Arsenal extended their winning streak to 3, which to the fans that bothered showing was a huge relief. The game didn’t mask the problems though, you can take the match as a morale boosting victory against Greek top 2 or you can take it as a massive warning for Sunday that we need to sharpen up.
The team we threw together was talked of as inexperienced, I’d scrap that and say it was just very average. Chamakh dropped in up top with Oxo and Arshavin. The midfield had Frimpong, Arteta and Rosicky and the backline has Song and Santos in the mix.
Has Wenger written down the Champions Leagues importance? Based on that team you’d have to say chasing 4th is the goal.
We put ourselves on the front foot almost instantly, Alex Song floated a beautiful pass into Oxo who controlled it, cut inside, lost it / gained it back, slipped into the box then banged it low back across goal for his first Champions League goal!
Down the other end some typically shoddy set piece play saw Arteta called into action to make a goal line clearance of note.
Santos put us two ahead when his ball into Chamakh made its way back to him, he dropped his shoulder and slipped the ball inside the keepers near post. A top goal from a very cool customer.
Chamakh had a chance to impress his game on the half when he timed his run perfectly to collect Andrey’s chipped pass, sadly though he dragged his shot hideously wide. Much in the same way Gervinho’s act of greed cost us against Blackburn, I wondered if this miss would cost us today.
Back up our end, Oxlade lost his man outwide, the full back picked out his cross and Fuster headed home unchallenged. A terrible piece of defending. Only Arsenal could concede a header against a team shorter than the Islington under 8’s.
It all turned rather panicked after that. Oxlade might be a dream on the ball but defensively he’s very naive. Frimpong was terrible in possession last night, far too casual and sloppy. We couldn’t string a pass together and in the end we resorted to hoofing the ball out of play.
The second half saw us tighten up defensively, the full backs partook in far less bombing forward and we settled the game. That still didn’t stop them creating chances. The best one saw them hit the bar from 30 yards out.
Song and Mertesacker put in a terrific shift at the back, many were stating that the man from Cameroon looks far better when he’s forced to tackle. The big German looked far more comfortable next to someone who was willing to communicate… The man hug at the end didn’t go unnoticed.
Our best chance came towards the end, Arshavin cut back in their box and toe poked across the keeper, he parried… Where was Chamakh for the rebound? Outside the box… he really is not an Arsenal striker.
The ground cleared out, the ref blew up, all thoughts were on Sundays massive show down.
Wenger gambled on the game and it paid off. We had a few stand out performances. Andre Santos looks composed, brave and fantastic going forward. He’s presented Wenger with a paracetamol for the cure of the ‘oh no, Gibbs is my best left back’ headache.
Alex Song shouldn’t be playing at centre back. I said this in the summer. He’s either our best DM or he’s fighting it out for a spot in the backline. Fuck what Barca do, we’re not them. He played superbly though. He can play with both feet and he had to play with discipline. Something that doesn’t often happen in midfield.
Mertesacker was man of the match. He worked hard, hoofed when he had to and made sure he was counted. He’s not fast but he’s awkward and tough to get past. He’s our plan B defender for Stoke but he’s more than capable of being plan A.
Oxo looks very slick on the ball, a far more natural talent than Theo. He has nowhere near the pace but he has that unpredictable trickery about him that full backs hate. His tracking exposed us though, that will improve with shower room beatings from Sagna.
The two major disappointments were Frimpong and Chamakh. The midfielder was very lazy in possession and his weak passing destroyed any fluidity to our game time and time again. I like his hustle, but you need more than that to make it at the top.
Chamakh just hasn’t worked out, he can’t turn on the ball, he isn’t mobile and he has no instinct for the net. He is next in line when Robin breaks down. That my friends is scary.
Lots to think about for Sunday. Accountability from set plays is one. Ade is a set piece destroyer. We need to defend the player and the ball, not the space. We’ve also got to work out a way of creating chances, we don’t have the personnel to grind teams down with a million passes. We need to feed our front man quickly and take advantage of our widemens pace.
Sunday is massive for morale, expectation and the race for 4th… not to mention bragging rights. How do you see it panning out?
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