October 26, 2011
I told you I liked the Carling Cup.
Once again, the result was much better than the performance. I imagine Bolton must be pretty disappointed that they didn’t get something out of that game but frankly I couldn’t care less.
We put out another patchwork team last night, particularly in defence where we played Fabianski behind the much admired Squillaci and the returning Vermaelen with two youth team centre backs at full back – Nico Yennaris on the right and Ignasi Miquel on the left. In fairness they did pretty well, particularly late on, repelling wave after wave of Bolton attacks to cling on for victory.
The full backs were offered very little protection throughout. Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular on the right wing tending to give the ball away then failing to track back adequately. Not a great night for him but that’s why we play him in games like this. He needs experience. Once he gets it he’ll learn.
The same could be said of our young midfielders. I think we all expected a lot of Frimpong and Coquelin in the midfield. They didn’t do as badly as some are suggesting but at times we were a little overrun in the middle and both found themselves caught in possession more than they’d have liked. A lot of that may have been down to the ferocious speed of the game. I doubt they’ll have played in many blood and thunder English cup ties like that before. Again, it’s a great learning curve for them and they’ll be the better for it.
Up front the big news was the appearance of the lesser spotted Park Chu-Young playing surprisingly just ahead of Andrei Arshavin occupying his preferred central position. I was desperate to see him put in a decent showing from there hoping that it might rejuvenate him as a player and give Arsene Wenger another option in what has been at times this season a creatively bereft midfield. I wasn’t entirely disappointed. While Arshavin’s reluctance to get involved in the meat and potatoes work in the middle may well have contributed to our lack of presence in there and no doubt caused Wenger a bit of a headache (more on that in a moment), with the ball he produced a few moments of quality, not least in the case of the two goals.
For his first he danced in to the corner of the box putting the Bolton defence on the back foot before unleashing a deft finish just inside the post. Brilliant. We need to score more goals like this because they don’t require a fifteen pass move that unpicks the massed ranks of the opposition defence. Just one man who knows how to shoot.
For our second, Bolton handed us possession in the midfield. Arshavin drove forward. Park ran into an offside position but instead of just attempting to release him anyway, Arshavin delayed, made use of the space that had opened up, pushed forward some more, waited for Park to get back onside and then, at the perfect time, fed him into the box. It was the kind of pass that screamed out for a decent finish. And we got one. Park opened up his body and whipped the ball past Bogdan’s outstretched hand, curling it just inside the far post. Unsaveable.
So that’s what we’ve been waiting for. Park’s game on the whole was very good I thought. His movement caused problems for Bolton and his pace and willingness to play off the shoulders of the defenders gave the midfielders options. He got caught offside a couple of times by a whisker but could easily have been given on. Both times he’d have been clear on goal. He also showed he can shoot from range, a couple of nicely struck efforts well saved by the keeper. All in all pretty promising and much more dangerous than Chamakh looked at the weekend. Arsene was impressed:
For me I am very pleased with his performance. He had a very, very good game. He has shown intelligence in his link play with others. The quality of his movement was exceptional and his finishing is absolutely fantastic. He has shown tonight that he is a very, very good player. He is ready to play in league games, yes.
Great news. If nothing else had come of last night, the fact that we have another option up front is brilliant stuff. He’s like a new signing! Okay, he is a new signing.
Wenger was less convinced but still positive about Arshavin:
Andrey is a player who of course takes a bit gamble on nearly every ball he plays. Sometimes he loses balls he shouldn’t lose but when you look at the end of the game he has always had a big impact. Tonight he scored and made an assist. He had a good performance tonight.
But what we really wanted to know was if he has a future centrally:
You cannot play with two wingers and two offensive players like that, you are too short in midfield. He is normally a wide player but he wants to grow in a role behind the striker. Of course, he can do that. He plays where you want him to play but if you ask him honestly he will always tell you that he likes to play in there.
I’m not sure what that means to be honest. Last night we did play with two wingers and two offensive players like that. But then in fairness we did look short in midfield. But is that any different to how we used to play with Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Ljungberg?
Either way you could see that Arshavin looked far more dangerous last night than he has done in a while. It will definitely give the boss something else to think about.
Finally it was great to see Tommy V back in the side last night. He put the shits up everybody by coming off injured with five minutes to go but Wenger said it was just a precaution due to ‘tight calves’. They’re planning to assess him later today. The player himself announced on his Twitter that he was just suffering a bit of cramp. Hopefully that’s the case. 85 minutes at that pace is a lot to play on your first game back.
It would be great to have him available for Saturday. It’s going to be a tough one, no doubt about that. But we go into it with a run of good results behind us and a squad of players starting to give the manager some selection headaches. And right now that feels like a pretty good place to be.