Delightful, Entertaining Hour 3 – 2 Vexing, Disjointed Half-Hour

For whatever it’s worth, we’ve a trophy in the bag. Without going hyper over a pre-season friendly tournament I’d like to note that we’ve won this tournament twice in the past and followed it with a commendable run in the League. Of course, there are those who deny that we put up a good fight last year (especially considering the injury problems) but that doesn’t change the fact that Arsenal were in the title race till April.

As always, there are some who will be happy with the positives and there are those who will focus on the negatives. In the last two days, Arsenal have given both sides enough to talk about.

I really enjoyed the first hour of the game against Celtic. Arsenal were camped in the opposition half for most of the period and could have scored half a dozen goals. The understanding between the players was quite good and it looked like a well synchronized team performance rather than a show dominated by a couple of stars.

The early goal helped. Arsenal were moving the ball quickly and the pressing was highly impressive as we recovered the ball almost at will. One such quick move saw Wilshere sliding the ball to Walcott who was clear on the edge of the box. I thought his touch took the ball away a bit and then he looked like he’d scuffed his shot. But Vela was alert and dived in at the back post to collect a tap-in.

I don’t know whether he meant it or not but the assist must have been good for Theo’s confidence. Similarly, the goal would have done the Mexican’s confidence no harm. I think we will need more from both these youngsters this season and they look like they are ready to deliver.

Arsenal continued to create some very good chances but some blocks, good keeping, and the bar kept us out. It was nice to see Vermaelen getting his striking boots on with a cracker from distance that was palmed away by the keeper. Wilshere’s impeccable technique was on display as he smashed a thunderous volley off the crossbar. The second goal arrived from another howitzer when Sagna belted a left footed drive that went straight through the keeper. On another day it might have been saved but I was happy that the Frenchman was willing to shoot and that too with his weaker foot. His technique is quite good and I’ve always wondered why he doesn’t do that more often, especially when we come up against a parked bus.

The second half started on the same note and we picked up the third five minutes in. Walcott made a good run down the right. For a moment he gave the impression that he won’t get his feet sorted but the youngster had the presence of mind to slide the ball to an onrushing Nasri who continued his high scoring form in pre-season.

Amongst the players, only JET looked a bit off-colour. Later Arsene said that the lad had been sick the previous day and that explains his lack of energy on the pitch. In defence, the Vermaelen-Djourou partnership was a little shaky but that is probably because they haven’t played together regularly.

Clichy and Sagna played well and looked like first choice players. I was impressed by the runs made by Clichy and his decision making was quite good as well. The French left back also made a brilliant tackle inside the box. In the middle, Frimpong and Wilshere continued with their good work while Rosicky was top class but a little casual at times. Even Almunia had a good game.

Celtic had threatened in the first half on a couple of occasions but poor finishing let them down. It continued when Samaras botched a penalty and I could almost sense that the Arsenal players thought the contest was well and truly over.

That was not the case and the game turned on its head after a few substitutions around the hour mark. Celtic found some confidence after Arsenal lost their shape. There were huge gaps all over the field and the visitors were able to maintain possession and build a few attacks. They got a lot of joy down the right and Gibbs will have to look at this game to see what went wrong. Obviously, Arshavin wasn’t really helping with his half-hearted efforts but Gibbs will have to live with that.

Celtic finally got on the score sheet from a set piece. The ball was played short and then rolled back outside the penalty area. A hopeful shot from distance cannoned off a couple of Arsenal players and fell kindly for the Celtic player a couple of yards from goal.

The Scottish side got a second when a simple ball down the right allowed their winger to get behind and deliver an easy cross. The striker arrived unmarked and duly obliged.

Once again our midfield was completely missing and the defence was really stretched. I guess Wilshere and Frimpong had played a lot of football by then and must’ve been really tired. Even then one does wonder why we cannot maintain the basic defensive shape and force the opposition to work hard for their goals. The second goal was a gift and it could have been worse if the keeper hadn’t done well.

If I’d been the manager I’d have asked Nasri, Wilshere, Walcott and Frimpong to play really close to the defence and practice defending with two banks of four. At least that way we’d have had some shape to the defending. Having these midfielders in no man’s land doesn’t help at either end of the pitch as the ball moves much faster than they can and they end up chasing shadows.

Despite the problems, the team held on for the win and that’s must be acknowledged. You could say these problems are going to repeat again or you could say winning while not playing well is the sign of a big team. It depends on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty.

I’d say this tournament was more positive than negative. We’ve some persistent, niggling problems that need to be worked upon but the youngsters have done well, newbies have shown they have the talent, and players like Walcott, Vela, and Nasri look like they can take their game to the next level.

When the manager says, “I’ve seen what I wanted to see”, it gives me great confidence. Arsene has openly acknowledged we didn’t do well at the end of both games so it’s safe to assume he will be working on it. Whether the answers are in the form of training, signings, or a combination of two will be seen in the coming days. So far, Wenger has given every indication that he is looking for players and I’m confident we will get one or two before the window closes.

