So we’ve just played our 1st game at this prestigious tournament and have wrapped up a win against a hard working and direct Lazio. I won’t dwell too much on how the game went and how Lazio played, but I will give a few thoughts on its impact on our league campaign.
We lined up with Almunia in goal, a Swiss defence of Djourou and skipper Senderos, full backs Hoyte and Traore, a midfield of Song and Fabregas, wider players Clichy and Walcott, and a strike force of Eduardo (who received his work permit today) and Bendtner.
The early exchanges made it hard for us to settle down into our passing game, but our goal came just as the tempo rose. Good work down the left gave Fabregas acres of space to shoot from outside the box. His shot was deflected onto Bendtner on the edge of the box, and although his first touch was poor, he kept in control of it, took it wide of the ‘keeper before coolly slotting in from a tight angle. The Lazio equaliser came from a typical Arsenal error.
A long ball which Almunia ought to have come to claim, infact which Djourou encouraged him to do, wasn’t, leaving Djourou with no alternative but to knock it out for a corner. From the resulting corner, the ball was headed out to the edge of the box, but fell to Eduardo who tried to find a pass instead of clearing his lines, even though it looked like he was fouled, left Pandev with the easy task of slamming past Almunia. The winner came through an un-Arsenal type goal. A well taken corner by Rosicky was powerfully nodded home by Eduardo who showed good positional sense and anticipation. After that, we saw Hoyte miss an open goal after exhibition showboating by Van Persie, who passed to Eduardo on the penalty spot.
He drew a defender before passing it to Hoyte a few meters from out, who curled his effort onto the far post when even rolling it in would have been suffice. During the game there were a few things evident from an individual players’ point of view. Almunia seems to have become more mature and is really now a very calm ‘keeper, inspiring confidence in his defenders, a change from two seasons ago. However I feel he was at fault for the goal we conceded, not from the strike, but in the cause of it. He really ought to have come to claim the ball from Djourou, and he knows we are very vulnerable from set pieces, so it was a big error not to claim the ball. Djourou had a fine game, not being caught out, but Senderos caused a few anxious moments as he does. His lack of pace means he has to be excellent at anticipation, which today he wasn’t, allowing Lazio constantly spring our offside trap in his direction. He must be congratulated for his last ditch tackle after Almunia was beaten.
Traore was fine for 70 mins, but he does need to work on his concentration to perform at his high octane best from the first to the last minute. Hoyte’s point blank miss was shocking. As a collective too, we keep giving teams chances they don’t deserve, and we seriously need to eradicate this soon as in the league we will be caught out. In midfield, what more can I say about Cesc that hasn’t been said already, he was imperious again not giving away possession and creating lots of space for himself and team mates.
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Song was good as well, very physical and driving forward.Clichy had a fine game, chasing lost balls and launching quality crosses to Bendtner. He is definitely one of our key players and his ironing out the weaknesses in his game. Walcott on the other hand did not get involved at all. He hugged the touchline, and when he got the ball he didn’t use it well, although he did draw a few good fouls. He need to exert himself on the game and try to make things happen as the front pair did.
Eduardo had an excellent game, on this showing, he is not a replacement for Henry for constant goals (yet), but he worked well with and without the ball. He was all over the place, and it seems he made those movements with a specific intention to get his team moving. He gave the ball away a few times, was caught out for the equaliser, but he powered his header well. He also had lots of confidence to even try scoring from the halfway line, maybe glad he got his work permit, but he is without doubt a very very good team player with quality technique who will score and provide initial and secondary assists for his team mates.
Bendtner is also very good, one who will be very good for the bench. His touch and awareness is good for a player as young as he is, and the calmness in his cold finish, should bode well for us. He also has good awareness, and very good technical close control, so even though many in the press see it as folly having him as one of our strikers, they will learn to see why us Gooners say ‘Arsene Knows’. Our next game against the hosts on Saturday will see Le Boss put out our first team as a dress rehearsal for Fulham a week Sunday away.