Arsenal 3 – 1 Partizan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

When I was growing up we used to joke that the Indian Cricket team always provided the audience with value for money in terms of thrills and chills. In those days the Indian cricketers had the ability to turn the easiest of wins into nail-biting encounters. Seems to me, Wenger has been inspired by that lot.

How else do we explain what we saw? A little bit of credit to the visitors Partizan Belgrade; they worked hard all over the pitch, were defensively organized, and tried to create as best as they could, deservedly scoring their first goal from open play in this year’s Champions League group phase.

After that, some credit goes to the Arsenal players for finally getting the job done.

Beyond that I guess it was all about Arsene Wenger’s desire to see how an experimental formation works out. In terms of numbers one could say Arsenal were playing a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, or 4-4-1-1 or anything else along those lines. Numerical description of the system doesn’t matter. To me the most important aspect that was lacking in the system we had today was ‘balance’.

Playing Arshavin on the left in a free role and Van Persie behind Chamakh meant that there was very little understanding between the players in attacking positions. It wasn’t a surprise that Arsenal failed to get their game going and the visiting keeper didn’t have a save to make in the first half except for the penalty.

Many pundits will put the blame on Arshavin and the defenders while cheering Theo for making an impact from the bench. While that is based on some valid observations – Arshavin lost the ball far too often, Theo made a big difference with his goal and runs, defence looked vulnerable – to me those are the symptoms and not the problems.

I thought in this game Arshavin and Van Persie got in each other’s way far too often.  RvP didn’t know when to drop deep, what runs to make in attack, what pass to pick and how to play the patient possession game. It’s not his fault; he’s not used to this role. As a consequence of this Arshavin didn’t know whether to stay further forward as he does when Cesc is on the pitch or to come in deeper and a little centrally as he does at times when Rosicky is playing in the middle. And neither of them made any contribution to the defence. Even Chamakh was a little confused about his role and movement. Add to this Song’s movement up and down the pitch and we have a defence that was exposed time and time again while Arsenal barely created a meaningful attack.

Thankfully, Partizan didn’t have too much quality in attack. Arsene might say he knew this and that’s the reason for his choices. Since the result went Arsenal’s way one cannot really argue but it was risky.

I don’t want to further analyze the game right now without watching it again but those were my thoughts while watching the game. Now to the goals.

The first one came out of nowhere as RvP was fouled in the box. His penalty was powerful, well placed, and almost perfect. Can’t say the same for the celebration. When I saw him jump and land on his knees I was worried a stretcher might have to be called. Good to see that he can take at least that much of a knock!

The equalizer came when Arsenal were chasing the ball in a clueless manner in their own half. There was a gap behind the midfield line and a Partizan attacker exploited it well. Koscielny got sucked out but didn’t follow his man. That left Squillaci in a spot with a runner to his right and the man on the ball in front. A little bit of hesitation was enough for Cleo to get a couple of yards and his shot was deflected in off the lunging Squillaci with Fabianski stranded.

Arsenal regained the lead with a brilliant goal by Walcott who controlled a clearance on his chest and found the far corner with the outside of his right foot. Some breathing space was achieved when Nasri finished off and excellent move in which Song was heavily involved. Picking up a loose clearance in the centre of the Partizan half, Song moved forward with a neat one-two with Bendtner. The Cameroonian then beat a defender with some deft close control and passed it to Nasri just inside the box for another one-two. The Frenchman saw that a defender was ready to intercept the pass to Song so he steadied himself and finished on the half-turn. Great skills from Song and good presence of mind and finishing by Nasri.

It must have left many wondering why we didn’t do more of this earlier. Well, part of the reason was that Nasri didn’t see enough of the ball in the first half and what he saw was mostly in the Arsenal half or wide on the right with three defensive players in front of him.

There was still time for Arsenal midfield to go to sleep and for Sagna to tangle with a man running through on goal. The Red Card to the Frenchman for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity might really hurt Arsenal in the next round.

