After shooting ourselves in the foot against Chelsea, it was time to pick ourselves up and get into the heat of battle again, this time in the trenches of the European Champions League. While we got the result we wanted and won the war, there were a few battles lost along the way, battles we would normally win. A win is a win, however, a solid foundation is required, not paper over the cracks.
The manager did not make any major changes to the side that lost to Chelsea. The official reason for Mertesacker being out this time was that he had a virus. Lets hope he can recover in time for the West Ham, because god knows we’ll need his height for the inevitable barrage of crosses which will come in to try and meet Andy Carroll’s head.
The only change was a forced one with Diaby having yet another injury setback, Coquelin was given his chance. While the young man has done great things when called upon by the manager, he was ineffective in this particular game and lacked the presence and spark he usually has. I wouldn’t hesitate to start him again however because I know he is capable of producing the type of grindy performance that is required in front of the back four. It is a shame that the Diaby-Arteta partnership which has looked so good has been put on hold.
Stand out performer
Once again I’d like to make special mention to Jenkinson and Gibbs, once again doing what was required, bombing forward with an attacking threat, while sound with their defensive duties. Can’t ask for much more. These boys have had a great month or so which will do their confidence a world of good.
Man of the match will probably have to go to Gervinho. This is the man who doesn’t like to score easy goals. He will miss virtual tap ins, but will have no problems scoring with a Bergkamp-style turn and shot against Chelsea, nor is a 25 yard pile driver against Olympiacos a problem. His goal opened the scoring for us and set up the second goal. It is clear the manager has a lot of faith in him, making him our first choice centre forward, and slowly but surely he is repaying the faith. Consistency as always will be key as the season progresses.
Areas of concern
What is going on at the back? Our first half was a real struggle and a better side may have punished us and put the game beyond us by half time.
Both Vermaelen and Mannone had some heart stopping moments with some abysmal passes straight to their players right out of defence. How the opposition didn’t make the most of these opportunities, I really don’t know. The goal conceded also raised alarm bells. The player on the left seemed to have all the time in the world to pick his spot and play in the cross. Then the header was neatly tucked away with their striker virtually half way between Vermaelen and Koscielny. Who is marking him? There’s two of you, and only one of him. Who is closing down the cross?
There was also another chance earlier in the half when the ball also found its way between our centre halves only for their striker to inexplicably blaze over the bar from point blank range.
The passing game as a whole in the first half wasn’t anything to write home about. Coquelin struggled to get into the game. When a partnership/understand like Arteta and Diaby is broken, it is often hard to adjust, especially given Diaby is more of a box to box type player, and Coquelin is more of a traditional destroyer. The dominant performance that was expected in the first half didn’t materialise. We were a mess.
It was a poor first half.
The opposition/Wenger’s (Bould’s) Wisdom
We’ve played these guys a few times in the Champions League and we know them reasonably well. The home leg never used to cause us any concern, but this time they took the game to us, shame that their finishing let them down.
Bould – “We have got back on track, and we’re hoping we will get some confidence for the weekend [against West Ham] – and that will be a tough game”
It wasn’t a convincing victory however, it will give us the confidence we need to get back on track in the Premier League.
Still lots of work to do, but pleasing to get back on to winning ways.