Thursday, 9 December 2010

Arsenal leave their 12th man at home but progress to last 16

Arsenal 3 [van Persie 29 (pen), Walcott 73, Nasri 77] - Partizan Belgrade 1 [Cleo 52]

All that really mattered tonight was that we progressed to the next stage of the Champions League.

A win was the most ideal outcome and that's what we achieved. 

However dire the performance, all that will be remembered from this game were the three point we took from it to achieve our aim.

From the off it was a poor first half. Arsenal just couldn't seem to get on the front foot. Partizan to their credit came with a game plan and  played with 11 men behind the ball when we were in possession. The minute they won it back they broke towards our goal. 

We weren't allowed our usual time on the ball and struggled to put our passing game together.

Playing Alex Song and Denilson in the deep lying midfield positions and Robin Van Persie in the hole - otherwise known as the Cesc role - didn't play to our strengths.

I thought the Dutchman had a poor first half. He couldn't link our midfield with our attackers and that resulted in move after move breaking down.

Van Persie switched with Arshavin at one stage but that didn't help.

He seemed to find some joy in the second period but even then the most positive thing for him was getting his first 90 minutes in an Arsenal shirt under his belt. I suppose you could count the penalty, which he put away well. But that was won cheaply.

However it was exactly what we needed. Prior to the spot kick we had little interest in putting a shot towards the Partizan goal.

The atmosphere at the ground was strange as well. We all knew we needed to win this one and the team needed our support, yet the singing was minimal. 

The 12th man seemed to have been left outside the turnstiles. I know the freezing temperature didn't help nor the lack of beer in the stadium, but you would have hoped a few more Gooners would have sung up.  Even the signing section in the north bank was unusually quiet.

I thought the second half we started the brighter of the two teams with a higher tempo and pressing Partizan when they had the ball.

Our quality was showing and we started to dominate more passages of play.

However as per usual, seven minutes into the half we conceded. Albeit against the run of play and via a massive deflection off Sebastien Squillaci. Lukas Fabianski - who had another good game - could do nothing to stop the ball which looped over him into the goal.

Fifteen minutes later Arsene Wenger couldn't see his team making the required movement to get the second goal so introduced Theo Walcott.

He was bright and his pace scared the Partizan players into their own half.

Shorly after his introduction, the Englishman was in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the back of the net.

Bacray Sagna whipped in a dangerous cross from the right into the area between the six-yard box and the penalty spot.

A Partizan defender couldn't clear the ball further than Walcott who controlled the ball with his chest before volleying it into the far corner.

Cue wild celebrations.

And minutes later their was more to be happy about as Alex Song and Samir Nasri combined on the edge of the Partizan box.

Their intricate footwork in a small space linked a couple of one-twos together before the Frenchman slotted home powerfully with his left foot.

3-1 probably in reality flattered us. But it was our patience and playing our game which got us the goals.

Bendtner was brought on for the work horse which is Marouane Chamakh. Does that guy put a shift in. He never stopped running and looked physically exhausted.

The big Dane certainly needs to learn from the Moroccan that is what Arsene Wenger expect his forwards to do because at the moment he's getting no where near a starting place in the first team.

If losing Kieran Gibbs early in the game wasn't bad enough, Wenger saw his first choice right back dismissed for a coming together on the edge of the Gunners box.

I thought it was a poor decision to give Sagna a red. A yellow would have been justified. If that had happened at the other end I would have said it was a soft decision.

The Frenchman misses our last 16 match. We could face Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Schalke 04. The draw is made next Friday (December 17). 

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