The only thought that’s been there in my head since the end of the game is – if Van Persie plays in the midfield against United, Arsenal will be massacred. Hopefully that won’t happen as Rosicky might come back into the side but with Arsene one never knows. More on this after I watch this game again and in the build up to the big one.

Individual Performances

Fabianski: another typical game for the Arsenal Keeper. Not much to do and couldn’t do much for the goal.

Sagna: was surprisingly caught out of position and for pace. One of the better players before that moment. Some of his crosses were quite good but the players in the box didn’t do enough.

Squillaci: mistake for the goal but difficult to really blame him. Didn’t do much wrong otherwise.

Koscielny: bad mistake for the goal. Didn’t read the situation well enough and put himself in a hopeless position. Some decent tackles and good performance for most parts.

Gibbs: I thought English players were supposed to be hard and strong and all that? Hopefully it won’t be a serious injury.

Eboue: probably the best player in the defence! One or two good moments in attack, did fairly well in an unfamiliar position.

I thought the defenders were exposed far too often but dealt with most situations well. This can be seen from the limited number of shots by Partizan despite the amount of time and space they had in Arsenal’s defensive third.

Song: worked really hard at both ends and the middle but his new role left the defence exposed. I’d have preferred if Song stayed deeper and played the simpler game since RvP was playing an unfamiliar role but clearly that’s not part of Wenger’s plans this season.

RvP: Great penalty, good free-kick, one or two exciting touches but not much else. Nowhere near the work rate needed for that role. Didn’t make enough runs in attack and didn’t provide any defensive cover. He might develop into the new role but I think this is a risky time to be trying that.

Denilson: had some very good moments when he won the ball and moved play forward but also had some awful moments when he lost possession cheaply in dangerous areas.

Nasri: not that effective on the right. did much better after Arshavin went off. Decent defensive effort in the first half.

Chamakh: poor positioning in the box and didn’t attack the ball well enough. Not enough runs down the channels and couldn’t strike an understanding with RvP and Arshavin.

Arshavin: looked confused and frustrated. Didn’t really know where to be on the pitch and didn’t have many options in front once he got the ball.

Subs: Walcott scored a fantastic goal and looked lively. Bendtner had one or two decent touches but I was surprised a midfielder wasn’t brought on when Arsenal went ahead.


28 Responses to Arsenal 3 – 1 Partizan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. mark says:

    denilson was garbage. the only difference between the team against fulham who we took apart to playing a team worse than fulham was denilson.

    he has very slow ponderous distribution and he can’t pass forward. he gave every ball he tried forward. and he couldn’t’ defend either. losing possession to a crap team. he destroys our game play.

    so name a good moment? when he hit the ball too hard for chamakh for an easy chance to score? garbage.

    • Urgly says:

      Totally agree with you mate!

      I thought that AW should have brought TR on for him in the first half and brought Theo on for AA as well earlier in the game. We moved the ball very slowly and defended very poorly as well mostly because of Danielson.

      RVP did very little also to me.

  2. meaner says:

    Denilson should retire from football.

  3. arsenalist says:

    i totally agree with you….i think that rvp s new role disturbed too much arshavin and chamakh…a little less nasri…it needs time to accomodate…and i think that rvp came back hungry…he wants to do everything…to run everywhere on the pitch///the defence…well well…we said everything about it…we have only to pray that it will be rock _))))))

  4. Richard says:

    A win for Arsenal is a win. As a gunner fan, I am pleased we make it to the next round. However, I am still concerned at our defense. Excuse me, but not being able to keep a clean sheet against the worst team in group H? That is unacceptable. Partizan only scored 2 goals so far in Champions league..and they both are against us! We only managed 1 clean sheet in the first 6 games in UCL so far. Look at Man U, Barca, Chelsea, Madrid..they conceded at most 4 goals in the knockout stage. Even shakhtar who are in our group managed to keep 4 clean sheets in this qualification stage. Will we ever have clean sheets again??

  5. Tim says:

    Arshavin didn’t have a good game tonight, but your point about him and RvP confusing each other is valid. It was a disjointed performance, but actually who cares? What matters is we got the job done, and we do not play again in the CL for more two months. By the time we get to the last 16 ties, our form tonight will be irrelevant.

