Arsenal 3-1 Shrewsbury: Crash course scholarsTeam:
Fabianski, Jenkinson, Miquel, Djourou, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Aneke 90), Coquelin, Frimpong (Ozyakup 77), Benayoun, Park (Ryo 72), Chamakh. Subs:
Martinez, Yennaris, Boateng, Ozyakup, Aneke, Ryo, Watt
Chamberlain and Coquelin take the plaudits on an evening where there were enough green shoots and positive aspects to the attacking play to over shadow some more suspect defending.
The AL Report
Under normal circumstances a Carling Cup tie against lower league opposition would be viewed as light relief, a chance for the youngsters far removed from the first team to express themselves without too much importance laid upon the result, and thus play without inhibition. Tuesday night's match contained plenty of young players but these are players whom will be relied upon this season. More so than should be the case certainly, but that's where we are.
As a result the game outcome was much more than about achieving another outing for promising youngsters to shine, but integrating this new breed into the first team, all part of a crash course for Jenkinson, Frimpong and Chamberlain and the like whom have been somewhat thrown in at the deep end so far.
Recent results and our precarious position in the league hightened the need for a positive result, a fact that was reflected in the nervous mood around the Emirates. You dread to think of the consequences had Arsenal not turned around the 0-1 scoreline to League Two Shrewsbury Town.
A bright opening ten minutes saw create two good chances for Chamakh a header from close range directed too close to the keeper who tipped over and a poor connection on a shot from 10 yards from excellent work and pull back by Francis Coquelin who gave a complete performance throughout.
As the pressing game disappeared so Shrewsbury Town came into the match with the visitors profiting from the space afforded to them and the lack of shape in the Gunners ranks. Shrewsbury were the better team between 10-30 minutes, and broke through our defensive with ease on several occasions one chance on 12 minutes flicking the outside of the post.
Four minutes later another facet our defensive frailty was exposed and this time punished, Benayoun didn't get tight enough to the crosser whose whipped cross left the routed pair of Fabianski and Djourou floundering observers as Shrewsbury Town striker Jim Collins buried his header completely unopposed from 6 yards. Arsene Wenger may point to a creditable 'open play' record, I put that down to possession rather than any super defensive qualities imbedded in the team.
Kieran Gibbs though eased the tension to level on 33 minutes heading home a Jenkinson cross but not before Shrewsbury had enjoyed a spell on 20 minutes in which the visitors played with belief, on 27 minutes Fabianski watched a flashing cross whistle past his face when surely he needed to be cleaning up.
On 39 minutes Djourou was beaten to low a ball drilled from far right, Collins could not divert the chance from close range on target and Arsenal got away with it. Johan Djourou got away with it, a theme of the match. On 62 a bumbled attempted back pass almost allowed the sniffing Shrewsbury attackers in and was highly fortunate to to gift the visitors a penalty after hauling Morgan to the floor on 85.
On the other side of the coin Francis Coquelin playing the deep lying midfield role was superb; the afore mentioned pull back for Chamakh, a covering tackle on 30 following a brisk Shrewsbury counter account saved a certain goal, there was surging run on 40 and instant ping to pick out Park Chu Young and on 87 Coquelin won ball in the final third to release Benayoun who might and should have scored.
1-1 was a fair reflection at half time.
The second half saw Arsenal take control, the tempo returned and Shrewsbury tired but there were still some moments of defensive lapse with Arsenal's offside trap simply dismal. Miquel I thought did well considering the performance of his defensive partner, and critically cut out a pass ala Tony Adams (vs Shevchenko at Wembley) after man of the moment Djourou failed to cut out the danger on 68 minutes.
I noted 3 positive aspects of our attacking play that were largely missing from our game last season. A high number and quality of crosses, an increased number of players getting in the box from open play positions and shooting from range with Arsenal profiting a goal from each, Gibbs with the header in the first half, Chamberlain with a 25 yard strike (there were plenty more from Frimpong and others) and Benayoun grabbing his first Arsenal goal for the club. Benayoun will do well for Arsenal this season, has a good engine, committed, gets in the box and takes goals fine player.
Johan Djourou on paper ticks all of the boxes at first glance, mobility, height, technique but his decline in form has been staggering. Always felt he could become a top draw defender, felt vindicated by that view for large parts of last season but he carries a demeanour of doubt. Needs to man up.
Man of the match
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain took the headlines, scored on full debut and showed he is ready to make an impact on the first team he'll bring a rare combination of pace, power, technique and drive.
Alex doesn't though get my nod which is reserved for Francis Coquelin, outgunned at United on debut but one of few to come out with any credit. Produced over 90 minutes, tracked back to save a goal, hit a splendid ball forward to Young and stole a ball deep in opponent territory that should have led to another goal. Tackling with urgency in 93rd minute, commitment personified.
Moan of the match
Utterly unconvincing in defence from open play. Hesitance from both Djourou and Fabianski particularly, two you would hope help give assurance to younger professional around them.
The final word
A win. A much needed one, some healing for the younger players who played in 'that game' and integration of a group containing many new faces. Encouraging signs that we are playing a bigger percentage of 'the game' as opposed to a rather 1D tippy tappy. Coquelin, Chamberlain and a first glimpse of Ryo are the green shoots but it's evident that the defence needs: assertion, commitment, communication and unity very quickly.
2011-12 | Match Reports