I had mixed feelings after this one. The primary one was exasperation. But I also saw a team of players who haven’t played together work hard and play with the right attitude. It’s not easy to play the Arsenal way with so many of the starting eleven being non-regulars.
For large parts of the game Arsenal went forward and controlled the game without really creating gilt-edged chances. The passing, movement, and most importantly, understanding in the final third was missing. That led to a number of hopeful shots from outside the box at inopportune moments. Most of these went wide and one or two drew a simple save.
Chamakh had the two best chances, one he side-footed into the arms of the keeper while the other was just beyond his stretch but he should have been anticipating it better. Since it came from a cross it again left me wondering how often do Arsenal practice this.
The performance in the second half was better. Rosicky finally broke his drought with a brilliant header after some good work by Bendtner. Little Mozart had another chance soon after but the Keeper saved well. In general Arsenal got in behind on a couple of occasions and should have scored the second.
As has become usual, once the opponents started showing some attacking ambitions, the Gunners looked a bit confused at times or were caught off-guard. Leyton Orient never managed to dominate the ball but created enough intelligent moves to start getting a sight of goal and get their hopes up.
One snap-shot from the edge of the box went wide of the post. The next one was saved by a block by Squillaci that cost him his senses for a short period. The goal came after the substitute striker, Tehoue, burst in-between Miquel and Gibbs before firing past the hapless Almunia.
I haven’t seen it again and wasn’t focusing very hard on this game so I don’t want to proffer strong opinions but all three moves came down our left. Gibbs was often out of position as he went forward without considering the priorities.
Even tactically the left axis of Gibbs – Denilson – Arshavin was quite weak. Since Orient never really tried hard to attack they were comfortable for the first hour or so but once the home side showed some intent we struggled down the left.
This was compounded by having a young kid, Miquel, on the left side of central defence. By and large he was impressive but the mistake for the goal was a typical rookie mistake. No striker should ever get between the left-back and the central defender in that manner. Miquel was caught ball watching at the worst possible position and time.
The goal came too late for Arsenal to regain the lead.
This result will undoubtedly bring over the top criticism for some players but I feel it’s good that Arsenal can put out such a team and play the way they did. I saw United against Crawley town and they were under pressure for a much longer period against a far weaker team.
The goal came from having two youngsters in defence and not giving them the right cover. We can say that it’s a tactical mistake but we can also say it’s the kind of lesson these kids would otherwise not have received. Even the experienced midfield got caught out a bit when the free-kick was taken short and that is a bigger concern in my opinion.
We now have an extra fixture but I feel, given the way we can make so many changes, the home game should be a good opportunity for the second string to get another chance of gelling together.
Almunia: I guess many will take the easy route of bashing the most criticized player in the squad. I have seen Given and Reina concede this way so I won’t blame the Keeper. Once the striker is through in that manner, when the goalkeeper doesn’t even get a chance to rush forward and cut the angle, it’s almost like saving a penalty.
Sagna: Decent game on the right. Orient barely had an attack from that side. Should have done better in attack but we could see he was trying.
Squillaci: Not spectacular but did what he had to do. Good block that seemed inadvertent but resulted from good positioning.
Miquel: Barring a big mistake for the goal his debut was impressive. Looked composed on the ball, heading was good. Should not be playing at this level as he is always likely to make a mistake in a really dangerous area. Needs to go on loan, to a team where he will face a lot of defensive pressure, to sort those issues out.
Gibbs: Went forward quite often. Didn’t always get the ball which showed the players didn’t understand each others’ movements. Needs to focus on defending, especially late on, as that is his primary responsibility.
The back five weren’t troubled much so it’s difficult to say whether they did a good job or not. It would have been a decent enough effort but the soft goal spoilt it.
Song: Worked hard in a box-to-box manner but his passing was sloppy at times. Should have played on the left side of midfield. Should have stayed much closer to the defence in the final few minutes.
Rosicky: Another one who put in a lot of effort. Came deep to collect the ball, tried to create opportunities for others, took his goal really well, MotM if anyone deserves it in such a game.
Denilson: A very limited performance. Didn’t offer anything in attack. Didn’t even take charge of the midfield to spray the ball around as the opponents sat back. Keeping things simple against such a team is wasteful because it’s like playing into their hands.
The midfield saw a lot of the ball but didn’t create enough. Song was sloppy. Rosicky didn’t always have the right understanding with Arshavin. Denilson must have been the dream player for the hosts.
Bendtner: Can’t fault him for work rate. Dropped back, came in centrally, ran with and without the ball. Shooting was rushed and scuffed. Good work for the assist.
Chamakh: Very rusty and disappointing. Like Denilson didn’t do enough in midfield, Chamakh didn’t do enough in attack. He looks completely confused and doesn’t seem to know when he should take the initiative and when to play for the team.
Arshavin: Had moments of inspiration when he tried to create something but mostly it wasn’t his day. Even then he forced a decent save and hit the post. Should have shown better composure late on in the game.
The attacking players were not on the same wavelength. There should have been more runs in behind the defence or more bodies getting into the box as the opponents were set out to defend.
Wenger: I would have preferred Song on the left and Denilson on the right from the start. Since most of the game was easy it didn’t seem relevant but to me it’s a matter of maintaining the right balance. I also wanted to see a clear counter-attacking approach from Arsenal in the final 15-20 minutes but the players kept playing the slow build-up game. Substitutions might have made a difference but we need to win such games with the team we’d put out.
At least this game served the purpose of resting the key players ahead of a tough game against Stoke. If the result in that one is positive this game will be forgotten.