Part 1 of the response is complete. Now Part 2 is just one day away. Arsene Wenger stated that the 4-0 victory on Wednesday only went half way towards wiping the shock defeat to Hull from our minds. He is spot on. Wednesday night’s far improved performance will mean nothing if we do not go to Sunderland and play in the same fashion. If we play the same attacking football we did against Porto, we will take the 3 points.
I was pleased to see the newspapers did not overlook the defensive frailties of Wednesday night; although they are very quick to pick fault with the team. It would have been easy to forget the fact we could have been 2-0 down within the first 20 minutes but it is important that it has not been withdrawn from the memory bank. There are problems at the back at the moment and no doubt this comes from the lack of leadership from the centre backs.
Neither Gallas nor Toure are prepared to take it upon themselves to command the defence. Whenever we concede a corner I groan; something always happens from it. Whether it be a goal or a missed chance, we are always under threat from dead ball situations. Sunderland have some tall players and Roy Keane will undoubtedly ensure his players put us under immense pressure in similar situations and Cisse has the ability to really threaten.
We can often get away with defensive frailties through our attacking football. There are goals in this side and when they hit the ground running, there are very few teams that can cope. The problem comes from when things do not go to plan going forward. When this happens, a team needs its defence to hold strong and ensure that one goal might be enough. That was exactly what we needed against Hull; the defence was just not up to it. Man Utd and Chelsea have won games over the past couple of seasons due to their solidity at the back. If they can nick a goal they are pretty confident they can see out the game. I do not see this from Arsenal right now.
The boss has highlighted the issue and this is half the problem solved. For a while I thought he was blind to the situation; now I think he’s just stubborn. Johan Djourou was quality against Sheffield United last week and showed how to dominate an attack. Granted, Sheffield United are no Porto, but there is no doubting how well he played. He attacks the first ball and he command those around hm. He has that height Wenger says we lacked and there may come a time when a chance should be taken and Djourou given his shot.
I don’t expect that change to come tomorrow as the team will be unchanged. The defence has a chance to show it can cope and if it fails to do so, well Toure or Gallas might have to be dropped to the bench. Sometimes how the team works takes priority over supposedly better players. Sagna and Clichy are playing at the top of their game right now and if changes are to be made, it will be in the centre.
Denilson was quiet against Porto but his role has gone slightly unnoticed. His discipline has improved greatly and he has really stepped up to the plate this season. He has got stronger and fitter which has made a huge difference to his game. Cesc is beginning to form a partnership with him and the Spaniard was back to his best in the 4-0 win. He controlled the game from midfield and his vision never ceases to amaze. With Cesc hopefully about to hit top form, the season is just getting started for him.
Samir Nasri made a difference on his comeback also. He is confident on the ball and will take pressure off Cesc in the midfield whenever he can. He is a great carrier of the ball ad gets into dangerous positions. With him in the side, Cesc gets more room as teams know Nasri can be just as big a threat. Theo also offers something different to the side and last year he was brilliant at Sunderland last year. They will not fancy playing Theo tomorrow and he has to use this to his advantage.
There is not much to say about Ade and Van Persie, other than same again please lads. They are awesome against Porto and it reminded me of the start of last season where they blew teams away. If these two can carry on in the same fashion, we are in luck.