Arsenal 5 – 1 Shakhtar Donetsk: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

What a game! I don’t think I’ve enjoyed any other game this season as I enjoyed this one. The wins against Blackpool and Braga were fantastic and there were some other entertaining displays but I felt this game was the best exhibition of football.

For this I must congratulate Shakhtar for their contribution. I thought they were excellent defensively in the first half except for the mistake by the goalkeeper. The visitors showed how to defend by excellent pressing and reading the game. They denied us space in their half and limited the number of chances we could create.

I was also impressed by their attempts to play the ball on the ground. The composure shown by their defenders and the keeper while passing the ball amongst themselves was worth appreciating. In the same vein, Arsenal’s pressing high up in the visitors’ half was a joy to behold.

I know many pundits in England don’t often get the beauty of the game. Unless the ball is fizzing around in the penalty area it seems to them that the attacking team isn’t doing anything. Similarly, a lack of flying tackles makes them feel that defending has been easy. Perhaps this led many to comment at half time that the game was being played at a slow pace and nothing was happening. The commentator was also surprised by the possession stats because he failed to notice how much Shakhtar were trying to play and how effectively Arsenal were negating their efforts and vice-versa.

But if you love proper football you’d have seen this was an exciting game played at a high tempo. This is reflected in the passing statistics. Arsenal completed 598 out of 699 passes while the visitors completed 502 out of 610. You can’t get those kind of numbers without excellent technical quality and a high tempo. I’ve no doubt Shakhtar will provide a much sterner tests in the comfort of their stadium with their fans behind them.

In the end, I thought Arsenal’s superior quality in the final third and a little hesitancy on the part of the visitors made a big difference. The scoreline was flattering but they players will tell you it wasn’t an easy win by any stretch.

I was quite happy with the patience we showed in the first half. Shakhtar were working hard defensively and we were probing, waiting for a mistake. The first goal came from a corner and it was good to see us get value from a set piece. Nasri’s delivery was quite good and I think it was Squillaci who got the first header and directed it to the back post. The Keeper stretched to collect when his defender was about to clear and dropped the wet ball. Djourou was on hand to poke it away from the Keeper and Song finished, albeit with some luck.

This is the kind of luck you make with constant pressure. I’d also give credit to Djourou for being alert and to Song for being opportunistic. The Cameroonians first attempt was an ambitious back-flick (not really sure how to describe that attempt). I think he tried that because he didn’t have time to land on his right and swing his left foot at the ball, which was to his left and behind his left foot. The defender made a sliding block but unfortunately for him, the ball hit Song and bounced over the line.

The game didn’t change much after the goal. Arsenal continued to probe and Shakhtar maintained their discipline. The second goal came from another forward run by Song, this time on the right flank. His cross was deflected towards Nasri at the top of the box and the Frenchman showed good control with his right foot before finishing with a blast from his left.

After the second goal Arsenal relaxed a bit and it became easier for the Ukrainians to bring the ball out. I was happy with our defensive shape and the way we limited their chances. I don’t think Fabianski was tested even once during the first half.

We got the third when Luis Adriano did what he might have seen countless times in Premier League games. He wrestled Djourou to the ground. This being a group game in Champions League the penalty was rightly given. Had it been a Premiership game or the later stages of this competition (as Chelsea found out against Inter last year), such a rugby tackle might have been deemed acceptable. Fabregas scored with a perfect strike giving the Keeper no chance even though he guessed the direction.

The best goal was the fourth one. Chamakh played a deft flick into the path of an onrushing Wilshere who exchanged a quick one-two with Rosicky before dinking it over the Keeper. Chamakh got the reward for his hard work when he was found by a delightful chip from Nasri. The Moroccan couldn’t believe he was onside but had enough time to glance over at the assistant before finishing the job. In this case the commentator was right; he should have finished first and looked at the linesman later. But I’m not complaining.

It looked like we were going to keep the clean sheet and I was really happy about that, even more than the goals we’d scored. But we conceded late from a crisp Eduardo finish that was applauded by both sets of fans. I thought Squillaci could have done better there. He tried to close the gap between his legs but a sliding block would have been a better option.

This result should all but confirm qualification and another home win over Partizan will probably secure top spot. Hopefully, Wenger will be able to rotate his players for the remaining two away group games.

Individual Performances

Fabianski: One decent save, couldn’t have done anything for the goal, not much else to do.

Eboue: Decent defensive shift, made some forward bursts, and contributed to the shape of our team. I was a little worried when he made runs from right back to the centre and then down the middle or even the left side.

