The biggest test of the season had come early for us, a trip to the City, Manchester City. Rather than be intimidated by such the harsh City environment, Arsenal acclimated itself quite well, made themselves at home, and came out with a deserved point. Strong performances such as these, especially away from home are a great sign, and are what’s needed if we are to be serious title challengers.
Interesting choice by the manager. He stuck to Gervinho as the false number nine again, but that wasn’t the biggest surprise. Ramsey, Cazorla, Arteta and Diaby all started. All of these players play centrally so it raised a few eyebrows. As it turned out Cazorla was deployed on the right and Ramsey in the centre.
While I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with this decision, it is clear that the manager is slowly losing faith in Theo Walcott. It doesn’t make sense to replace him with a centrally minded player unless Walcott isn’t cutting the mustard anymore. It doesn’t help that Walcott isn’t signing a new contract, presumably due to wage demands, yet isn’t producing the kind of performance to warrant a significant payrise. At the moment his wage of £75,000 a week is fair for a player with potential, who is frustratingly inconsistent. Is Wenger freezing the Englishman out of the team? I can’t say for certain. One thing is certain, he isn’t good enough to start at the moment. This may be harsh, but given his inconsistency, he didn’t help his cause in this game either. He came on for a late cameo, took the ball on the right hand side, in acres of space. With several men to aim at in the box he delivered a poor cross which missed everyone. I don’t have any answers for that, given he was under no pressure and had so many men to aim at. Basic error.
On the other hand, Ramsey, while not setting the world alight, has looked good. He was technically brilliant against Southampton showing a lovely bit of skill and shot. The goal will go down as a Gervinho tap in, but it was all Ramsey. Similarly, even though he was overshadowed by Cazorla, he tried to make things happen in midfield against City and provided a delectable ball for Gervinho, who really should have scored. Wenger, like he always has to his players, has been loyal to Ramsey even through all the setbacks he’s had in recent years. Its nice to see the young Welshman repay the manager’s faith.
Stand out performer
This was a great team performance. OK so it wasn’t a masterclass, but let’s not forget we were away at the Champions home ground. We really shouldn’t be getting a look in, but we got a look and then some. The whole midfield really chipped in, however two defenders deserve a mention:
Mertesacker has played well and repayed the faith of the manager this season. I found it strange that he started every game ahead of Koscielny prior to this one, but he has done well, and made a few vital interceptions in this game and read the game quite well.
Carl Jenkinson is another who did exceptionally well at right back. After all our fullback problems of last season it is nice to see some depth in this area. I know a lot of Gooners were concerned with Sagna’s injury, however Jenkinson has deputised very well. I always saw potential in this kid. Even when he was given a baptism of fire early last season having to play United and Liverpool early on, the signs were there, and a year on he’s shown that he can match it with the best wingers, and also bomb forward with accurate crosses. One particular incident where he outran and outmuscled Lescott was one of the highlights for me.
Areas of concern
I am sick to death of Gervinho’s mediocre finishing. A draw was a fair result, but when you see teams like Manchester United, who don’t play well, but manage to steal a victory, you wish you could do the same. These “stolen victories” are what make the difference in the end. Gervinho had not one, not two, but three genuine chances to score a goal and probably win the game for us. Three schoolboy errors.
He received the perfect ball from Ramsey only for a terrible touch to let him down. Basic error. He was through on goal again in the second half, and it was a tight angle, but he really needed to make the keeper work. Finally at the death he was all on his own at the edge of the box, under no pressure whatsoever and he skyed his shot. These are basic errors, easy chances to put away the game. I am happy with the draw, but very angry that Gervinho couldn’t steal the win for us. This isn’t the first time Gervinho has shown his inept shooting, and in moments like this it is absolutely infuriating. I hope Wenger drops him for the next game, he needs to be taught a lesson.
Not as dangerous as I thought they would be. We dominated possession. They didn’t create that many chances, but when they did they were mighty close. Good to get them on a day when they weren’t at their best.
The numbers game
35 - Per Mertesacker interceptions in 21 appearances in 2011-2012 season
13 - Per Mertesaker interceptions in 5 appearances this season
7 - Per Mertesaker interceptions against Man City
“I was pleased with Sunday’s result because a point was the minimum we deserved when you consider what we put into the game. I was happy also with the quality of our display and our spirit, but I was also a bit frustrated because I feel there was an opportunity to pick up all three points. We had early chances and very late chances, especially when Gervinho missed the target from the edge of the box. Overall I hope that a result like this will reinforce our belief and confidence and reassure us about our potential in this league.”
The performance is good, but if we have ambitions to win the league, the chances Gervinho missed must be taken in future. It is way too competitive these days to get away with such rubbish.
Good promise and a great result away from home. The players are fit and have a good team spirit, everyone sharing the spotlight unlike last season. The defence and midfield has been exceptional, but a bit more care in front of goal will take our game to a title challenging level.