You can watch the highlights here and if you just want to relive Wilshere’s volley see this video.

27 Responses to Delightful, Entertaining Hour 3 – 2 Vexing, Disjointed Half-Hour

  1. Jack says:

    good analysis of the match

  2. Ahmad says:

    Endin paragraphx da besht =)
    in Arsene we trust!

  3. santori says:

    Spot on Desi!

    Some work to be done in defense yet. It’s not just about buying or the defenders. The whole team has to move and close the space down as a unit.

    Of course Frimpong (who was more than decent) isn’t as experience as Song but I think the entire team has to have the lesson reinforced once again.

    Other thing is it was nice to see Chamakh get a couple of headers in. Looks like fullback and wide midfield men are finally putting in some crosses. If they keep at it, they will find him more than regularly.

    Chamakh does a good job moving into the box and making himself available.

    • desigunner says:

      I too enjoyed the headers by Chamakh even though they didn’t look threatening. It’s a good sign that other players recognize his strengths and are looking to use that. Agree with you on his movement as well.

  4. Meditation says:

    There are too many ball playing defenders in the team. They dont hold the shape defensively for that reason. Somebody like vidic is there for one thing and one thing only .To defend. You also know thats all thats on his mind.It might be seen as a good thing that he can shoot, but really that should be happening when the team needs help not when your controlling the game OR your leading 1 nil.When vermaelen does that it makes the team become individualistic. Playground mentality and because everybody isnt a seasoned pro there not filling in and rotating positions. Its either he loves to attack or he isnt confident in the players in front of him.Him then over compensating.Barcelona nou camp missed header in midfield or that last ditch tackle at celtics ground in the champions league. It was A GREAT tackle but he was running back from an adventure that could have went wrong Because in my eyes its dangerous the AMOUNT of runs he makes going forward. It would be dangerous if he was the defensive midfielder never mind your last line of defence . when you have wing backs its suicide to have attack minded defenders.Arsene needs to tone his attacking urges down.

    • Vermaelen says:

      It’s worth noting that this is the Emirates Cup, the rules are different. The more goals, the more points. Vermaelen doesn’t go forward as much during the last season or even the earlier pre-season games, just in these 2 emirate cup games.

      However, I agree with your point that in the league/champions league games he’ll need to tone down his attacking urges.

    • SomeRandomGunner says:

      I also hated those runs , most of the time it is unnecessary . Djourou made 2 such pointless runs and ended up in no mans land. Celtic got good chances on those occasions.

    • desigunner says:

      I think defenders need to know when to make those runs. It’s not that necessary when we are leading and/or when it’s really crowded.

      It makes a lot of sense if the play is pulled to one side and there is a huge gap down the middle. Then if the defender steps up he can really make a difference. By running into traffic the defender just causes a balance problem.

      It would also make sense if we are in the final 15-20 minutes and chasing the game.

      While talking about Sagna’s goal Arsene did mention that his primary job is to defend and the next one is to go forward and put crosses. Even last year when Vermaelen was off to a flyer Arsene did say his primary job was to defend. So we can assume Wenger knows these things and will have an eye out for such over enthusiastic mistakes.

  5. Meditation says:

    There is also not enough specialists in specific positions or they are being played in the wrong positions.Your physical movement is a manifestation of your thoughts. IF you think defensivly your movement will be restricted to the defensive parts of the game of football which then translates on to the pitch which then translates to disciplined positional awareness. Sometimes its not about being disciplined you just have to be there. That can happen if your that type of player who restricts yourself to the position you have been taught to play in or assigned too. I think that by buying 1 or 2 of the right players will sort the problem.Football is about chain reactions whether its a one two ,attacking principles, defending,an inspired moment ,the 12th man, the referees ,substitutions, cause and effect it all plays its role.A football team is a puzzle made up of pieces all creating a picture . one piece can define its worth. All though its the team that needs to defend better as a unit a moment can be inspiring . That moment could be the right defensive minded player bought that can inspire the others into a better unit.

    • desigunner says:

      The idea of specialists kind of contradicts the Total Football philosophy. In that sense I don’t think we need specialists but the players must know what their role is and how to maintain the balance.

      For instance, Song has the potential to go forward and make an attacking contribution but he controls those urges really well.

      I think with better understanding and communication the players we have can sort it all out. It is certainly related to the mindset and thoughts. I feel those thoughts should be about maintaining a balance and that would come with communication and awareness.

  6. Meditation says:

    sorry to keep leaving comments but just watched that wilshere volley and i know its corner but have a look where vermaelen is positioned after the shot has been taken. In my opinion he gets more involved than he needs to attacking wise and arsenal will continue to get caught unless they buy somebody who really just thinks about defending. Physical movement is a manifestation of our thoughts.