Squillaci: Might have done better for the goal we conceded. Fairly strong defensive performance on the whole.

Djourou: Vital contribution for the first goal. Good defensive presence.

Clichy: Excellent. No mistakes at the back, some driving runs, a couple of good crosses, nice interceptions and tackling.

Song: Another game where he kept darting from box to box. Worked hard, scored a good goal, created another, good interceptions and defensive presence. I thought he also made a couple of mistakes. His slip in a dangerous position led to the Fabianski save. On another occasion he wasn’t aware of the ball at his feet right on the edge of our box.

Wilshere: Continues to impress. Good off the ball movement, passing, reading of the game, and great goal. Must curb his tackling instincts. Many will surely give him MotM. I’ll put him second.

Cesc: Was the key to our first half. Dropped deep often and controlled the game. Didn’t have any of his trademark defence splitting passes but that was more due to the excellent work by Shakhtar. Attempted 78 passes in 64 min. That shows how important he was against the visitors who were putting us under pressure. My man of the match, even though it was not an eye catching performance, it was a critical one.

Rosicky: Wanted to impress and did just that. Good work up and down the flank, did his share of defensive tracking, neat passing and movement, some excellent turns. I also liked the runs he made from right to the centre. Got the assist for Wilshere goal, could also have won a penalty in the first half.

Chamakh: I’m getting tired of saying how good he was. This is his sixth consecutive Champions League game in which he’s scored. Excellent work rate, good presence in and around the box, lovely flick that led to the fourth goal.

Nasri: Did well on the wings although I’d have liked a little more directness, supported Clichy well, good corner and a couple of good crosses, well taken goal and a delightful assist for Chamakh.

Subs: Denilson was energetic and did a good job defensively, Theo and Arshavin didn’t get many chances. I was surprised Arshavin was even sent out on the pitch. I’d have preferred Gibbs getting a few minutes.

61 Responses to Arsenal 5 – 1 Shakhtar Donetsk: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. VR says:

    great showing, lovely to watch

  2. Phil23 says:

    Great article Desi. Great match! That felt like a key performance to me. Djourou impressed me and seems to have recovered from his long injury. Lets hope he starts a run of form when called upon. I would like nothing more than a four way battle for the centre back slots. Song is already improving in his new role but I hope hes slightly less adventurus against City. I hope more than anything that Denilson gets some more play time because he adds a lot to our game. Denilson can pick the tempo of a game up with his wonderful linking runs in which he rarely loses possesion. He is also one of our better deep playmakers which compliments his long shots. Denilson always seems to be present in the games we dominate by about 6 goals. Is this because he plays weaker teams or because he helps the team? Anyway, I have a feeling Diaby will start against City because of his pure physical presence as well as for set pieces.
    Great article again!

    • desigunner says:

      I think in this game Cesc and Wilshere did a great job of covering when Song moved forward. I left that out because the article was getting quite long. If the midfielders can develop that level of understanding and do it on a consistent basis then Song going forward won’t be that risky.

      Denilson has played in some of the easier games and that too often when the game is pretty much over. Will be interesting to see how he does if he gets a start in a big game.

      I think Diaby and Arshavin will come in place of Wilshere and Rosicky at the weekend. Other changes will probably depend on fitness.

      • Furovich says:

        I hope Denilson comes in for Wilshere and Rosicky keeps his place with the possible introduction of Walcott off the bench. I wonder if Nasri’s move to the left hand side is paving the way for Arshavin’s relegation to the bench while also accommodating Walcott’s return.

      • desigunner says:

        Interesting point. Arsene might just rotate Nasri, Arshavin, Cesc, Walcott, and Rosicky if all of them stay fit.

  3. VR says:

    Would have liked to see Bendtner get some much needed playing time though

    • Phil23 says:

      I agree he needs playing time so that he can regain sharpness within the next couple of weeks. I’m not sure what the story is with Gibbs. He is not being used much at all. Why play Clichy four plus games in a row when Gibbs can fill in admirably? It just breeds self doubt I think. Fabianski looks every bit ready to accept being the number one keeper. i think Arsene should start him against City no doubt.

    • desigunner says:

      Based on what Arsene said after the last game I have a feeling Bendtner will need time. I was surprised he was on the bench and Vela played the reserve game. Doing it the other way might have been better for both.

  4. VR says:

    I am quietly optimistic that we can win at Man City on Sunday. The back four will be the same, I think Cesc, Song and Diaby will start in midfield. Upfront there is a bit of competition starting up. I would like to see Walcott, Chamack, and Nasri, but I think Wenger will stick with Arsharvin and Walcott come off the bench. We will see. Go Gunners !!!

