What a relief to get through in the FA Cup, it was getting tense up at the Amex stadium, however, we eventually prevailed. While the glass may appear half full, and filling, there is a significant leak in this glass which is of concern. Goals are still being leaked and it is of concern.
The team that started this game was a ‘semi-first team’ if you like with the likes of Cazorla, Walcott, Sagna, Gibbs and Wilshere being given a rest. We had a completely different midfield triumvirate than usual with Diaby, Ramsey and Rosicky being deployed in the engine room, while in defence the wingbacks Santos and Jenkinson were given a run. Giroud played central striker.
I thought the midfield and attacking third were sensational. Giroud in particular had an outstanding physical presence about him and really led from the front in a man of the match display. He shrugged off defenders with ease and scored a match winning brace. His first goal was of the highest quality a lethal shot from outside the box into the top corner. The move was started all the at the back with a great save from Szczesny which led to the sort of counter attack that Arsenal have made famous during the Wenger era. His second was a combination of great control and physical strength from an Abou Diaby ball.
The midfield did very well for what was essentially our second-string midfield. Rosicky worked his socks off and was always positive, trying to find that killer ball, and was key in the first goal. Diaby showed signs of his ability with a great ball to provide Giroud for the second, and Ramsey once again reveled in his central role with a disciplined, no nonsense performance. The depth was important, with the score at 2-2 we had a formidable bench to ensure we’d get the killer goal. Wilshere, Walcott and Co came on to finish the job. It was great to see the depth of the squad present itself in such a way.
The attack is all well and good, we saw a second string attack combine well and produce three quality goals, but because of the leakage at the back, it was almost to no avail. The leakage must stop. Szczesny for all his heroics with his superb save had to take responsibility for the first goal. Took no ownership of his six yard area, and our central defence was caught out too easily by a training ground move of the short corner and change of angle. The second goal was also embarrassing. I don’t know what Diaby was doing or where he was pointing but between him and Santos, one of them had to challenge the winger who played the ball in, it was ludicrous that nothing was done. Santos overall did himself no favours today, and I think his time at the club is fast running out. If Gibbs stays fit, don’t be surprised if this was Santos’ last game in an Arsenal shirt. Mertesacker again looked out of position for both goals. While he probably wasn’t primary cause of either goal, you do feel he could have done better to stop a bad situation getting worse. Worse still he was captain for the match and should have taken more leadership.
I don’t want to be too negative, it is never easy no matter what anyone says, just ask Liverpool and Sp*rs who were eliminated the day after we got through. There’s always a bit of pressure about knockout football, and sometimes a bit of luck is required. We came out in the second half with a purpose and although Walcott’s goal took a wicked deflection, you do feel on the balance of play we deserved that luck and deserved to win the game.
We have Liverpool next and I am confident we will have some goals in us especially at home, but I am equally worried about our defensive efforts and how Suarez could potentially punish us with the soft defending on show against Brighton. I’ll tell you one thing though with Gibbs in the side we look a much better unit overall, he marshalls his left side well, and also gets forward and provides handy crosses. This will protect us on the left side I’m sure, but there is the problem down the middle. With Suarez so nimble and quick will the manager opt to leave Mertesacker on the bench and start with Koscielny (with Vermaelen) again? This decision has backfired in big games this season such as games against Chelsea and Man City at home, and I hope the manager makes a more informed decision as to who starts in central defence. Mertesacker hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory, however, Vermaelen and Koscielny have arguably been worse. This is a vital decision, for a vital game in the race for fourth place.
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