Thursday, 4 October 2012

Arteta IS human! -Vermaelen's going to cost us -Ramsey and Giroud impress

Morning Gooners.

Well it seemed like we were playing with a large hangover from the Chelsea game for periods last night but a 3-1 win doesn't tell the full story of what turned out to be a routine Champions League group stage victory.

It was a tale of two halves. First half we were sloppy in possession with one of the most rarest sights in football - Mikel Arteta playing the ball out of play under no pressure whatsoever. However after the break we came out and dominated the game, even if we weren't back to our best.

Three goals and three points sees us sat top of the group, with Schalke our next opponents two points behind us after their 2-2 with Montpellier.

The team selection...
The manager had hoped to restore Per Mertesacker to the heart of the defence but the big German game down with a virus yesterday morning. That meant Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen kept their places. In midfield, Francis Coquelin replaced the injured Abou Diaby, while in attack Aaron Ramsey dropped to the bench in place of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Gervinho continued up front.

A sloppy start...
Passes were missing their men and there was confusion at the back. Miscommunication between Vito Mannone and Vermaelen saw the goalkeeper kick the ball towards the defender but it fall into the path of an Olympiacos player because the Captain was looking the other way. Arteta, as previously mentioned, hit a pass out of play. Oxlade-Chamberlain the same. And Cazorla gave one away as well. We weren't at the races.

Wide areas proved fruitful...
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs were getting into great positions down the wings, but as per usual, when they wanted to play the ball inside there was no one in the box to meet it. That's certainly one of the down sides to playing Gervinho through the middle. He's likely to leave his station in the middle to try to join in play out wide, leaving no one in the box to attack the ball.

Out first real effort...
Came from a Santi Cazorla free kick. The Spaniard put pace and spin on the ball when he fired it towards the back post, but it was too close to the goalkeeper. It was telling the Greeks put a player on Cazorla to man mark him. It kept him quiet for the most part but he was still able to influence the game.

The new midfield pairing...
Were finding it hard to settle. I like Coquelin as a player and I think he certainly should be offered more playing time. As a result though, it might take him a few games to work himself into the rhythm of the game. At times last night it was though the French  youngster and Arteta were getting in one another's way, perhaps both trying to play the same position. I'm not sure the balance was right.

Double penalty appeal...
I thought we should have appealed harder for the first one - where Vermaelen was clearly pushed in the area racing to get on the end off a corner. The second was more ball to hand, than hand to ball and I can see why the referee didn't give it.

Good wide with a soft centre...
While Jenkinson and Gibbs continue to impress, the Koscielny and Vermaelen partnership continues to worry me. Whoever was supposed to have been marking Machado needs a talking to. How he managed to put the ball over the bar from so close in is a mystery. The visitors should have been ahead. I think he ran off Vermaelen and if I'm right, that's very sloppy from the captain.

Our goal came...
From the boot of our very unorthodox centre forward Gervinho. He may be marmite to a lot of people in this position but when he keeps bagging the goals, it's very hard to argue with the manager playing him there. It was a lovely reverse shot which put us in the lead.

But we couldn't see out the half...
Without conceding. Again it was our soft centre which let us down. Yes, ideally the cross should have been cut out, but why Vermaelen or Koscielny couldn't have attacked the ball is very questionable.

To be a fly on the wall at half time... 
Vermaelen said in his post match interview Steve Bould wasn't angry with the performance but if I were the assistant manager I would have certainly been giving the central defenders a talking to. Whatever he said though worked. Arsenal were much improved in the second half.

Lukas Podolski another quiet game...
But he scored the important second goal. Nutmegging the goalkeeper with a powerful shot after good work from Gervinho.

The honeymoon period is over...
I'm sure the adaptation period for Cazorla and Podolski is continuing, but both have had two very quiet games against Chelsea and Olympiacos. Perhaps other teams have worked out how to keep them isolated already. Hopefully they can come strong at the weekend against West Ham before the international break.

We were creating chances...
But just not putting the finishing touches to them. Koscielny had a free header which he put over.

Vermaelen's forward runs...
Had me uneasy. We needed to see the game out without letting another goal in. But the captain was leaving space at the back for the visitors to get into. I'm certain that Vermaelen going forward wasn't the plan. But he did have a couple of efforts which could have ended up in the back of the net. His runs do leave defences in a quandary, because no one seems to pick him up. That said, I'd rather he stayed back and helped keep the opposition out.

Giroud and Ramsey had good cameos...
The duo came on for the final ten minutes and combined for what was our third goal. The big Frenchman's header into the path of the Welshman was perfect. And was a fantastic finish from Ramsey to find the back of the net. I was impressed with both during their minutes on the pitch and their performances will certainly give the manager something to think about for Saturday's game.

A win which wasn't too inspiring...
We did a lot of things right, but I was concerned with the defensive pairing. But a second win in the group has put us in a very good position to go on and qualify for the knockout stages. Steve Bould had a more comfortable evening as boss, but will have some work to do at the training ground tomorrow when the players return to prepare for the test at Upton Park.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.


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