  5. HexyDre says:

    Once again, I agree with everything written here, everything except giving Cesc MoTM. Like you said, most people will give it to Jack and I won’t think twice before doing the same too.
    Great game, I can’t wait for the post match videos to pop up on ATVO so I can relish the 11 min long highlights over dinner.
    Cheers to a treble winning season!

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks. I can understand why Jack seems the obvious choice for MotM. No arguments there, just that my personal favourite is the man who can control the play even it’s not spectacular.

  6. RockyLives says:

    Good report but I think you’re being hard on Squillaci over Ed’s goal. It was a truly exquisite finish by Eduardo – he used his body movement to make it look as if the ball would go one way (the direction Squilly tried to block) but side footed it the other way. A beautiful dummy and a classy finish from a player who will go down in the Arsenal history books as a lost opportunity.

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks. I agree it was a fantastic finish. My theory is that Squillaci covered a lot of space vertically and very little horizontally. A slide would have helped him block a great deal of width thereby making it harder for Eduardo. Still I tried not to blame the defender but to suggest what I thought could be an improvement in future games.

  7. Dave says:

    The author didn’t notice that Clichy has made a big mistake in the Eduardo’s goal. He forgot his position and wandered too high for nothing, so the Arsenal’s defense was totally exposed.

    • desigunner says:

      I’m sorry but that’s criticism for the sake of criticism. Full-backs have a right to go forward and Clichy did a great job of pressing high up and creating chances late on. Someone should have covered for him and if anyone’s at fault, it’s the midfield and central defenders.

      We had more bodies but a couple of them were taking it easy.

  8. craszygunner says:

    I am happy I am not the only one who noticed that Clichy had wondered forward when we were 5-0 up. I truth was I saw the goal coming and I knew it would eventually come through the left flank and it did.
    When one is 3 goals up it is more important to keep a clean sheet than score a 4th goal.

    It was the only sour point of the game as once again Clichy showed poor judgment he could have come back to his postion when he lost the ball rather than marauding.

    Still I am happy it was Eduardo that got the goal and happer still at the response from the emirates.

  9. Arsenal4 says:

    Lovely match. Though I almost fell asleep in the first half until Nasri cracker.
    Typical Arsenal game, great control of the game, patient and also positive in defense. I watched the Chelsea game, in comparison Chelsea didn’t really play that good yet superb goalkeeping and confident defense win the match for them. What Arsenal can learn from Chelsea is how incisive & quick they took the ball to the final third and making chances. I thought in that first half Arsenal despite dominant possession lack of that. I am guessing the absence of the like Arshavin and Walcott, who can make run and room for Cesc or Jack to find was evidence in that first half.

    However, after the 2nd goal, yes it was the most enjoyable game of Arsenal this season. Wilshere was mesmerizing and I love Chamakh, i would give MOTM to either. I chuckled when Chamakh scored, proud when Whilshere on the score sheet and Eduardo made the night perfect. Fantastic game! More of this please this weekend at citeh.

    Things can only get better with Arsenal – I am looking forward the reunion of Cesc, RVP, Jack, Chamakh, Nasri, Walcott & AA … that should be super mouthwatering when all fit and at top form

    • desigunner says:

      The difference was that in the Chelsea game Spartak were the home team and they were attacking. So it gave Chelsea a lot of space for quick counters. Shakhtar were defending and we didn’t have that kind of space for quick breaks. Let’s see how it goes in the return game.

    • santori says:

      …not to mention Ramsey

      • santori says:

        BTW, we could improve the speed at which we counter attack from the moment we turn the ball over.

        In which case, we have another game in our Arsenal.

        Currently, the player bringing out the ball still seems to have to wait too long for others to join him in attack.

  10. Zgunner says:

    Just a little shout out to all the pessimists that have been bitching and moaning week in and week out… about a player, or Wenger, about transfers, whatever…

    Tonight you have NOTHING to say.. You have been weighing the team down with your heavy vibe, your underestimation of ARSENAL, and you harassment of your own players.. putting pressure and strain, and at times even shattering their confidence..

    I think it ends here. You see… it’s a MUCH STRONGER squad than your peanuts thought… and you have A TEAM, in which no player can be SINGLED OUT.

  11. desigunner says:

    I guess most of us missed the fact that Song was offside for the first goal, just noticed that on the highlights. I wish we get such luck in bigger games because these games we’ll win anyway.

  12. reo says:

    Get rid of Diaby, the slowing factor, then we can see again the fluidity of this Arsenal team.

