While a somewhat stuttering victory, a win is still and win with Arsenal now two from two in the Champions League group stage. Obviously fans will aim some criticism towards this performance, but there are always going to be days where the team simply doesn’t perform to expectation. I, for one, am happy that the Gunners managed a win despite performing below par, a trait often linked with the better teams.
It is safe to say in any case that the first half was quite disappointing. For some reason or another the Gunners were sloppy in possession and defensively looked poor conceding a goal just before half-time, only minutes after they had taken the lead. Both Vermaelen and Bould touched on this in the post-match interviews, but luckily the half-time team talk did the trick as Arsenal improved in the second half.
After this performance I think Mertesacker, who was ill today, is likely to see a return to the first-team at the weekend. Both Vermaelen and Koscielny are quite rash and aggressive players and it seemed to work against their partnership. I think Mertesacker brings a different skill-set to the center of defence, but also a skill-set that compliments the strengths of both Koscielny and Vermaelen. In any case, the partnership between Vermaelen and Mertesacker has been working wonders this season. Why change a winning formula…
On a more positive note, it is still great to see that our young full-backs are performing extremely well. Each of them had a great performance today and look to be improving with every game. Under the watchful eye of England manager Roy Hodgson, I think that both players can be proud of their performances. With Sagna returning, you would feel that Jenkinson deserves to keep his starting spot based on his performances this season. That is definitely saying something.
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At the other end of the park and arguably Arsenal’s best player tonight was Gervinho. The Ivorian obviously has many critics, but you can see he is improving in the lone-striker’s role, finally beginning to link up with the midfield players. The boy runs his socks off and you feel his natural tendencies to hold up play and his direct style of running better suits striker’s role in comparison to playing on the flank. He is definitely frustrating at times, but at the end of the day you need goals and Gervinho is delivering. He could have even had a couple more assists today had Cazorla and Giroud converted their chances.
Overall, as I said, a win is a win. The Gunners now await their next match against West Ham and hopefully put in an improved performance. If they manage to do so, it should be a comfortable win.
on the performance…
We won the game and that’s great for us. They made it tough and I thought they were very good, their organisation was excellent. We improved in the second half with the ball, but we looked nervy at times I have to say. But overall we are delighted.
on a hangover from the Chelsea game…
I think so. It probably knocked our confidence getting beaten. Even though we didn’t play so great and we thought we should have got something from the game. Maybe ether was a little bit of a carry over, but we’re hoping now that has gone it is done and dusted. We did great tonight, without being fantastic. We have got back on track, and we’re hoping we will get some confidence for the weekend [against West Ham] – and that will be a tough game.
on the win being paramount…
It always is, isn’t it? This is a results industry and we got the result. We ground it out. I don’t think they had too many chances, we limited them to a few and we could have perhaps scored a few more so without being fantastic we’ve had a great result.
on starting to concede goals…
Well, it was always going to be that way. There was only one way to go. Three clean sheets and we’ve done ok. We haven’t had an awful lot of goals against. The goals that have been against in the main have been set pieces, which we’re all disappointed about and think we can improve. Things are looking ok.
on Ramsey’s goal…
It was a great finish. He is a good player.
on Gervinho’s performance…
He is scoring goals, so his confidence is sky high. I think his link play is gradually improving – he set Santi [Cazorla] up quite a few times over the last few games. He is learning his trade [at centre forward]. I don’t think he has played there an awful lot and he is a danger with his pace and movement at times. He could be a top player.
on comparisons to Henry…
Well, if he gets anywhere Thierry Henry we’ll take that all day long. He is learning his trade there and is doing ok. I’m delighted.
on Podolski’s goal…
I have said before he is a fantastic finisher. He really is deadly and long may that continue.
on Mertesacker’s absence…
He was ill this morning. He has a bit of a virus I believe so that’s where he is at. We’re hoping he is fit for the weekend.
on being top of the group…
There is an awful long way to go. The [Schalke] game is two weeks or so away and we have a couple of tough games in between. We’ll address that when it comes but it’ll be tough.
on Roy Hodgson watching Arsenal players…
They’re all young lads who are improving. They’re all getting better. I think Carl [Jenkinson] is improving with every game and he has done a fantastic job for us so far, so I’d be delighted if he gets picked for England. That’d be great for him.
Jenkinson Koscielny Vermaelen Gibbs
Chamberlain Cazorla Podolski
Vito Mannone | 6.0: A so-so performance from the Italian who made a number of errors, including the mis-communication with Verlmaelen at the back. Could do nothing about the goal.
Carl Jenkinson | 7.5: The young up-and-comer is really impressing and did so tonight with another sound performance. Dealt with his defensive duties will and provided an attacking outlet for much of the game.
Laurent Koscielny | 5.5: A poor showing from Koscielny who seems a little bit rusty. Lucky not to see red after a very rash tackle and had a very poor miss with a header six yards out from goal.
Thomas Vermaelen | 5.0: A very rash game from the Arsenal captain who committed many needless fouls. Also a poor performance by his standards losing a fair share of aerial duels and being guilty of lax defending which lead to the Olympiakos goal.
Kieran Gibbs | 8.0: Like Jenkinson, the young Englishman had an excellent game today. Looked very sound on defence and his usual forward forays gave Arsenal plenty of potency on attack.
Francis Coquelin | 6.0: It was a decent performance by the young Frenchman, without at all being amazing. He did his bit in midfield, but no doubt would have wanted to have a bigger influence on the match.
Mikel Arteta | 6.5: Like Coquelin, the Spaniard did his job well without producing anything of real interest. Looks to suffering from a bit of fatigue.
Santi Cazorla | 7.0: Teams are starting to learn the threat that Cazorla poses and marked him well accordingly. The Spaniard therefore wasn’t able to have as much influence as he normally does, but created some good plays none-the-less.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 6.5: Wasn’t shy about putting in a big shift today, trying very hard to win back possession. Had some good moments on the ball, but unfortunately a few things didn’t go his way today. (70′)
Gervinho | 8.0: His goal-scoring continues! The Ivorian was arguably the best player on the pitch today and ran his socks of for his team getting in dangerous areas and linking up well with team-mates. (80′)
Lukas Podolski | 6.5: Again showed a great work ethic and strength and duly got his reward early in the second-half, nutmegging the keeper to put Arsenal 2-1 up. Looks dangerous when he drifts into the center. (80′)
- Notable substitutions
Aaron Ramsey | 6.5: The Welshman came off the bench to score a wonderfully taken goal. Following a flick on from Giroud, Ramsey showed good strength to stave off his defender and capped off the move with a brilliantly chipped shot, eluding the keeper and dropping in the far corner.