Arsenal 1-0 Leeds United: One statue replaces another
Thierry Henry took just 5 touches to score on his return to Arsenal with a goal and context that could not be better scripted. His movement, control and finish could easily have been from any one of his previous 226. Simply poetry in motion. It was a moment for all to savour. Will a player ever again play for this club with a statue already erected in his honour? I doubt it will transpire again with, of course, the exception of Thierry Henry repeating the feat. And of repeating feats who would bet against him to add further goals to his record club haul. In front of goal he’s still got it.
The win and the euphoria of a truly magical moment should not though hide the fact that at this moment in time Arsenal look goal shy, it may well be the case that winning games will be as much about clean sheets as it is about scoring goals, it’s now four games in a row in which only a single goal has been scored. Three of those matches have been at home and one tonight against lower league opposition.
The team lined up with Szczesny, Coquelin, Koscielny, Squillaci, Miquel along the back a line up with the experience / status expected of an early round cup tie against lower league opposition at home, except that despite being far from our strongest line up (with everyone fit) that bar Mertesacker it was our best available line up on the day, and that position hasn't got any better with fill in full back Francis Coquelin pulling up on 33 minutes.
The midfield as well was best available, fortunately that coincides with our strongest line up bar Jack Wilshere. The trio of Song, Arteta and Ramsey were functional enough but for players of their quality against lower league opposition I would have hoped for much more from an attacking sense, perhaps either Song or Arteta could have looked to get forward more often in turn. It’s vital that the trio begin to offer more than a solid base, particularly in light a lack of goals elsewhere.
Szczesny: Rarely troubled throughout but alert and focused enough to make a telling save on 87minutes his only job on the night, the sign of a top keeper.
Coquelin: Has adapted well to fill in at both full back positions, it's pleasing to see the club and player have agreed a new long-term contract. For me has been our most impressive breakthrough player. Hobbled off with what seemed a hamstring injury, unfortunately it looked a pretty bad pull.
Yennaris: Substitute for Coquelin on 33 minutes, did well. No obvious naivety to his play, stayed on his feet, blocked well and bombed on. Decent showing.
Koscielny: Keeping together a defence falling to pieces around him, a commanding performance. The consistency of top draw performances bettered only by Robin Van Persie, a player the team are maybe equally reliant upon. Wenger has buried the myth of no eye for a defender with this purchase.
Squillaci: Avoided the customary disaster moment.
Miquel: Out of position at left back and unlike Coquelin without the loan experience in his natural position, but he doesn’t look like a square peg filling in. Ignasi was up against a pace merchant in Townsend but he kept on his feet, avoided diving in or getting drawn too close. On 51 mins intercepted a ball in opposition territory and hit a fabulous ball for Arshavin. On 87 mins popped up in the box and almost shuffled past the defender to score. A fine player in the making.
Song: Reserves his best football for the bigger occasions, not unlike most, however with Alex Song there’s perhaps a bigger gap between his top game and performances against lesser opposition. Sloppy at times on the ball, but did set up Henry for the winner.
Arteta: Plenty of quality from dead ball positions and a couple of efforts that failed to test the keeper. In a one sided home tie against lesser opposition he should have posed a more direct threat.
In recent matches Arteta and Song have both played deep, but that ploy hasn't worked with Arsenal lacking attacking variation and options. There needs to be an adjustment particularly in home ties against opposition we are expected to comfortably beat.
Ramsey: A one-man mission at times, plenty of running, some quality flicks and moments on the ball and eager to get amongst the goals, maybe a touch too eager with a few shots over the crossbar. Hopefully just a matter of time for the goals to flow to match his performances. Man of the match.
Arshavin: Intent from the off with positive dribbling and direct play. Should have squared Miquel’s cross ball to Chamberlain for a simple chance on 51 mins. Always alert to prey upon mistakes by taking a gamble, and on 54 mins did just that pouncing on a poor back pass but couldn’t test the keeper. Fired a good chance wide on 82 mins left of goal. Generally involved and a threat but nothing really came off. Full marks for effort though.
Chamakh: A player who’s praying for something to happen for him rather than intent on making it happen, born out by a lack of movement. Fed Arteta on 53 mins following a cut back by Chamberlain but a near post run would have left a simple chance for himself. Far too static.
Chamberlain: Another highly encouraging performance taking responsibility to beat players and to attempt shots at goal. Wrongly pulled back for a foul on 25 mins as the Leeds defender stepped across him for an obstruction, robbing him of an assist and simple goal for Ramsey. Poor decisions from the ref and Chamakh robbed him of a double assist.
2011-12 | Match Reports