This was not an easy game. On this showing it is easy to understand why Partizan Belgrade has been unbeaten in their home stadium for over 3 seasons now. Yet, that only happened when they had 11 men on the field and once they had a defender sent off, it was only one winner in this game and it was Arsenal.
No one would be more delighted with the result than Lukazs Fabianski and judging from this performance, rightly so. I really like the looks of him when he first got into the Arsenal side but my opinion has since changed after countless howlers by the keeper. After Manuel Almunia’s error-prone game on Saturday against West Brom, Fabianski was given yet another chance to show just why Arsene Wenger trust him so much.
As much I would like him to kick on from here, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Let’s take a match at a time and see how it goes. Let’s see how he deals with Premiership games when he will be up against players who will attack him and block him during corners and set-pieces, which is something that Partizan did not do. Fabianski will be proud of his work today after saving a penalty and immediately you can see how much a confidence boost that was for him.
He punched the ensuing corner away and claimed a cross without dropping it (no pun intended). For his final act of the day, he reacted really quickly and got strong hands to turn away a Partizan shot from where the penalty spot is. Well done Fabianski and you earned it.
However, yet again this was a largely lethargic performance from an Arsenal side. The first goal is real prove of what we are capable of and it is a big mystery why they can’t maintain this throughout a game. The moment we started moving the ball quicker, we got the opening goal. Alex Song played the ball to Andrey Arshavin who took it and ran straight at the heart of Partizan’s defence. Getting a return back-heeled ball from Jack Wilshere, the Russian slammed home his fifth of the campaign.
That was Wilshere’s second back-heel assist of this season and he is turning into a real star with his quick and calm thinking even when surrounded by opposition players. Apparently no one told Arshavin that Wilshere is the only one at the club who is allowed to do back-heels. The Russian tries to pull off too many off those in areas of the pitch which you would rather he play the simple pass. Maverick is what he is.
Then it was a tale of three penalties. The first one, Denilson was judged to have handled the ball and Cleo confidently stroked home to level the score. The second one, Marouane Chamakh was brought down and Partizan had a player sent off for being the last man. Even though Arshavin’s spotkick was saved, the damage was already done.
The third and final penalty came about when Kieran Gibbs who otherwise had a pretty solid night, brought down a Partizan player inside the box. If you notice from the first one that Cleo took, he looks the direction of his intended placement of the shot at the last minute just to distract and trick the keeper. I’m glad that Fabianski noticed that as well and when Cleo tried it again for his second penalty of the night, it was saved.
Even before that third penalty, Arsenal had already taken control of the game and were 2 goals ahead. For the second goal, stand-in captain, Tomas Rosicky put in a delicious cross from the right which Chamakh did very well to get the header in. It rebounded off the post and the Moroccan was very quick to react to the second ball to nod home his first away goal for Arsenal. The third goal also arrive via a header, this time from Sebastien Squillaci when he nodded in from a Samir Nasri corner.
This was a very good away win in the Champions League but something else annoyed me throughout the game. I wondered who told Alex Song that he is an attacking midfielder. The boy has come leaps and bounds since his first introduction to the English game and seems to be suffering a little identity crisis now. I was shouting at the television every single time he strode forward. I do that even louder when he tries to dribble forward with the ball.
Wenger must realise this and put Song back in his place. Song is a good reader of the game and should stick to what he does best. Strolling forward and supporting the attack will only put him out of position when the opposition launch their counter-attacks. Even then, he looks reluctant to track back and negate the attack. Worrying signs and if he does that against Chelsea, then we’re just asking for trouble.
Good win, plenty of time to rest and recover for our next big game against our South London neighbour. A confidence booster win, no less even with a lighting less. Till tomorrow.