since his arrival from Montpellier over the summer.
Elsewhere on the bench were such footballing luminaries as Marouane Chamakh, the hapless Morroco international, who has not scored for the club since September 2011.
Nonetheless Arsenal started promisingly, even if they exhibited little incision. On 10 minutes, Lukas Podolski, playing on the left flank, crossed for Gervinho, who could only slam his effort into the advertising hoarding. The home fans did not realise it then but it would turn out to be their best chance of the evening.
The home midfield trio of Coquelin, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, were dictating proceedings but in the errartic Gervinho had a poor focal point for their attacks. In the Ivorian's defence, he had little service of the flanks, which were served by Podolski and Aaron Ramsey, hardly wingers in the true sense of the word.
Schalke, fresh from a morale-boosting win at Borussia Dortmund at the weekend, were happy to sit back and let Arsenal push and prod them from afar. When the Germans broke though, they did so with menace.
On 14 minutes Afellay raced clear of the Arsenal back line. The Dutchman was forced wide by Mannone who appeared to tag his opponent on the ankle, bringing him down. A penalty looked a strong possibility but Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson deemed that the Schalke man had attempted to deceive him and brandished a yellow card.
Huntelaar really should have given the visitors the lead on 43 minutes. Atsuto Uchida escaped down the right flank and, with Schalke having players over in the area, found Huntelaar in space in the area. Perhaps only six yards out and under minimal pressure, he fired his shot well wide, much to the consternation of his manager Huub Stevens, who punched the air.
Arsenal began the second half with a little more verve, but it wasn't long before one sensed that Schalke had got their hosts' number.
On 50 minutes, the excellent Farfan crossed for defender Benedikt Howedes, who was still up from a corner. The Germany international had pulled away from the Arsenal defence but lent back as he shot and his effort went several yards over.
Howedes clasped his head with his hands, but his team kept on coming, and got their just reward, albeit late on when Huntelaar, then Afellay, showed their hosts the way to goal.
Boos from the home fans met the full-time whistle, with Arsenal having now failed to score in four of their 12 matches in all competitions so far this term. Even basement club QPR, who visit here on Saturday, will gain confidence from such a statistic.
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