After a dismal display against West Brom forced me out of the “internet arsenal life including visiting other good sites” like many others, I was looking forward to team’s reply. Arsene made 6 changes to the side that lost to West Brom with Fabianski, Denilson,Wilshere,Rosicky,Eboue,Djourou,Gibbs coming in for reasons varying from injury, form,rotation. Over all it was quite a strong Arsenal side. First time in the season impressive Wilshere started in his supposedly future “Cesc’s ” role backed by Song and Denilson.
Arsenal started slowly, struggling to keep possession and was under attack for few minutes. With West Brom still fresh in mind fear of similar performance loomed high. But Arshavin had different ideas today, got our attack up and running and duly scored the first goal. Song played a through ball to Arshavin who was staying in between in the lines , got quite a bit of space in front of him to run at the defenders. Arshavin played a neat pass to the onrushing Wilshere , Wilshere was surrounded by 4 Partizan players still managed to find Arshavin whose first time shot was in the back of the net.
Arsenal created quite a few chances after that but as usual failed to finish those off. Denilson handled a totally harmless ball inside the penalty box gifted a goal to a confident less Partizan. Goal and the crowd lifted Partizan’s confidence and belief. Last 15 mins of first half went on without any highlights as Arsenal became a subdued team. This was mainly due to the fact Arsenal always tried to play through the middle and tried to break down the compact two banks of 4 and failing miserably.
Arsenal started the second half better playing at a higher tempo and most likely team to score next goal. Arshavin was in the midst of the things again. Arshavin moved slightly inside and took up the traditional No.9 role and found a through ball to Chamakh. Though Chamakh had beaten the defender , decided to go down instead of going for the goal and won a penalty and got Jovanovic sent off . Arshavin took the resulting penalty shot straight and Partizan keeper saved with his legs. I would prefer Chamakh staying on the feet in these situations since in EPL penalty may not be given for these.
In the second half Rosicky was more involved probably the result of the half-time talk, provided the second goal. At 71st min Rosicky played an inch may be mm perfect cross on to Chamakh’s head whose first time header was saved brilliantly saved by the keeper. But Chamakh had a second chance off the rebound which he coolly put it in the back of the net. Seems like Rosicky is the biggest benefactor of Chamakh’s arrival , he can use that ball with a better hope of it being converted. It is just one of the amazing qualities of Rosicky, he even managed to find Vela’s head in the carling cup game . We will see more of that kind of goal. Once Arsenal went ahead against 10 players it all became too easy and was just a matter of keeping the ball. Arsenal went 3-1 after Squillaci nodded home from Nasri’s corner. After that we still had time to typical Arsenal moments at the back, Gibbs gave away a penalty. Fabianski stood confidently and did an absolutely good save and made sure the score line stayed the same. Our non-existent defense and midfield again generously gave one more chance to test Fabianski. Fabianski made another absolutely stunning save. At last there is a few glimpses of the “training ground Fabianski”
Few observations from the game:
- Arsenal leave huge gaps between the full backs and center backs with full backs pushing on par with the holding midfielders. This has been the best chance for any teams to score against us , so far in this season. Think of Blackburn , Bolton, Tottenham games. A simple ball through that space opens up our defense all too easily. If this is not rectified i am sure Chelsea will be able to use it to great effect.
- Denilson is the heartbeat of our midfield. Arsenal had control of the midfield as soon as he entered the field in the previous games. This game also he controlled the midfield almost alone as Song was playing in his fantasy world.
- Song is a liability. Looks like he assumed he is the next Cesc and was always ahead of our better creative players. He was simply useless in attack and his tackling is just awful , even Wilshere tackles better than Song. He always committed fouls instead of winning the ball.
- Our team is built entirely on the assumption that the midfield will have control and keep the ball. When this assumption fails our whole team crumbles. For this reason we cannot afford to have an off form player or misbehaving player in midfield. Diaby falls in the former and Song falls in the next category. In this game also misbehaving Song left the midfield to all sort of forward positions made us vulnerable in defense. This directly resulted in a collapse of defensive shape and a panic.
- Our best midfield in few months time seems to be Denilson-Wilshere-Cesc or Denilson-Ramsey-Cesc.
- We are most vulnerable to short passing game than any other team. Simple passes near edge of the box pulls all players out of the position.
- Our use of wing play was non-existent. Using width was required to stretch the compact Partizan’s defense . Our lack of wing play was mostly due to Song’s attacking urge which forced Gibbs to stay back and denied the space to overlap/cut in. This combined with how vulnerable Song made us defensively is the reason for the headline. Denilson is also another one to blame for this, he should distribute the ball better especially to wings. Wilshere did this excellently when he played the second midfielder in our midfield trio.
Individual player performance:
Fabianski: Saved a penalty and made a crucial save in the dying minutes. Great performance from our reserve keeper. This was a match winning performance considering the saves the score could easily have been 3-3. Hope this helps his confidence and keeps giving such performances.
Sagna: Caught out of position few times. Did decently well in defense and offense.
Squillaci: Had a good game defensively few very good tackles also got a goal to his name.
Djourou: He has beaten himself again and again. Got into all sort of wrong possible positions . Bumped into other Arsenal players and left us wide open. Surging forward runs does not seem necessary. Over all i could not find positives for Djourou , probably it is down to his “long term injury” and he will improve with few more games.
Gibbs: Had a good game defensively but gave away a penalty in the end. Did not have chance to attack as already the left side was crowded also due to lack of distribution. Took very good attacking positions only to be ignored by his teammates.
Song: Disastrous performance, i know i am biased but i am sure i am not that far off the truth. Absolutely no reason for him to be occupying the positions our better attacking players should be taking. Was clueless when in advanced positions, denied Gibbs any chance of attacking . Always was at the wrong position defensively. Denilson had a good game also Partizan did not look at attacking or else this could have been easily another Sunderland or West Brom. And if anybody thinks he is good at attacking he took 3 touches within the penalty box where he was supposed to play a 1-2. Hope Arsene comes down hard on him. I wish he had injured himself and not available for Chelsea.
Denilson: Another great display from the brazilian. By far the most consistent Arsenal player this season. Broke up the play pretty well , always available for defenders and other midfielders. Did his best to make up “Song’s absence ” in midfield. He could do better in his distribution. Especially to wings.
Wilshere: Had a very good game, nice piece of skill and awareness for the first goal. His defensive game is amazing , even told his team mates to track a midfield runner. Got lesser service from midfield than he should have. I still feel he is much better at the second midfielder role with his discipline in defense and passing ability .
Rosicky: Worked hard for the whole game, absolutely world class cross for the second goal. Did not do much in the first half when most of our play has been through the left. Got more involved in the second half, got into good positions inside the box it is just matter of time before he starts scoring goals.
Arshavin: He has been the difference maker in the past few games. Great performance by our little magician, wish he showed same amount of interest , desire and leader ship in all games. When he drifts into the No.9 position he is altogether a different beast and finds through balls at will. Penalty miss was the only blip.
Chamakh: Usual hardworking self. As usual earned a penalty. As usual got a goal with his head. His first touch is really letting him down in tight spaces. Other wise it is the usual Chamakh as expected.
Subs: Did not do anything special, all subs were due to precautionary “save from injury” type.
Will cover a slightly more in-depth analysis of our defensive part of game tomorrow.