    Okay, we didn’t win the group – and we may pay for that down the line – but that has nothing to do with tonight’s performance. We lost top spot in Donetsk and Braga. Such is life. We move on.

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2010/12/08/spluttering-arsenal-stumble-into-the-last-16/

  6. FoolishGooner says:

    Well saod mate; Very fait assesment of the performences! AA23 and Robin get on each other’s way. Song worked extremely hard, Denilson was suppose to cover him and not make stupid passes. I liked Eboue’s energy and ability to keep the ball from the left side. We really need to be tight in defense and middle of the field but i’m happy we gone through. Bring it on Manures….

  7. golds73 says:

    My heart skipped several beats when I saw rvp’s celebration!

    On a little serious note though, we clearly lacked team chemistry on the pitch today. It takes time for players to play in unfamiliar positions and gel well together and we were clearly affected by the role supposed to be played by van Persie. Arshavin and Chamakh really struggled up front today.

    In hindsight, it might have been better if we had started with Rosicky in place of van Persie. With the attacking trio so out of sync with each other, we really struggled to crate chances. At the moment, accommodating Chamakh and van Persie at the same time is not quite working out. I’m sure Arsene must have taken notes and come Monday I hope he makes the right decision for the Man United game.

  8. Raghugovind says:

    I was literallly bangend my head on the wall when I saw Arshavin, Chamakh and Van Persie on the team sheet and Denilson and Song in the middle. That moment itself I was sure this will go to the wire. The entire midfield was so used to the 4-3-3 system that they could not adopt to the new system .I think this is the first time we started a game using this formation . In the entire first half the defenders were finding it hard to pass it to someone in the middle. I was literally shouting on the top of my voice at 1:45 AM when Van Persie jumped on his knees to celebrate his goal . I would have killed him for doing that . The commentator was literally pissing me off even though he was speaking the truth . There was a hint of Anti-Arsenalism in his commentry . I hope we don’t play this formation against United else we will definitely be doomed . We should play the same team that played at Villa. Van Persie should come as an impact substitute as should Walcott.

  9. Ajinkya says:

    Maybe Arshavin was taking it easy to keep himself fully fired up for manu.

  10. santori says:

    3-1 is a reasonable enough win I thought.

    I believe we were cautious and that affected the way we played (not being too adventurous)

    Yes the formation does need some getting use to and it produced a somewhat disjointed act. BUT I don’t think Denilson adds much to it either in terms of carrying the ball forward.

    Most likely, Wenger had Denilson on for the added security. However, I agree with some posters that I would have preferred to see Rosicky.

    Stuttering performance by Andrei. I must sayI sure hope he is saving himself for the big one.

  11. twoleftfeet says:

    I tend to agree with you ion this one Desi. Arshavin tried hard to be involved in the game but he din’t know where to be or what to do once he got the ball. RVP didn’t have the patience or the work rate required of a playmaker and that did us in. Song had a very good game IMO. Him & Kos made a number of important interceptions to breakup Partizan’s attacks.

    Denilson is bothering me now. I actually liked what I saw of the kid a couple of seasons ago but seems to me that he’s actually getting worse every year. He cannot pass (except for that one through pass to Chamakh), and lost the ball cheaply way too many times against a much weaker side and at our home! And this isn’t the first time this season either!! I thought he would become an imp squad player for us one day (AKA Park for ManU) but if he keeps playing like this, his future ain’t too bright. Time for the kid to buckle up.

    As for Utd, I hope we play Kos and Dj in defence, Squillaci needs a break. For the rest, Nasri reigns Supreme!!

  12. True Gunner says:

    I like Gibbs, but he need to get on a protein shake, he need to build his muscle and speed.

  13. Miranda says:

    The games against Shakhtar and Braga away and most especially yesterday evening make me hope more than ever that Bendtner is heading for Bayern next month. Against Shakhtar and Braga he was useless, for which we can’t really blame him, but yesterday he was selfish as well, twice preventing players better placed from scoring, and that, though understandable given his own inadequacies, is seriously bad news for team morale.

