Last night, Arsene Wenger took the Carling cup to a grander stage… Europe. The game was irrelevant to Arsenal but still held much importance to the yet unqualified Greeks. The team line up was unfamiliar to anyone without ATVO.
K Gilbert Bartley Silvestre Cruise
Mérida Song Ramsey
Walcott Vela Wilshere
Alex Song took up the more familiar position as the man in the middle and Silvestre returned as centre back and captain for the night. This was the youngest team ever to be fielded in the Champions league. All eyes were focused on what Bartley could do in the middle of defence, how the famous actor could perform at full back and whether Carlos Vela could deliver us some hope up front.
Well, I’m happy to report that in the main, we were not disappointed.
Tom Cruise looked more than capable filling in at left back. He was assured on the ball, he played in a powerful manner and I was very impressed with his maturity considering how young he is. Kyle Bartley, although far too slight to start consistently in the Premiership had the presence of a seasoned pro at the back. He is 6ft 3 and he uses his height to full advantage. He is good in the air, comfortable with the ball at his feet and more than capable of smashing the ball out the stadium if the need arises. Kerrea Gilbert at the grand old age of 22 was partly responsible for switching off for the Olympiacos goal in the second half, but other than that, I thought he was ok.
Onto the midfield. Theo Walcott displayed the sublime and the, well, not so sublime. I’m not his biggest fan, I think for the money he’s on he should be running games like the one last night. However, truth be told he was largely ineffective with the ball at his feet and his finishing was poor. He did manage to cause ruffle some feathers, but mainly down to his natural gift, pace. He’s a formula one car that’s being navigated using a sail.
Song had a super game in the middle of the park. His passing was immaculate in the main and he did his level best to break up play. No easy task in a hugely inexperienced team. There were some truly magical moments of skill from the big man, so a big thumbs up from me.
The star of the midfield was Rambo. This is a player who is destined for great things, a player who can be bigger than Charlotte Church, nay, bigger than Tom Jones! His skill on the ball is controlled, his ability to drive past players in the middle with pace and power is a joy to watch and his growing stature on the pitch must be giving Wenger cold sweats at night. Yep, the boss is going to have to start considering him ahead of his love children. Rambo was man of the match for me last night, converting that type of form onto the Premiership stage is his biggest challenge… which I’m sure he’ll over come shortly.
Up top Fran Merida looked a class act as usual. His control and eye for a neat pass reminds me of Cesc. His additional pace and penchant for a shot leads me to wonder how good he could be for us. Jack Wilshere didn’t have his best game in the red and white and I sometimes felt like his body was letting him down. He has the brain of an Premiership superstar, sadly not the physical presence yet. Letting him leave on loan fills me with dread… however, a toughening up at half decent club might do him some good! Maybe Everton?
Carlos Vela did his level best to get in all manner of good positions last night, his finishing letting him down. The most notable miss was midway through the second half. Rambo cut the ball back to him in acres of space, only for Carlos to fire into the legs of Nikopolodiakashmanish. He’s going to have to sharpen up quickly if he wants a shot at the big time. I sense Arsene isn’t the biggest fan of Mexican, so he’ll have to work double hard to impress.
Last but not least, a word for the keeper. Fabianski showed why he should be number one last night. He came bounding out of his area for almost every ball that dared enter his box, he was off his line at lightning pace to deny the Greeks on a couple of occasions and his hands were safer than an empty match box. Given half a season, Fabianski could be the answer to all of our goalkeeping dreams. Will Almunia have to sustain an injury for us to realise this dream? Probably…
A very good run out in a very unimportant game. Lothar Matthaus can harp on about how we disrespected the competition all he likes. Our injury list is justification enough that we didn’t need to field a first team and as far as I’m concerned, teams should put maximum effort into winning their group early… then this wouldn’t happen. Apparently this is the 5th season we’ve won the group before the last game. We’ve now got two weeks until the draw (18th), and to be honest, there’s not point in worrying about who we’ll get. We’ll have to face all the big boys on our way to the final. Madrid would be nice early doors, I’d like to beat Inter at some point… the only teams I don’t want to face are the English ones!
On the playing front, I was very impressed. Some food for thought for the coach. The only thing I’ll say that’s slightly negative is that the Champions League is more suited to our kids development. It’s technical and far less physical. Transferring that form to the homeland is a much more brutal kettle of fish. Still, lets enjoy the talent coming through, salivate over our impressive English core and keep them crossed some of the foreign boys will get their chance to shine in the Premiership!
L Fabianski 7.5
K Gilbert 6
T Walcott 6.5
A Song 8
A Ramsey 9
J Wilshere 6.5
F Mérida 7
C Vela 7
P.S. Make sure you check out Young Guns this morning… they’re sure to have an opinion on the game!
See you in the comments!