I wanted to watch the game without seeing the score but that didn’t work out as they kept flashing the score updates during the United – Newcastle game. Thankfully, the margin of victory liberated me while watching the game and made it more bearable at times, for such was the pedestrian nature of the two sides, particularly in the first half. If you haven’t seen it yet but plan to, I’d recommend skipping the opening half hour or the entire first half. Watch Giroud’s account opening moment in the highlights, there was little else to enjoy.
Coventry came out with a relatively positive attitude and didn’t sit deep in front of their penalty box. Their defence lined up midway through their half and the line in front was formed around the centre of the pitch. This is a tactic we’ve seen often enough but it’s success relies on aggressive marking at the back and a cohesive pressing shape up front. The visitors managed that for part of the game but they also left the Gunners free on many a occasion. Arsenal found spaces between the lines rather easily and many of the forward runs were not tracked diligently.
The Gunners tried a lot balls in behind, mainly through Arshavin in an advanced central position, but rarely got it right. Far too many passes were wayward and wasteful. On other occasions players lost possession by dribbling into a crowd or through poor touches. The visiting custodian was largely untroubled.
The goal came from a sequence of quick and somewhat fortuitous passing that broke the high line of defence. Oxlade-Chamberlin played a ball from his own half to Arshavin who flicked it forward first time. It seemed like the ball was over hit but it worked to Arsenal’s advantage as the central defender was tempted to challenge for it allowing Coquelin to get a lunging toe on it. Giroud was put clean through on goal and lifted his shot over the Keeper.
At the other end, Coventry were able to head a couple of crosses towards goal from threatening positions in the Arsenal box but couldn’t hit the target.
The visitors came out with greater desire in the second half but that only served to open the game up even more which actually made it even easier for Arsenal.
Giroud missed a penalty that Arshavin had won after pouncing on the centre back’s weak header early in the second half. But chances and goals kept coming.
Oxlade-Chamberlain blasted one in from distance. A clever interceptions from Yennaris in the centre circle led to a quick counter that Arshavin scored from. Giroud picked up the assist. Coventry just weren’t able to track the runs Arsenal were making.
Wenger introduced Gnabry, Frimpong, and Chamakh for Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, and Giroud with less than 20 minutes to play.
Yennaris picked up an assist by setting up Walcott after again picking up possession in the middle of the pitch.
With just over 10 minutes to go, Gnabry and Santos were caught in the middle of the pitch as Coventry found space down the right. Miquel was pulled wide and there were acres of space in the penalty box. The cross was accurate as was the finish by Ball.
Soon after that Miquel scored the fifth from a corner. Arshavin again provided the assist.
Walcott completed the scoring with a well-taken individual goal minutes before the final whistle. His circular run was reminiscent of Cazorla’s run against Liverpool but the Englishman didn’t have to play a one-two. The full-backs error of judgment meant that he could simply waltz into the box without pressure. His shot was more like a pass to the far post which showed the kind of composure and instinctive awareness of goalposts that Gervinho has been lacking.
The opponents seem to be going through a very tough phase and there were far too many weaknesses in their game. It seems pointless to read too much into this performance but it should have been a good run out for some of the players who needed time on the pitch.
Martinez: Had a presence in front of goal. Made one catch look spectacular but wasn’t really tested.
Angha: Showed energy and a degree of intelligence with his forward runs but the final ball/shot was very disappointing. Defensive skills need work.
Djourou: Apart from a free header from a corner that he hit straight at the Keeper and some routine defensive moments it’s hard to recall what he did. That’s not to say he was poor, just that it was more like a straightforward training run for him.
Miquel: Did make some useful tackles. Scored his goal well and hit the bar with another header. Had a decent standing jump and seems to have grown in confidence and technique.
Santos: Disappointing game from the left back. Seemed too casual and disinterested at times. Wasn’t really tested but he might have done better for the goal.
The back five had a stress free outing and it became easier as the goals went in at the other end.
Coquelin: Seemed steady with his distribution, didn’t try too many fancy passes, picked up the assist for the first goal from a surprisingly high position on the pitch, respectable defensive effort, seemed miffed when substituted.
Arshavin: Was at the heart of almost everything creative that Arsenal did. Scored one, had two assists, and one pre-assist. Could have had another assist if Giroud had converted the penalty. But he also lost possession far too often with ambitious one-touch passes that didn’t come off. Didn’t have to track back as the opponents barely threatened the Arsenal goal.
Yennaris: Made a couple of vital recoveries in the middle that lead to goals, wasn’t as composed when venturing into the crowded final third, did a decent job of shielding the defence but looks like he needs more practice and a loan spell before he can be an option in midfield against tougher opposition.
The midfield wasn’t put under pressure, except for small patches during the game, and they had an easy time passing the ball. Retained a good shape in front of the back four and limited the opportunities Coventry could create.
Walcott: Drifted into a central area for most of the game. Was it with the blessings of the manager or was he trying to send a message? Good composure, shooting technique, and awareness of the goalposts for both his goals. But his touch wasn’t convincing in other areas of the pitch.
Giroud: Sadly, he didn’t get enough service despite Arsenal having such an easy ride. Composed and clinical finish for the first goal. Penalty was well struck but the Keeper did well to save it. Good assist for Arshavin’s goal. Movement, in general, remains his strength.
Oxlade-Chamberlain: Was too individualistic, bordering on showboating at times, particularly in the first half. Cracking strike for his goal but he needs to offer much more when he gets so much time and space. Will do well to look at Arshavin’s effort in this game to see how often the Russian tried to bring other teammates into play and how he was aware of gaps on the pitch with respect to his own position.
The front three scored 4 goals between them but neither had a consistently good game. Giroud might be disappointed with the two wide men who hardly ever found him in or around the box. Walcott poses a problem for Arsene – he’s better at scoring than Gervinho but will lose the ball more often and won’t offer the same ability to beat players as the Ivorian does. Over 90 minutes who adds greater value to the team is a tough question to answer.
Subs: Was good to see Frimpong on the pitch once again. Theo’s solo goal gave him an assist. The world might have forgotten Chamakh but he hasn’t forgotten his game. It was typical Chamakh, playing intricate one-twos and lay-offs but not threatening the goal himself. Gnabry looked too eager to score. But he does seem to have good control over the ball while running and shooting.
This was more a game for making observations rather than forming any conclusions. The second half in particular was quite enjoyable for its open and entertaining nature along with some moments which offered food for thought.Follow @goonerdesi