    A useless striker just costs us games, points, glory – crucial games unfortunately in terms of this season’s CL campaign – but a useless striker who is selfish is something much worse because he creates bad feeling within the squad. I’ve never liked Bendtner, but even people who do must surely now be feeling he’s had many years of chances and his boasting and self-centredness have now gone too far? I really hope Bayern want him and we can put the money to good use.

    I think we badly need a proven striker, since Vela is probably leaving and Chamakh looks tired and Van Persie will soon be injured again, but if we can’t afford one or can’t find one who’s not cup-tied for Europe, let’s at least get a central defender; that, or a new Song (seeing as the old Song is now the new Bergkamp).

    We looked paralysed with fear yesterday, and one way of lessening the fear, as Arshavin said in the press conference, is for the attacking players to feel more confidence in the defence: knowing you’re not going to concede stupid goals – even against Partizan who can’t score against anyone except us! – helps reduce the pressure that players like Cesc, Nasri and Arshavin have suggested lies like a heavy on their shoulders.

    Fear, and the paralysis it creates especially when things go wrong, is often our undoing, I think. I’d attribute the fear to poor tactics, to lack of a game plan, of adequate preparation and, yesterday, of the difficulty of facing a crucial game with an untried formation. But whatever is responsible, it’s a sad thing to see when you compare the way we lost two easily winnable games with the gung-ho joyful confidence with which Spurs turned around being 3-0 down against Inter. Their defence is even worse than ours and their attack is certainly no better so how is it they have gone about the CL in their first season ever with such verve and success?

  14. MSL says:

    There was too much experimentation for a match like this. For the first fifteen minutes except Sagna and Nasri every attacker was confused as to what they should do. Why were RvP and Chamakh playing the same role for a large part and went for the same crosses at times. Christ! I know its experimental but it looked as if AW decided that 15 minutes before the match. Can we please have Song back as a holder till our defense settles? Denilson was piss poor these last games to back up Song.

    The lack of a playmaker was visible. I was surprised Nasri didnt play the hole with RvP, Chamakh and Arshavin playing the three forwards. Anyways I have my ideas , Wenger his.

    A note to the fans,a lot of times when a player is bad on the pitch it usually has been something with knocks or old injuries or fatigue. Rest Denilson if he still has injury issues and then lets see.

  15. Robespierre says:

    The weakness of this team’s overall defensive performance is utterly nauseating if you are a supporter and comical if you are not;Arsenal reached the low nadir in defensive record of the last 15(!) years of Arsene’s rule. This is a hard fact backed by stats of goals allowed per game in the last 15 years, AND there is a progressive DECLINE in this aspect for 4 years going (fact).Anyone who follows Arsenal knows this also without these stats, the truth of the matter, any sane Arsenal supporter has a big dread and fear in his heart that this fragile team may be due a very very serious humiliating spanking by a good ( not Braga, Partizan or WBA) counter attacking team. don’t even mention Barca just imagine the Squil/Kos partnership (backed by the new Songinho) in the Bernabeu against the ferocious quickness and efficient power of a Cronaldo/Higuain/Oezil/dMaria attacks. this can be a massacre, or a Bayern with Ribery and a healthy fresh Robben. or last and not least even (even..) the Mancs in their theater of dreams can cause real bad damage this coming monday. the awful truth

    • AnonymousGun says:

      Hard fact my ass .. we kept 4 .. (FOUR!) clean sheet at home, conceded 11 goals BUT 6 of them are from 2 freaking games.. And if you take time to look at the game with objective thinking, you can see that AW is right about we have been unlucky to ship 3 each in that 2 games.

      And I seriously cant take any of you seriously when you dont know shit about what Denilson’s role in the team

      • MSL says:

        Right. You are the only messiah after AW who understands Denilson right? We are all just blatantly stupid idiots. How about you get off your high horse.

