Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Wonder strike pegs Gunners back -Midfield dynamo agrees Arsenal deal

Morning Gooners.

I said prior to the match that I would take a point from last night's game and it would now be churlish not to be happy with the result. For me the Dortmund game explained everything about where we are right now.

Arsenal are in a tough place. It is clear for everyone to see. We've just lost our best player in Fabregas and two good players in Nasri and Clichy during the summer. And we've only managed to bring in players to replace them in the team after we qualified for the Champions League.

Five new faces added to the squad, three of whom started last night's game with five training sessions under their belts. It is not a surprise we are not playing our normal game at the moment. These last two games against Swansea and Dortmund for me have been about getting through them with a positive result be that a win or a draw.

It's obvious from watching last night's game that these players are struggling. We started the game with four players making their Champions League group stage debuts for us. From the weekend Per Mertesacker and  Mikel Arteta kept their places and Yossi Benayoun was drafted into the team for the injured Aaron Ramsey.
The other debutant was Gervinho.

Wenger, watching the game from the stands because of UEFA's ludicrous touchline ban, kept the same back five that started against Swansea. In front of them Alex Song and Mikel Arteta played the deep lying midfield roles, whilst the front four consisted of Theo Walcott, Benayoun, Gervinho and Robin van Persie.

From the off we were under pressure. There was plenty of defending to do but we did have one chance in front of the Dortmund goal, Gervinho being denied by a last gasp tackle which took the ball away from him.

However that chance appeared to be one few efforts we had in front of goal. This team is very much still learning each other's game. And we had plenty of defensive work to do as the home team created chance after chance. If it hadn't been for the the Germans woeful shooting, Szczesny would have been far more busier last night.

He didn't have to produce many saves but had to offer his defenders protection in the box and be very calm under the constant pressure he was under. Szczesny was easily our best player in the first half, when many others had gone missing.

Arguably against the run of play we got our lucky break. Robin van Persie winning the ball in midfield, passing to Walcott who played a one-two with the Arsenal captain and the Dutchman fired home with his right foot.

We led at half time. But straight after the break we were placed under even more pressure. We were camped in our own half with no outlet balls. Van Persie had to make himself busy trying to win the ball back, but the Germans ball retention was excellent. It was a case of chasing shadows.

That's not to say we didn't have some breaks. Walcott and Gervinho with the two most memorable chances of the second period, but neither could get anywhere near the Dortmund goal before being dispossessed.

With Arteta bloodied through the battle and Benayoun doing more defending than attacking, this team was really putting in a shift.

And then it came into the final two minutes of the game and the ball fell kindly to Ivan Perisic on the edge of the Arsenal box who met the ball with a volley which sped straight past Szczesny  into the top left hand corner. The Germans were level and it's probably no more than they deserved.

Afterwards Pat Rice who was directing team proceedings in Wenger's absence said:
"Dortmund are a really good side, there is no question about that. Would we liked to have won the game? Of course we would, we were so close to it and so very, very near. 
"But the same thing happened to us as when we played Tottenham and the boy [Danny] Rose hit and unbelievable shot from about 35 yards. 
"It was the same this evening. I should imagine that he could try that 25, 30, 40 times and he would hit it over the bar or at the goalkeeper. It was a great goal."
And it was a quality goal and one which Perisic is unlikely to score again. Do I feel we were hard done by with the result? No. I think it was a fair reflection of the game. We had four shots compared to their 16. If anything I think we should feel lucky but because we held out for so long without conceding we might feel unlucky we didn't come away from the game with three points.

This team is still learning about each other. We'll only be able to truly reflect on what we've got in a months time when players can start anticipating each others moves. At the moment we are poor offensively. But when you remove someone like Cesc Fabregas from this team it's hard to move straight on when the way we played was set up around his game.

I'm not down this morning with the result. In fact I'm very much looking forward to seeing this team play again and at the moment Saturday can't come soon enough.

Away from the game, Arsenal have announced Henri Lansbury has agreed to sign a contract extension at the club.

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