Monday, 3 October 2011

Coquelin and Song the positives as Sagna breaks leg in NLD defeat

Morning Gooners.

I don't think yesterday's result has truly sunk in yet. A defeat is always hard to take - especially against those lot - but to be honest perhaps I was resigned to the fact we'd do very well to take something from the game.

Given we're down to our last remaining fit central defender in Per Mertesacker and we have to pair him with the team's best midfielder in Song, Arsene Wenger has limited options to make with his team selection. And what the manager wouldn't give to have a fit Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen to put straight into the side.

Prior to the game we might have won three in a row but our form after Champions League ties in the league has been woeful to say the least. We've lost all three of our previous post European games to Liverpool; Manchester United and Blackburn and personally I didn't believe we were up to the challenge of winning this one.

For the line up Wenger made one change from the side who beat Bolton last weekend. The injured Laurent Koscielny replaced in the heart of the Gunners defence by Alex Song. Whilst the Cameroon international's place was taken by Francis Coquelin.

The Frenchman proved to be arguably the Arsenal player on the pitch. He made tackles, moved the ball quickly when in possession to find a team mate and broke up play. This has been the midfielders third appearance of the season and he's done well in all three starts but his two league games have seen the team lose on both occasions. Neither results were down to Coquelin though as he has not let the team down this season.

The first goal, scored by van der Vaart, looked like it had a strong hint of arm involved in the controlling of the ball before a superb finish. No other player other than Mertesacker appealed for the decision though as the Dutchman slotted the ball under Szczesny.

There had been chances which Arsenal's keeper had saved earlier in the half. He'd kept us in the game with saves from Parker and Defoe. But he had no chance with this shot. Questions have to be asked as to the marking with van der Vaart was on his own in the right back area.

After the break the Gunners found their way back into the game. Ramsey getting on the end of an Song cross to slot home from close range. What was amazing for me was that we often bemoan the lack of bodies in the box but both the Welshman and captain Robin van Persie were queuing up to score.

The turning point in the game probably came in the 68th minute when Sagna jumped with Assou-Ekotto for the ball. The Arsenal man fell awkwardly and was substituted. It looked bad. And post match was confirmed as a leg break.

On came Carl Jenkinson as Sagna's replacement. Five minutes later there was confusion among between Ramsey and Arteta as to who should be picking up Sandro and the Spurs man was found by a throw in. His cross was cleared by Song but only as far as Kyle Walker who fired in a shot from outside the box. The ball swerved in the air and beat Szczesny who should have probably done better.

Another lucky Spurs wonder goal wins the north London derby.

As much as Arsenal huffed and puffed in the final 15 minutes trying to find a goal we didn't put Friedel under any sustained pressure.

Afterwards the manager said:

"In the first half I felt we played a little but with the handbrake on. Even playing like that we had four chances.  
"At half time we came out and had a go at them and got it back to 1-1. I felt again that we didn't push on enough and let them get back into the game. 
"We lack a little bit of confidence at the moment, and we just need to protect a result when we have one."

We never had a period of sustained pressure. Gervinho had a good chance in the first half which  he should have put on target but our game going forward isn't good enough this season. We can talk for as long as you like about the defence - and I'm not making any excuses for them because they have let themselves down as well - but going forward we lack cutting edge.

If van Persie isn't going to score it's hard to see another player putting the ball in the back of the net on a  consistent basis.

We can bemoan injuries and bad luck, but I don't think this Arsenal team is good enough. The manager says we've got a big squad to choose from but we're always hamstrung by injuries each season. When planning for the season ahead we shouldn't have been left  in a position where we're be handing Carl Jenkinson the task of playing right back for the next three months because Bacary Sagna's broken leg.

I have every sympathy for Jenkinson. He shouldn't be put in this position. Wenger shouldn't have brought him in as first choice cover when last Christmas he was playing non league football and hasn't had a sustained period of playing football for any club. But this is where we are. I know for a fact Jenkinson will give his all but really at this stage of his development he shouldn't be in this position.

We've got two weeks now to lick our wounds. It's going to be a difficult period but one in which we need to pick ourselves up. We've still got a chance to put this right but it's going to take a lot of hard work and some luck going our way.

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