  7. sameep says:

    I think tiredness has been a factor more than some elementary problem for those late goals…You have made a good point brother…

  8. Nischit says:

    Excellent analysis. I can’t wait to see cesc, wilshere, nasri play together

  9. Vermaelen says:

    Both Wilshere and Frimpong played both games, with Wilshere playing the whole 180 and Frimpong 120. There is just no posible way for them to maintain the defensive shape for that long. I was at least looking for Frimpong to be replaced by Nordveit, which didn’t happen. It would at least give some fresh legs and prevent tireless/injuries.(Note my point yesterday about rotations) Hopefully it’s just because Wenger wanted to see more of the youngsters.

    • desigunner says:

      I was surprised Arsene didn’t bring anyone on. Maybe he just wanted to test these players to see how they react.

  10. SomeRandomGunner says:

    Nice post Desi. Djourou was clumsy whole game , but he is playing after a year , he should not be close to our first or second choice.

    I thought the reason for the second goal or the series of attacks through left was because of Arshavin and Frimpong. Arshavin totally left Gibbs on his own against 2 , Gibbs simply did not know who to pick and where to stand he got caught because of that. In that case i would have expected Frimpong to help Gibbs out , but he was too far from Gibbs and was not looking to help. He was covering our full back for 1 hour well, i guess he got too tired after that.

    • desigunner says:

      I think the problem Gibbs faced in this instance was similar to the ones Clichy had last year. While others could have done better … if the goal does go in the general perception will be that the full back was at fault. Two or three such moments in quick succession and we will have plenty of experts calling for his head… It’s sad but that’s the way it will be.

      I feel our full backs will have to adapt a little more this season and how they manage will be critical to the results.

  11. Lebenglese says:

    Always a good read Desi. I thought Djourou looked quite clumsy too, but it could be attributed to the fact he has been away from competitive action for a year. At best he should be seen as 4th choice. I do like Kos though, and he does seem to like the aggressive side of things too, a very decent signing in my opinion and looked great when playing with Vermaelen.

    I do have serious doubts about Theo though and i disagree that he looks like he is ready to deliver this season. A few flashes of brilliance/luck every now and then is not what we envisioned for this young man. In my eyes he still looks very clumsy with the ball at his feet like he is always in a rush. He still always plays stupid useless crosses well before anyone can get in to support him (due to his pace probably) but what pisses me off the most is that when he actually does have support his lay off is either to short, played behind the support, or over hit. He has no composure, yet is capable of moments of brilliance (Liverpool champions league run). I am baffled?

    • desigunner says:

      I think Theo is still very young. Even Ronaldo was a joker at 21. When I say make a difference this season I don’t mean he will be the star of the team but he will do much more than he did last year.

      Our strikers should know that they can be 5 yards ahead of Theo and he will catch up with them in a flash. Often people can’t keep up with him and that leaves him without options.

      It would be interesting if we tactically leave our strikers in an off side position and use them via Theo. That will make life tough for opposition defenders. There are other ways I feel we can make better tactical use of his talents but haven’t done so yet.

      He needs to do better when gets more chances no doubt but I can see him improving with experience. Crossing and getting on the end of crosses needs two players on the same wavelength. It’s not easy unless they get to play together for a while.

  12. Samuel says:

    Arsenal players still cannot play for the full 90 minutes plus injury time, that,s pretty obvious as shown against Celtic ,so when will the players be made aware of this as we,ll get caught out too many times over a full season ?

  13. Cujo says:

    U people take pre-season too seriously. Remember last season? We lost 2-0 to Valencia in our final pre-season game, then beat everton 6-1 away. AW is testing the waters during pre-season, playing combinations. Plus, the players arent fully match fit yet, so the late goals conceded are to be expected. The only concern i have is defending set pieces. Its a real and ever present threat to our title aspirations. Needs to be SORTED!

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t really care about results in pre-season but if we repeat the same mistakes that cost us big time last year then there is some cause of concern. One of those is defending on set-pieces. Another is defending the wings and crosses. Third is breaking counter attacks.

  14. Manav says:

    I was so impressed with the barrage of long-range shots that the Arsenal battery unleashed at the Celtic goal. I just wanna see them do that more often! As you said, it can prove to be our most potent weapon when we come up against ‘parked buses’.
    Clichy’s tackle inside the ‘D’ showed the experience he’s gained at Arsenal over the years. It was a tackle by a defender who has, like good scotch, taken time to age & mature.
    Celtic’s 2nd goal spoke volumes about our organizational disintegration in the final half-hour. I was forced to recall that fateful game at the DW Stadium. Something needs to be done. Just why can’t we defend in numbers??? ‘park the bus’ when it’s needed I say! Players should know how to stick close & allow little room to the opposition. I guess that’s something that our players still haven’t learned. Hope they do so ASAP ’cause we all know how brutally unkind the ‘best league in the world’ can be.
    From what Wenger has been saying, I think it’s safe to assume that one more center-back is on his way to north London.

  15. […] Delightful, Entertaining Hour 3 – 2 Vexing, Disjointed Half-Hour For whatever it’s worth, we’ve a trophy in the bag. Without going hyper over a pre-season friendly tournament I’d […] […]

  16. why arsenal not play for 90 min ?

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