        We all know Denilson has not been playing consistently in one role sometimes more of a CAM and sometimes a supporting DM. But as a holding MF he has been mostly shit this season. He is good going forward most of the time but defensively he just lets players get past him after chasing for 10 yards or so.

  16. Phil23 says:

    What a bunch of assholes. If we don’t experiment everybody moans. If we do everybody moans that things don’t work out perfectly. We won the game with many lessons learnt. Do you think Arsene and even the players themselves (People who may have started with a bit more talent than you or I but who put in the hard yards every day of their lives to be as good as they are) would not recognize what went wrong? We are top of the table, through to the next round of the CL, Semi finalists in the Carling cup and still in the Fa cup. At the start of the year only the faithful expected us to be here. That is about 20% of Arsenal fans and no other fans. In fact, I bet most the people who just commented bagged on them back then too. I say this with all my heart… Please go and find another team to moan about cause us at the top know that it takes team morale and confidence to stay there. Bring on United.

  17. Phil23 says:

    There are of course exceptions to what I just said. For instance Santori, who always puts up valid opinions. My take on the game was that we played two players in the wrong position. With Van Persie being tested in the whole we needed a deep lying play maker so that we actually had a midfield. Wilshere or Cesc in Denilsons role would provide a short passing option for the defenders and Song. Denilson is a link player so he is going to look rather stupid when his main passing buddy is a striker. Lastly Arshavin should have been rested for the deeper lying Rosicky. Lots of others have commented on that so ill leave it there. The players will have learnt a lot from this match. As I said on an earlier post, the United game is too early to move away from our tried and tested 4231. I’m guessing our line up will be Van Persie, Arshavin Rosicky Nasri, Wilshere Songinho, Clichy Koscielny Squillaci Eboue, Fabianski. I would be happy to see Chamakh start and if either were fit i’d like Cesc for Rosicky and Djourou for Koscielny. Walcott can be a game changer or maybe he will start on the right with Nasri playing central. We will have to wait and see as we have a lot of options. Oh poor us boo hoo waa waa waa our team sucks… Wait a second… aren’t we exactly where we wanted to be? Yeah but thats not good enough we went unbeaten for 49 games once why cant we just do that every season? Sorry but i’m just sick of whining Arsenal fans.

  18. […] Arsenal 3 – 1 Partizan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis When I was growing up we used to joke that the Indian Cricket team always provided the audience with value for money in […] […]

  19. SomeRandomGunner says:

    I don’t understand why Arsene wants to accommodate Chamakh into the lineup. He is simply redundant to us and we cannot play a 2 man midfield again. If it has to be 2 man i think it should be Diaby and Song.

    Chamakh is taken out of the game once RVP is in the middle he hardly touches the ball and they are all too confused what to do, in Wigan game itself “This RVP in the hole experiment” failed.

    I still cannot understand what does Chamakh bring to the starting lineup . Oh the heading ability we are not going to use it unless our whole philosophy changes so it is not going to happen. Trying to keep Chamakh in the starting line-up is stupidity and not worth affecting everybody more importantly our midfield , even against small teams when our midfield is not on song we look awful.

    Hopefully Arsene does not do this against Man U and fall flat on his face. Yeah if i can see so to Arsene but lets talk after Man U game.

    • twoleftfeet says:

      Of course chamakh is useless, throw him out!! What has he done for us? Except scoring 11 goals and creating a few more of course!

  20. em says:

    Spot on analysis once again desi.u leave no stone unturned.arsenal,like any other team out there has issues.people seem to neglect the fact that the game is evolving and only the gifted or technically astute remain unfazed by it all.by and large,we have evolved and it’s still nice to see us toppin our league,qualifying for the knockouts with all the team’s been through this season.anyone who’s ever played football for stakes over 90mins.knows that both the players and manager deserve a measure of praise.up arsenal.our time is here again,the signs are there.players are beginning to believe-nasri,fabre,walcott(cough),the aptly named songinho.we have to cheer them on.hopefully the success/trophy vibe will rub off on the slumbering(denilsn n diaby) and rekindle the dying(AA).if only vermaelen were fit

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