On reflection this 3-1 defeat has cost us control of the group and affected our chances of a decent draw in the knockout rounds. However there are benefits of this loss. It might not seem it straight away but think about it a little:
With so many first teamers out rested or injured the loss will not affect them so much. The pressure of 28 games unbeaten is now gone and the pressure of this record is off. They can now concentrate on a new run with the first teamers back. Had the loss occured this weekend to Villa, in a few weeks against Chelsea or god forbid against Spurs, it would have had a stronger affect on morale. A defeat was inevitable and I’d rather it was now, with the younger squad players in, than in the League with the first team.
There is one main worry from tonight and this is Phillipe Senderos. When Kolo Toure leaves for the African Cup of Nations we will be left with Gallas, Senderos and Djourou. Djourou has better pace and is decent in the air but hasn’t done brilliantly for Birmingham. Alongside Gallas he might do better but I think Senderos will get the nod. The problem is that Senderos is so clumsy and lacklustre, his decision making is slow and most importantly he lacks the pace for the Premiership. He has been punished so many times for this and with the high line we play I am very worried. I would play Djourou there against quick teams or give sagna a game there, even Diarra could fill in. I just think Senderos has never found consistency for 3 years and is still not doing well – could it be time to sell and get in someone more suitable for the pace and speed of the Premiership?
Gilberto is a player that looked like he was missing match practice. That was the worst half of football he has played in a while; he gave the ball away so many times and looked so off the pace. He improved in the second half but his confidence looks battered. Flamini has taken his place and performed ever so well and it has affected Gilberto. He could be on his way come January and he looked like he didnt have his heart in it first half. Diarra has also done ok as another destructive DM and we dont use a Gilberto type player behind Cesc as much anymore. Denilson was ok on the ball but Fabregas was very absent. Hopefully he will be ok for Saturday.
Eboue did have some good moments and showed the skill that made Wenger move him to midfield. He caused major problems for the full back and should have had a penalty in the second half. Eduardo was employed on the other wing and although he showed some good attacking flourishes, he is not a left winger. He did not track back and help the hapless traore when up against alves and navas and clearly wanted to be alongside Bendtner.
Nicklas Bendtner was the only plus point from tonight; he held the ball up very well and was a threat all night. He was unlucky as he had no runners off him and had Eduardo been up top then it might have been a different story.
We missed William Gallas – had he played I think we would not have lost. 3 changes at the back caused too much disruption and we lacked organisation. Sagna was also missed as he is a far better defender than hoyte. Traore was a forced change and he didnt do brilliantly, but he was left hugely exposed. Lets put this behind us, get back the first teamers and move onto Villa on Saturday. It was not the best night – even Wenger was sent to the stands!