    • La Shiz says:

      How foolish of you sir. Diaby’s holding abilities in midfield are second to none. His first touch and close control are amazing and give the team a great sense of confidence and fluidity. He slows down the tempo of the game only when the other team is trying to speed it up. He dictates the tempo. He keeps possession of the ball until the attacking members are in a better position to receive a pass. No other player in the Arsenal team can do this job better than Diaby.

      • Samuel says:

        Agree with you mate but he needs other Arsenal players to play with ,one two,s etc. which Song has done before ,now Chamakh needs to work with Diaby in training and get the passing right ?

    • critic says:

      get rid of reo arsenal…

  13. adam says:


    completely agree with your analysis of rosicky.
    excellent player and plays his best football when center though. He’s a great player and i hope he plays against man city, maybe an impact sub with walcott to win the game?
    rosicky is a legend!!!

    • La Shiz says:

      Its amazing how we suddenly have players lining up to take the central role. One is reserved for Cesc for all time, except when he’s injured. For the other, we have Wilshere, Rosicky, Diaby, even Nasri says he would prefer to play in the center instead of the wing.

    • desigunner says:

      I’m a huge Rosicky fan but since his comeback from injury his work rate has not been same as before. I’m not sure he can last 90 mins in a big game. So a sub role seems much better.

  14. amit says:

    just waiting for ramsey, kosi and verminator to get back…n den we have the best team in the world

  15. kunlexy says:

    It was a great match but not a perfect one, there’s still room for improvement from clichy,song and squillaci. I don’t think arshavin is ready for the citeh game yet, like to see rosciky starts. Can anyone tell me why gibbs isn’t playing? A very nice game and lookin forward to more of it in subsequent matches especially against citeh. Up Gunners….

  16. Samuel says:

    What game was the Desi Gunner watching as Shakhtar Dontask (who )were woeful and negative throughout the first half constantly going backwards whenever Arsenal pushed forward.The man of the match ,for me,Alex Song ,powerful in his roving role ,with Rosicky,Cesc and Nasri getting Arsenal forward ,Chamakh holding the ball well and creating Wilshere,s goal with a neat flick on to Jack,to Rosicky and a one two through ball back to him from Tomas,The midfield of Cesc ,Samir and Rosicky was magic so let,s hope this trio plays again versus Man.City ,the weekend ?

  17. Aussie Jack says:

    I doubt I`ll get much support on this one but I always feel we`re getting somewhere when Rosicky is on one wing and Nasri on the other, I adore both.
    However, it`s Walcott that is my concern. Van Persie is unreliable, Bendtner can be good on his day but we need to decide on two regular main line strikers. Chamakh needs rest from time to time and I`ve forgotten Asharvin. Depending on the game plan I can see Walcott using his pace up the middle as centre forward and make no doubt about it he can strike hard.
    Any one agree?

    • critic says:

      wenger agrees with u that’s why he is now playing walcott as a second striker whenever he can…he has 3 players their, so playing wally in the middle is not easy decision

    • desigunner says:

      I think Arsene is giving Theo some chances to show he can do it. I’m not sure he can start in that role because his strength is in the runs he makes and when we already push a team back, Walcott playing centrally will struggle due to his height and relatively weaker technique.

      We’d have to bring the play out from the final third to the middle third for Walcott to have some space in behind. He could be a good option against teams that want to press us higher up the pitch.

  18. brian says:

    Love to believe all you write but quite frankly Shaktar were woeful.They were as poor as Braga and I just hope that all the praise we are getting for last night is not followed by similar performances that followed the Braga game against Sunderland,West Brom etc

  19. venky says:

    Good thoughtful article,an average English fan would never understand this.I was so impressed by shaktar’s technical level particularly in defence. I thought Bendy should have come on in place of Arshavin. Sometimes I think that Roscisky and Nasri should be allowed to play in the central attacking midfield for a period of say 10-15 minutes within a match by rotation,this fulfills their wish and it also would of great help if cesc happens to miss matches once again. I can hear someone mentioning Jack,but whats the harm in trying and I am pretty sure thy would do a great job

    • desigunner says:

      I think these guys do get chances to come central. For instance Nasri got the assist for the fifth goal from a central position. Similarly, Rosicky made some runs to the middle. Nasri collected the ball centrally for the goal he scored.

      I think these players keep moving constantly and everyone gets into all kinds of positions without restrictions.

  20. pires is king says:

    Great write up, as usual Desi. To play devil’s advocate, and from one who thinks Diaby has immense talent (my jersey has his name), I have to agree with Reo’s basic point- I think that Diaby’s tendency for too many touches and slower initial movements is differently paced from the likes of Rosicky, Wilshere, Nasri, and Chamakh. This is a generalization, I know, but I think it’s accurate. It’s Diaby who needs to change a little- no doubt it is well within his skill. Great day for the Gunners! I think Sunday will be ours.

