Arsenal failed to qualify for the semi finals of the Carling Cup after a 1-0 defeat at home to the moneybags of the Premier League. $amir Na$ri was jeered and booed throughout. Just after 5 minutes before the whole stadium was standing because “stand up if you hate Na$ri” was the song doing the rounds. It was slack defending that caused us the goal but take nothing away from the lads, every single one of them deserved a pat on the back.
Arsene Wenger went with a mixture of experienced defence and attack to compliment a young-ish midfield. It was a conversion back to the 4-4-2 formation to accommodate both Marouane Chamakh and Park Ju Young into the starting line-up. Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miquel were the full backs around the centreback pairing of Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny. Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain completed the starting eleven.
Roberto Mancini paraded his array of expensive bench warmers. From Na$ri to Edin Dzeko to Nigel De Jong to Kolo Toure and Adam Johnson. The high profile names were added just after the half hour mark when Aleksandar Kolarov was brought off and Sergio Aguero played his first ever match at the Grove. But despite all that, Arsenal were the one who took control of proceedings.
Frimpong and Coquelin easily outclassed City’s midfield. They were quicker on the tackle and composed on the ball. A Frimpong at the start of the season was a real liability. A tenacious tackler who plays with his heart more than with his brain. Not entirely a bad thing but does not help when there’s a card-happy referee running around. Today’s Frimpong has calmed down quite a bit and was not only strong on the ball, he kept possession well.
While Frimpong still looks to be the brawn of this two-man crew, Coquelin looks to be the more elegant one. The Frenchman still does his job of harassing and tackling but does with a certain style. His wonderful reading of the game and falling back into position when required are attributes that will serve him well in the future. Though, he was partially at fault for not picking up Aguero’s run for the winning goal.
AOC was another of those young guns who have their reputation boosted by last night’s performance. It was credit to AOC that Mancini elected to play 2 left backs to negate his attacking threat. He was quick and his dribbling was very good. When AOC gets into position with the slightest view of the goal, he’s not shy to take a shot. The giant in City’s goal that is Costel Pantilimon tipping one over the bar, when the shot was heading for the top corner.
It is very exciting to see such a talent on our books and after such displays, there would be calls for him to get some game time in the Premier League and/or the Champions League. I won’t deny AOC the chance of doing that but let’s not over-hype the lad. He still has plenty of training and improvement to go through. Had we not use 2 defensive midfielders, Djourou would’ve been left exposed.
Even the much maligned Squillaci had a very decent game and never put a foot wrong. Alongside him, Koscielny was just immense. There was a 10 seconds period of brilliance for him in which his slide in to win the ball cleanly inside our own penalty box. Somehow we construed to lose it immediately and who was there to clear to touch, it was Koscielny.
Djourou’s form and confidence should be returning with another solid display as a right back. While I don’t think, it will be his permanent position, doing well there certainly helps him on his recovery road. Miquel was another centreback played out of position but performed admirably. Facing Johnson could be a very daunting task but he did not allow the England international any room to maneuver. Though, a big chunk of praise goes to captain of the day, Benayoun was consistently supported his left back.
Up front, I thought Park and Chamakh did well. You can’t compare them to Robin Van Persie. It would be very unfair and in the opposite way, would belittle the credentials of RvP. If we expect every striker we have to be as good as RvP, then what makes RvP the so special? What we can hope for in these two is to be a decent backup to RvP and able to perform when called upon. Park had a chance early in the first half but was denied by the long hands of Pantilimon.
Chamakh could’ve levelled the tie in the final minute. Just only failing to connect with Gervinho’s enticing cross. Sure, he could have made more effort to get on the end of the that but for someone who’s playing his first full 90 minutes of the season since the first leg against Udinese, he was bound to get heavy legs towards the end. Still a long way from the Chamakh that we know of but this match is a stepping stone for him. He put himself about more and even did a few dribbles.
This, is just a very stupid article. Had it been Park or Chamakh in the same position as Aguero, who’s to say that these much lamented Arsenal strikers won’t put it away? What else did Aguero do the rest of the night? There was also a scuffle reported between Frimpong and Na$ri after the final whistle. Will have to see what further developments on that. The sight of Na$ri wishing to be substituted after just 30 minutes was priceless. I’m glad we got rid of such a gutless player.
All in all, it was a satisfying display from this Arsenal side despite the defeat. What they should take from this match should be many positives. That they are certainly good enough to mix with the top and every one of these players should continue to work diligently and their efforts will be rewarded.
Gutted but not disheartened.