It’s not often that Arsene Wenger comes out and says we were closer to losing than winning. It’s even rarer when he says that we had technical problems. To be fair, Le Boss got is spot on and deserves some credit for saying a lot in few words. It’s a different matter that these problems should have been foreseen and it’s more down to him than anyone else that we played the way we did.
The single most important observation from the game was that Denilson failed in the role of Song. I don’t want to comment that he is not fit for that role or that he is not a good enough player. One game with a makeshift midfield is certainly not enough to make such a sweeping judgment. But as far as this game goes, he was a disaster. How much of it was down to his fitness and whether he has been rushed back or not is something we might know in the coming days.
Song has the ability to take the ball from the defenders and move it forward. It allows the others to push on forward. He also has the ability to take on and hold off an opponent if he is put under pressure. Denilson was not able to do this and put the defense under tremendous pressure while encouraging the visitors to press high up in our half.
The number of times Nasri had to drop deep was a sign of how difficult the defenders were finding it to move the ball. Another sign was the number of passes they exchanged amongst themselves when the opposition was pressing high up. These are things that give the opponents a lot of confidence and have an adverse effect on our belief.
Denilson was caught in possession by Saha and he was able to get a shot on goal that was deflected for a corner by a Gallas block. The first goal came from this corner when Osman of all people was given a clean run into the box and got a free header in the six yard box with Gallas and Vermaelen marking Cahill and Fellaini. With acres of free space in our box, it was not clear whether we were marking men or playing a zonal defense.
Gallas could have attacked the ball better once he realized that the man he was marking was not going to get the ball. Almunia should have known better than trying to come for the ball when Saha was clearly in his way. These are small mistakes that occur often but don’t always result in a goal, so they go unnoticed. After the goal Gallas was having a go at Ramsey, I am not sure if it was for not marking Osman or for not defending his zone. I guess it was the former.
The fact remains that our defending from set pieces is quite poor and without Song we are weaker on this front. The next few games, especially the one with Bolton, will demand serious improvement.
We got back into the game through a lucky deflection that came about due to a positive forward burst by Denilson. A couple of aspects that we have improved on are our shooting from outside the box and having men in the box. Before this game 31 percent of our goals had come from outside the box, which is the highest in the league. Fortune favors the brave is certainly applicable here and Denilson does deserve credit for trying his luck. I think he is a much better player when he plays with a stronger DM like Song.
In the second half we looked more dominant and I had a feeling that we will score the second. Arsene brought on Rosicky and Vela and there wasn’t much else he could have done. Against Villa and West Ham we had enough bench strength to change the game, but this time the injuries took their toll. We were in the ascendancy and looking to be more positive when we conceded a naïve and stupid goal.
Arshavin took a corner and like most of our set-pieces the delivery wasn’t special. After some juggling in the box the ball fell to an Everton player just outside the box. He could have started a counter attack but Denilson got a good lunge in to win the ball. Unfortunately, the Brazilian stayed on the ground after this challenge as the ball fell to Sagna who played it to Rosicky and made a good run on the outside. At this point Rosicky tried a more difficult pass towards Diaby in stead of playing it to Sagna. This pass was intercepted and Cahill received the ball around the halfway line. Traore was the only man with him as Sagna had made a run forward.
Cahill held up the ball as Nasri ran towards him while Pienaar made a lung bursting run from deep within his own half. Denilson was still struggling to get up as the South African ran past him. Our half was completely empty and it was easy for Cahill to play it in the open space. Pienaar showed good control, composure and technique to chip Almunia. I thought Almunia’s technique was good but the Everton midfielder showed his class.
There are many questions here. Why did Denilson continue playing when he was clearly struggling? Why didn’t Traore tackle or foul Cahill? Why didn’t Nasri have the awareness to see who was making a run behind him? At the end of the day, these things happen and it’s very difficult to pin the blame on any one person bar the manager.
As Everton maintained pressure in our half, it looked like they could get the third and Arsenal had given up. The team deserves credit for trying till the end and snatching a point. That says a lot for the spirit and desire of the team and will hold us in good stead in days to come.
Everton can’t complain about the deflected goals as neither team deserved a win. Arsenal created as many chances as the visitors but neither goal keeper had to make any great saves except perhaps a late one from Almunia when Everton continued playing as Denilson collapsed on the pitch.
Everton can be blamed for their spirit and they can question why Denilson was playing when he was obviously hurt. More importantly, we have to hope that the injury is not very serious and won’t keep the Brazilian out for too long.
Almunia: Could have done better for the first goal. Overall, not too different from his recent outings.
Sagna: Had a decent game without being spectacular.
Gallas: Made a few mistakes but struggled mainly due to a weak link with the midfield. Needs to show better body language and communication on the pitch.
Vermaelen: Nothing to complain about and nothing worth writing home either.
Traore: I thought he was instructed to stay deeper and not go forward a lot. Has the best crossing ability in the team but doesn’t have the required defensive technique and positional sense. Can’t really criticize a third choice player who hasn’t had many chances.
Denilson: One of his worst games in an Arsenal shirt. Hopefully, he will find his fitness and game soon.
Diaby: Was not clear of his role. Doesn’t have the passing ability that would allow him to play deep. Holds on to the ball too often and affects the pace of the team. His strength is in direct running in the opposing areas but just couldn’t get his game going. Made some good tackles late on.
Ramsey: Missing in Action. I think he had a more advanced role and suffered as the link from defense never worked.
Nasri: Worked hard but suffered like the rest of the creative players.
Eduardo: Not enough supply.
Arshavin: Was in some good positions but the ball never came. Diaby in particular was guilty of not playing him in on more than one occasion.
Subs: Rosicky was lively but is some way away from being at his best. Vela didn’t have much time to make an impact. The fact that we had to bring Merida on shows that we are down to bare bones.
To conclude, I don’t agree with anyone who says that this game was a disaster as far as the title challenge goes. On the other hand, we cannot ignore this as just a bad day at the office either. Wenger will have to ask himself some serious questions and make sure that we find the right balance very soon. Hopefully, Cesc will be back and will stay fit for the season.