    • desigunner says:

      I feel Diaby doesn’t see a pass as soon as some of the others do. His strength is on the ball i.e holding the ball, turning players, running with the ball using his long strides, and so on.

      He will have to improve his passing, especially in the final third. And he will have to improve consistency wise, there are days when he just doesn’t turn up.

      On the whole he is an excellent player but he needs to take those few steps towards greatness.

  21. arsenalist says:

    desi…. we have another record …..chamakh is the lonly player who scored in 6 games consecutives in champions league……lat 3 games with bordeaux….and 3 with arsenal….brillant

    • desigunner says:

      hopefully that will continue in the coming games. It could be that Arsene gave him an extra ten minutes just to get a goal, otherwise I was thinking he will be subbed at 60 mins or with Cesc. BTW I did mention he’s scored in six CL games running.

  22. Tim says:

    A good, professional performance, with energy to spare for Sunday. (Plus City will have two days less rest than us.)

    Three highlights for me:

    1. The ovation after Eduardo’s goal. Sheer class.

    2. Nasri’s deft chipped through ball for Chamakh’s goal – what golfers would call having “soft hands”. Sublime touch.

    3. Jack’s goal. Great link-up play from Chamakh, piercing one-two, ice-cool finish.

  23. drvics (mumbai gooner) says:

    As always, I agree with most of what you said Desi. Shaktar were very good in the first half and if it hadnt been for some bad luck, the game could have been a lot closer. It wasnt surprising to know that Shaktar hadnt let in more than 1 goal per game this season (& had kept clean sheets in the their earlier 2 UCL matches). Their defending is the modern way to defend, pressing all the time, closing out spaces and their defenders being comfortable with the ball at their feet. Unsurprising, the ‘hit them hard’ and ‘hoof ’em up’ plundits from the stone age, dont really get it.
    Playing away from home, they were understandably not very adventurous and were looking to keep it tight.

    Arsenal, for a change, played a very efficient match. I think it was 7 shots for us, 6 on target and 5 goals. The tactic of having a rotating midfield is finally starting to look good. I must admit, I am surprised by Song technical prowess in the final third, his ball control and vision are exception for a so called ‘defensive’ midfielder. Jack’s exceptional rate of development is going to pose a different headache for Le boss, and the sheer number of quality players in the midfield could see someone leave next due to lack of first team opportunities. I will be very disappointed if that situation were to arise, cause I think we have a very good variety of midfielders and each one of them bring something new to the Arsenal’s game.

    And finally, I must say that I was delighted with Dudu’s goal and was wishing he would get one from the moment the result was beyond doubt. I must confess, he was my favorite ever since he signed on to us. It is rare to see such exceptional talent combined with genuine humility in a modern sportsman. It is just as gut wrenching to see all that talent and goodwill scythed, through no fault of their own. I know its impossible now, but some part of me still hopes that Dudu returns to us some day & wins something with us so that he may be remembered for his skill rather than that unsavory incident, on a cold dark night at Birmingham.

    • desigunner says:

      That 7 shots, 6 on target, 5 goals stat is good to show to people who think Arsenal are not clinical enough!

      The problem with Arsenal is that we try to create good chances rather than play the hopeful archaic version of cross at every opportunity or shoot blindly. When this doesn’t work people come up with all kinds of gyan.

      Eduardo was a different kind of striker to the ones we had and if he’d been at his initial level we’d have won a title or two. But these things are part of the big challenge of playing the right way in a tough, rough league.

      I like your somewhat romantic thought but I’ll be happy if Dudu can reach his previous levels and do well wherever he plays and for his national team.

  24. Phil23 says:

    Desi, where do you get your indivdual statistics from? If you don’t want to tell us thats fine but i’d like to find some stats to back up some of my opinions.

    • desigunner says:

      Why will I not tell!? It’s not like I’ve prepared the stats. For CL I get them from … look for matchcenter for each match.

      For the others I guess you know about Guardian Chalkboards and Soccernet.

  25. Nischit says:

    I’d rather AW send out a strong team away to donetsk, get the 3 points and be assured of top spot and qualification on the same day. The last 2 games can see the carling cup side getting a run out..

  26. […] Arsenal 5 – 1 Shakhtar Donetsk: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis What a game! I don’t think I’ve enjoyed any other game this season as I enjoyed this one. The wins against […] […]

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