We got the point to take us through to the knockout round of the Champions League but this was by no means a classic. Wenger made 8 changes, as expected, from Saturday and the game was tentative to start with and remained pretty boring to say the least throughout. Many expected another thrashing but it was never going to resemble the match at the Emirates between these two sides. Slavia’s pride was hurt and they were up for revenge and in a game where Arsenal seemed content to pass the ball for most of it, the Czechs had the best chances. Arsenal only had one shot on target and this was why we failed to score for the first time this season.
Almunia won us our point with two crucial saves; the first a tip over and the second a brilliant save coming out of his goal. After making an error of judgement when leaving his goal against Man Utd he had a big decision to make as the Slvia striker raced clear. This time he made the right one to come and remained big until the last minute as he blocked the shot. This chance came late on and had they gone ahead I was not confident, for once, that we wouldbe able to equalise. I was happy for Almunia as people were calling for him to be dropped. He had been in great form and made some important saves in his run in the side. Yes he made an error, but it was nothing on the level of those made by Jens Lehmann and well done Wenger for sticking with the Spaniard for now at least.
The defence was only troubled in the one instance Almunia was called upon and Song looked very good at the back alongside Gallas. Centre back seems to suit him far more than central midfield where he has struggled to impress in an Arsenal shirt. He was always strong in the tackle and good in the air but he lacked vision, pace and composure to play in the midfield. As Wenger did with Toure I feel he may try to adapt Song to a centre back. We have too many central midfielders as it is anyway along with a shortage at the back. I am all for trying to convert Song, especially if Djourou wants to become a defensive midfielder.
I had called for Diarra to start last night and I got my wish. I would have preferred to see him alongside Denilson or Gilberto but he played right back and did ok. He looked assured on the ball, kept it simple and got forward well. He made on crucial interception when Slavia threatened. Clichy was his usual self as he bombed forward at every opportunity and looked very dangerous whenever he picked up the ball; maybe not when he attempted a shot from 30 yards that was still rising as it sailed over the running track. Gallas added experience to the defence and led the team well, there isn’t much more to say about the skipper although I was very impressed when I saw him trying to liven the troops while they warmed up with a good team talk.
The midfield was largely disapointing. Theo Walcott followed true to his pattern of form; as soon as he has a good run of form of a few games, he has a frustrating game and looks extremely far off the player Arsenal fans want him to be. He left the ball behind him at times, seemed to run into cul de sacs and his set pieces were all overhit. We all want Theo to succeed at Arsenal, maybe it is because he is the only Englishman close to the first team, but he needs to shape up and start being far more consistent. Right now he is only good as an impact substitute. Denilson and Gilberto were sloppy with their passing and looked off the pace. They were unable to stamp any authority on the game and this midfield trio was pretty anonymous. Only Diaby showed any life and desire to win this game. From the very off he tried to get the team moving. He dribbled past defenders with ease, used his strength well and looked like he might do something everytime he got it. He was let down by his fellow midfield players and did not seem to have enough options going forward.
Wenger made a mistake in starting Eduardo on the left wing. He looked isolated and out of position. He is a centre forward who deals in goals and he is wasted on the left of midfield. The two goals last week showed what he can do and I did not understand the thinking in this tactic. Diaby did well when he went over to the left and was causing the same problems as when he played in the hole. If Wenger thought Diaby might have more influence behnd Bendtner he was wrong as the Dane was marked out of it and Diaby had nowhere to go. Had Eduardo also been up front some of Diaby’s marauding runs might have caused more of a threat. Although Eduardo did not do much when he moved up front, he would have drawn defenders at least and created room for midfield runners.
Nicklas Bendtner got his chance of a start for the first team and did what he could. He held the ball up well at times with his good first touch but seemed to lack support. Players didn’t get close enough to him and any hard work he did was wasted. He did himself no harm in trying to prove himself worthy of more first team football and I wouldnt mind seeing him start against Sevilla. It will be a much tougher game and in a team where Wenger will rest less players it will be intersting to see how he fares.
You may wonder why I have only mentioned one sighter of a shot regarding Arsenal and chances but alongside a tame Adebayor header straight to the keeper, that was all there was all night. As I have said the game was boring and I hope we get back to the form we’ve been in when we face Reading.