Szczesny – 8/10 (@stighefootball’s Man of the Match)
Sagna – 7/10, Gibbs – 4/10, Vermaelen 7/10, Koscielny 6/10
Ramsey – 7/10, Song – 6/10, Rosicky – 6/10
Walcott – 5/10, Gervinho – 6/10, Chamakh – 5/10.
Substitutes: Djourou 6/10, Jenkinson – 6/10, Frimpong – 6/10.
Wojciech Szczesny had an outstanding game in goal last night. He is the main reason Arsenal can travel to Italy in control of the tie due to a number of a fine saves. I was far from convinced by his potential last season but last night he showed his talent. He produced several top drawer saves from Antonio Di Natale last night including a fine full-stretcher from a goal-bound free kick.
It was simply refreshing to watch Thomas Vermaelen back in action again. He is a quality player and Arsenal missed him dearly during his long injury-stricken period last season. He kept the lively Di Natale more or less under control with some commanding defensive headers and an important toe to scupper an inch perfect through-ball.
Aaron Ramsey looks a real talent doesn’t he? It’s common knowledge that he has buckets of potential, but he was incredibly close to my MotM award last night as he looks to be a brilliant talent already. He is tidy, confident and creative on the ball and works very hard for the team. I’m looking forward to seeing Ramsey and Wilshere play regular first team football alongside each other this season.
Despite an early goal to win the tie, Theo Walcott frustrated me yet again last night. For 86 minutes, he showed a lack of end product. He is bright and agile with the ability to get into some wonderful positions – but his crossing is not up to scratch. He missed 2 golden chances in the last 20 minutes that could have put the tie to bed and it had me wondering about what Wenger has done to him.
Marouane Chamakh had a frustrating night – that much is obvious. He was largely ineffectual and didn’t contribute to much of Arsenal’s decent football.
I was distinctly unimpressed with Kieran Gibbs, and my rating of 4 may seem somewhat harsh but it was disappointing to see him go off with yet another injury. It looks like he has perfected some parts of his game but not the right ones, such as the trademark Arsenal passing game but not the positional play of a left-back. He was caught out of position a few times causing danger to Arsenal’s goal.
Some tactical observations
I don’t believe Arsenal have the right players for the system Wenger wishes to play. As far as I can tell, Chamakh’s main strength (if not his only strength) is headed goals from a cross into the box. Theo Walcott, for all his pace, can’t cross a ball accurately and Gervinho doesn’t seem like the kind of traditional winger who will get to the by-line and swing a ball in. In fact, he admits himself he likes to play upfront if he can so cutting inside is the name of his game.
With these two on the wings, Chamakh will receive no service and be more or less ineffectual. With Arsenal’s slow build up play, they often find themselves crowded around the 18 yard line with no more progress on the pitch to make. With Robin Van Persie up front, a long range effort or a sly through ball can rip the best defence in half and so this is not so much of a problem. But Chamakh doesn’t seem to have either of these outlets in his locker and thus provides no goal threat.
Arsenal need another dynamic all-round striker OR a traditional winger. Wenger needs to match up the combinations properly so Arsenal enjoy success in front of goal and not rely on sparks of magic or one-off moments. I am not really a fan of Theo Walcott on the wing, especially when he is playing with Chamakh up front. Robin Van Persie needs to stay fit for once or The Gunners might struggle for goals.
On a positive ending note, the potential Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere combination could leave Arsenal fans asking “Cesc Who?”
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