One day, it the not too distant future, I envisage a utopia, a land where Arsenal fans no longer need cardiac care when Arsenal take to the field against so-called ‘weaker’ opposition. Perhaps it was my own fault, after all, I had the temerity to expect Arsenal to brush Partizan aside in the same way they had Braga and Shakhtar at home.
It wasn’t an overly unrealistic expectation. We are, after all, The Arsenal.
When the match started the tempo which I expected wasn’t there and this was quickly followed by lazy passing, flicks and tricks being tried when a simple pass would have done, and basically what seemed to be a lack of concentration.
Of course, Partizan got their game plan absolutely perfect for the most part – let us dominate, even let us take the lead, defend the midfield, force us wide, show absolutely no threat, all while knowing full well that we would conspire to give them a goal or two.
Only the one this time.
I’m not overly feeling this blog today, so in a bid to get something out, I’m going to do it this way:
Van Persie completed 90 minutes without falling apart.
Van Persie got his first goal in seven months.
Eboue had a very strong game at left back. Is it coincidence that he plays better on the left, the side he was playing when he was booed against Wigan? Does that force him to concentrate more?
Denilson had a very decent game playing both his position and taking on Song’s defensive role.
Theo’s finish was exceptional.
Nasri scored another superb goal
Fabianski had very little to do all night but still managed to pull off two very good saves.
We ground out the necessary result even when playing badly.
We made it out of the group for the 11th year in a row, a feat only bettered by Real Madrid.
Kieran Gibbs was injured again and will now miss the match at Old Trafford.
Andrei Arshavin’s passing, with a 48.6% completion rate was the worst rate from an Arsenal player, and only beaten by Partizan’s Stojkovic (42.9%).
The gap Song leaves in front of the back four is in no way compensated for by his rampaging forward and occasional goals and assists. Other attacking midfielders would be capable of creating those chances, and would do better with the wasted chances which fall to him.
The gap left between midfield and the back four is simply costing us far more than is forward runs are giving us.
We still can’t cross.
We still can’t defend.
Denilson and Song in the midfield do not offer enough creative options. One or the other, especially at home against ‘weak’ opposition.
We qualified in second place.
The Chamakh/Van Persie partnership will take some time to gel.
The crowd leaving early so that the team were greeted with a half empty stadium at the final whistle.
The ironic cheers when Wenger made his first substitutions of the match.
The crowd greeted Theo’s first cross, after having been on the pitch for a whole one minute, with massive groans. Not helpful.
There may or may not be an issue between Van Persie and Chamakh with the former seeming less than impressed with the latter on a number of occasions.
The fans online abuse of Denilson is ridiculous.
With regards to substitutions, I understand that this is an area of frustration for Arsenal fans, but if you will just accept that Wenger has clearly stated that he rarely makes tactical changes and only replaces players when they are tired you can maybe understand why it takes him so long to make one. You can argue all you like, but you would be hard pressed to say his substitutions didn’t work last night – Theo got the second and Bendtner was involved in the build-up to the third.
In relation to Denilson he must be the most underrated player in our squad. More often than not he is one of our most influential players, he rarely loses possession, plays more passes sideways or forward than back contrary to popular belief, and quite of plays more forward passes than the rest of the midfield. I agree that he can switch off at times when tracking back, but this should not overshadow the other excellent work he does. He keeps possession, breaks up play well, rarely gives away fouls when compared to Song, and in general does a job very well which we greatly under-appreciate.
While bemoaning our latest display, it is worth remembering that we are in the last 16 of the Champions League for the 11th season in a row, something no other English team has managed. We are also top of the league and in the semi-final of the Carling Cup, all while playing awfully in defence. Many fear that we will get worse, but I see it the other way. How can we get worse at the back? We can only improve. Isn’t it the sign of a ‘great’ team that they manage to get the results even when playing badly? Isn’t that what we’ve been hearing for years – that we’ve got to be able to grind results out? Well that’s what we are doing, and you can be sure that if it was Chelsea, Man U, or even the Spuds, they would be getting credit for it.
Lots has been made about us having a leaky defence, but if you listen to how the media handle the Spuds, you’d think they were keeping clean sheets in every single match. The fact is, we’ve conceded seven in the Champions League and 19 in the league and they conceded 11 in the Champions League and 21 in the league. Do you EVER hear a question over their defence? No, what you hear is them being lauded for being strong at the back. We also happen to have the best goal difference of all the English clubs in this year’s Champions League (thanks Sairax for that).
It makes no sense.
I’m not saying we are able to defend, far from it, but we are not as bad as the media would have us believe. What they chose to focus on often becomes the issues which fill the minds of many fans. So, if you base your opinions on the media, you will believe that Arsenal have the worst defence in England, whereas the Spuds play the most free-flowing football. This is simply not true.
It is also not true that we will see how truly awful our defence is when we come up against one of the big teams. When we have to concentrate for 90 minutes and don’t get the majority of the match at our own pace we are a completely different animal. I believe we will see that proven on Monday night - that we are better against better opposition, not that we will be torn apart as many would have you believe.
So, we are through. We made it a lot tougher than it needed to be, but then it wouldn’t be Arsenal if we did it any other way.
Bring on United. Eek.
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