Sunday, 9 January 2011

I feared Arshavin would received the "Eboue treatment" if subbed

Whilst the game with Leeds United can really be counted as a traditional cup game, where the quality of either side was not that obvious, I think it's a credit to Simon Grayson that his team came and gave Arsenal a game.

Against Manchester City, Arsenal were not tested in defence. However yesterday, Leeds worked hard to ensure that they weren't walked over by Arsenal's passing game.

A scrappy game which Arsenal only dug out a result from an 89th minute Cesc Fabregas penalty.

There are a few things I wanted to pick out to discuss.

Theo Walcott

In my opinion it was Walcott rather than Cesc Fabregas who made the difference when he came on. He was able to stretch the Leeds defence which had been able to cope with the pretty one paced approach of Arshavin, Bendtner, Chamakah and Rosicky.
Walcott's pace allowed us to create more chances, not just from the right but from the left flank as well.
Kieran Gibbs became more of an attacking threat as a result.

Andrey Arshavin / The crowd

I thought the crowd got on Arshavin's back far too easily and personally I thought it was a disgrace. I really thought that had Wenger brought him off instead of Tomas Rosicky for Carlos Vela I was worried we were going to have another Emmanuel Eboue booing incident. Now I know that Arshavin's perceived laziness is a bug bearer for Gooners and I see where they are coming from. But if you consider his statistics for yesterday's game: 81.6% pass completion - 93.9% forward half pass completion - 5 key passes (Assists for attempts) - 3/3 successful tackles - he didn't have a bad game. Yes he could run around more and track back but for some reason he doesn't seem to want to / be able to.
What we can't do is get on our own players back's. It does not help anyone, least of all our own players. Another "Eboue moment" would be a very bad reflection on Gooners.

Nicklas Bendtner / Marouane Chamakh

Oh what a player Nicklas Bendtner would be if he had a first touch. He never seems to be able to control the ball with his first touch. I've seen people complaining about him playing on the right hand side of the attacking three. I didn't see those people complaining when he was playing in the same position at the start of last season.
And Marouane Chamakh... what has happened to him? He really seems to be off the pace completely at the moment. He's great at holding the ball up but doesn't seem that confident at running at goal. I noticed yesterday that he'd rather take the ball and play with his back towards goal than have the ball at his feet going towards the goalkeeper. Perhaps that's why van Persie has been preferred to the Moroccan in the recent Christmas / New Year spell of big games.

The Walcott "Dive" / Penalty Incident

When Walcott went over and Dowd pointed to the spot, I was in no mind that he'd been taken out. I had a clear view of it and to me, Walcott was clearly touched. The referee was convinced of the same thing. It was only not given by the linesman who I believe ruled that Nicklas Bendtner was off side.
Now for Theo to come out and say what he said is very honest. Perhaps too honest. And while I have no trouble with him saying what he did, I do feel it will hurt him and Arsenal in the future. When there is criticism that players dive to be awarded penalties, I don't believe it is Walcott who should be coming out and admitting he took a tumble.
Personally I think he should have kept quiet. Luckily there hasn't been that much of a media storm over the incident but I won't hold my breathe because I believe that will all change.

Winning the second ball

Yesterday was a case in point where we were second best to everything. It seems as though our midfield pairing of Alex Song and Denilson had their work cut out. And whilst dropping Tomas Rosicky deeper may have helped, it would have removed our most dynamic player on the pitch from a forward role. I think in games which we think we will easily win, our players are not as focused. This was an area where we should have been dominating. But sadly something was lacking. Hopefully this won't be the case for Wednesday night's semi final.

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