Well, I don’t think many of us were predicting a match as tight as that, but perhaps we should have. This is, after all, the FA Cup, a competition that most teams and fans take very seriously.
No doubt the main talking points from this match will be the form/contribution of Arshavin, Bendtner, Denilson and, in some quarters Rosicky. This was not their finest 90 minutes by any stretch of the imagination.
Making nine changes from the team who faced Man City in the league, Arsenal took a while to settle as seems to be the case when we make so many changes. Leeds were lively, closing us down all over the pitch and our passing, which was sloppy as it was, was made even worse by the tenacity of the Leeds players.
But slowly we settled and got a hold of the game. Had it not been for an immense performance at centre back from Alex Bruce we would have no doubt led at half-time. As it was, a series of misplaced passes, sloppy control and a general unawareness of where teammates were meant that at half-time it was still 0-0.
Nothing to worry about surely?
Arsenal started the second half brighter, but as the match wore on and the goal wouldn’t come the groans and boos from the crowd got louder. How they think this is in the least bit helpful I’m not quite sure. Arshavin is clearly suffering from zero confidence, but he at least worked his arse off today. Every single misplaced pass or mis-controlled ball was greeted by groans and boos which simply grew as the match wore on.
In typical Arsenal fashion, we conspired to allow Leeds to take the lead even though we had never really looked in any danger. Denilson hung out a leg, the Leeds player went over. Nailed on penalty. what Denilson was thinking off I have no clue.
Chesney was very unlucky not to save it as he managed to get his hand to it, but in it went and 1-0 it was.
From that point we were a little bit rocked and were lucky that Leeds didn’t make it two – good saves from Chesney and wasteful finishing from Leeds the only thing saving us.
Arsene threw on Cesc, then Theo and it was these two changes which turned the game around even if most of us were wondering WTF as he took of Song and then Chamakh to make room,
Theo’s impact cannot be underestimated. They simply didn’t know how to handle him and we should have had two penalties before the one we actually got. The first Nik had his legs kicked from under him as he tried to control the ball, the defender getting nothing off it. Dowd’s decision? Corner. Wrong on both counts. Then we had penalty-gate. Theo was clipped, down he went and to the spot pointed Dowd. The linesmans flag was up, what was going on. Offside apparently, even though the offside pass was AFTER Theo had been brought down.
It was a joke.
But then we did get a penalty, and it was Theo once again. AS he ran through in to the box there was the slightest tug on his arm which knocked him off balance. To his credit he stayed on his feet but his shot was smothered by the excellent Leeds keeper. Penalty, even if it did seem to take an eternity for the referee to blow his whistle.
Cesc stepped up to take it and he rifled it down the centre, taking no chances. 1-1 with only injury time to play. Cesc wanted the ball, he wanted to try and win this, and that’s what we could have done had Bendtner had any clue where the goal was. He alone could have had three or four, blasting wide, heading over. Not his finest hour by any stretch of the imagination.
So, as individuals, how did we do?
Szczesny – had a great game. Made a superb save early on the first half an didn’t look back. Big, strong, commanding, agile, and authoritative. everything you want from a keeper.
Gibbs – had a great game and drove forward with purpose.
Djourou – superb. Simply superb. Was evrywhere, winning everything. His composure, strength, and ability to bring the ball out of defence, as well as his ability to play three games in a row warms my Arsenal heart.
Squillaci – not great, bit bad either. Fourth choice for me out of all our CB’s.
Eboue – was Eboue. Better going forward, even if he still can’t find any Arsenal players with his crosses and seems a bit aimless. Still spends far too much time splayed on the ground for my liking.
Song – did not have his greatest game at all, but wasn’t woeful either. Was subbed for Cesc and that made a massive difference.
Denilson – Deni, Deni, Deni. I defend you, and defend you, but today, that was indefensible. The penalty could have been a lot more costly than it was, and even though he almost won it for us with a splendid long-range effort, his contribution today was awful.
Rosicky – had a game to forget as well. He did, at time, play some lovely passes, but he’s off form which is perhaps not surprising given that he can’t get a run of games.
Arshavin – was woeful today, but he tried. Everything bounced off him, his passing couldn’t find anyone, but he never stopped working. He is getting some serious abuse online and from the crowd at the game. I’m not going to join in here because he actually tried today.
Bendtner – on the other hand is annoying me more and more. Constantly on his heels, at times he looked completely disinterested. Did find the pass to Theo when we won the penalty, but all to often tried to do it on his own when he should have passed, tried to play deft, delicate passes which just aren’t in his locker, and headed more than a few free headers over the bar. That, Nik, is why you are not automatic first choice.
Chamakh – again another who isn’t in the best vein of form, but you cannot question his work-rate even when nothing is coming off for him. Was unlucky not to get on the end of an Eboue cross which was flicked away from him a split-second before he nodded it in to the net.
Cesc – made a real difference. His calmness settled the entire side, but even Cesc was finding his range hard to come by. The difference when he misplaced a pass and when AA did it was marked in the reaction from the crowd.
Theo – was the real catalyst and the reason we didn’t lose this game. Got at the backline of Leeds in a way that we hadn’t been able to do until that point and proved, once again, what a game changer he can be from the bench.
Vela – did he touch the ball?
In all, it was a disappointing result, but it could have been worse. Had Nik had his shooting boots on we could have won this easily, but alas, it is a replay.
Still means we are the only team in England that can win all four trophies.
More thoughts later. (Net connection down, doing this via 3G)------------
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