Arsenal 2-0 Standard Liege: Still not good enough

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We may have beaten Standard Liege 2-0 last night but I can’t remember feeling as stressed about Arsenal as I do right now.

With the crucial game against Chelsea just five days away this was not the sort of performance I was hoping for. On paper 2-0 looks a comfortable victory, but just like the game against Sunderland there were worrying negatives to the performance that outweighed the positives.

Samir Nasri and Denilson may have got the goals at the end of a frantic first half yet both were a result of Standard’s inability than our craft. We missed the strength and craft of Robin van Persie for the second game running, something that will worry supporters with Chelsea on the horizon. Despite Carlos Vela’s best efforts he was unable to make his mark and just like on Saturday our wingers did not provide enough support. Once again Nasri was poor despite scoring while Andrey Arshavin was a passenger for long periods.

The bright spot once again was the performances of our superb central midfield duo of Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song. Denilson also had a strong first outing after nine weeks off but the cohesive performance of the captain and the Cameroonian showed just how far they have both come as a pairing. Fabregas bossed the game with his incisive passing and showed exceptional maturity in the red card incident while Song racked up yet another Man of the Match award with a robust performance. If the Player of the Season award was given out today I know who I’d be giving it to.

My problem with this match was not that the result or the fact that we didn’t score more – it’s that just that a number of players on the pitch are not performing to their potential. People might point to the fact that the players need time on the pitch to gel, that a few are coming back from injury, but for me there are too many passengers just at the minute and that is a worrying sign for what will be a massive game against Chelsea on Sunday. Our record at home this season is so strong that we will certainly be tough to beat but right now my lack of confidence in the boys is such that I would be lying if I said I expect us to get the win we need to hang on at the top.

None of Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky and Walcott have done enough in the past two matches to suggest that we can adequately fill the void filled by van Persie and to a lesser extent Nicklas Bendtner and Abou Diaby. We’re clearly lacking in physicality and height at the moment and it’s hard to see what the manager can do to address that on the weekend. Nasri’s early substitution suggests he is likely to start while Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky’s absence from the starting team also indicates they are likely to feature heavily.

Aside from a few below-par individual performances there were some infuriating moments by the team as a whole. The defence gifting Alex Witsel a chance from a free-kick sticks out in my mind, as does the multitude of ridiculous short corners Arshavin and Fabregas played throughout the game. Not one of them worked and perhaps the thing that irked me most was that they only started up once we were two goals to the good. It was like the game changed because we were in the lead, like we could faff about and try unusual things, like the players didn’t stop to consider that practicing our usual corners for the 90 minutes might actually be useful with Chelsea coming up. Statistics have shown that 50% of goals come from set-pieces and it was criminal not to practice them in such an ideal environment.

To finish a bad night off we have the possibility of William Gallas missing out on Chelsea after an ugly head clash and the announcement that Kieran Gibbs will be out for up to three months after breaking his foot. It’s a huge blow, particularly considering it happened with just 15 seconds to go, and you probably don’t need me reminding you it was the result of an horrible tackle by a Standard player and a short corner from Arshavin. Infuriating.

As you can probably tell I’m not feeling particularly good about things right now. I was expecting an improvement on Sunderland and to a certain extent the boys provided that. But with Chelsea looming large there are big questions that have yet to be answered about the potency of our attacking unit without the likes of van Persie and Bendtner. I still think we can beat anyone on our day but this was not the type of performance that suggests Sunday will be our day.

Sorry for the negativity but it’s going to be a nerve-wracking week for me.

Have your say on Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Standard Liege by leaving a comment.


40 thoughts on “Arsenal 2-0 Standard Liege: Still not good enough

  1. It’s one thing beating SL. To be frank the BL is second rate or shd I say equivalent to the Scottish league or one rung below.
    Chelsea is a different proposition. For starters they have a wc goalie. I rate him in the world’s top three to five goalies. Furthermore the blues defence has conceded the least goals.Admittedly they were beaten by Sunderland but football is a funny game.Since beating MU ,Pool have been unable to beat mid table teams.
    That’s to say the gunners can’t beat the blues.To do this everyone in the team must be on tip top form and must not be awol.
    Cheers to the gunners.

  2. hey Andy, I’m really surprised to hear such critical voices from you, I haven’t seen the match, I don’t know, a little bit too tired, a little bit too disappointed about Sunderland, … , I just took a look at the game at the beginning of the second half, 2:0 and I had the impression Liege has just been broken, so I expected a relatively boring second half, I believed things were done and I think I have been quite right, I think I share your oppinion once again about the negative feelings, maybe the Chelsea match will teach us better, hopefully, difficult to say where the reasons lay, but a midfield with Nasri, Rosicky, Fabregas in connection with Shava normally must be exceptional class, and especially at Sunderland you could see it wasn’t, strange and not understandable, so I am really curious about how things will go on Sunday 😎

  3. Sadly if we had played chelski 3 weeks ago I would have been confident that we would have kicked the arses but this sunday,despite being a lifelong gooner, I can see them beating us comfortably unless all of the players named get a rocket from Arsene and play to their full potential. Sadly for us it looks like injuries are going to define our season again but looking on the bright side I will be happy to finish 2nd or 3rd in the prem but win the CL as we will hopefully have a full side back by the time the serious games recommence.

  4. Well, I have to admit I’ve feeling a bit more positive than you, but I understand your frustration – I was commenting during the match that despite the clear gulf in class, there was always the worry about what would happen if Liege pinched one. That shouldn’t be a concern, but it was.

    Song was tremendous last night, man of the match by a country mile for me. After working so hard on his positioning (every Liege stray pass found him) and defensive work, he has now added creativity and a deft touch. And he’s still so young.

    Eduardo’s absence suggests a trio of him, Rosicky and Arshavin up front on Sunday, but like you, I’m worried about our physicality. Not in the sense that we’ll get overrun, because Song’s presence and the technical ability of our players should see us cope with the midfield battle, but I’m not sure how we’ll defend set pieces against such a big side. We’re not great at it anyway, and Chelsea are the masters.

    At least Drogba’s not around.

    For me, we have to really go for them on Sunday, with the attitude that we may have to score three to win it. We’re at our best when tearing into the opposition, and I’d hate to see us play a cagey game we’re not great at.

    Incidentally, I think the Cesc-Arshavin corner tactic was deliberate based on our lack of height in the middle. Ironic then that the one time it was swung in, it lead to the almighty goalmouth scramble in the first half.

    The good news is that we should be fresh – the boys played in fifth gear for the second half and should have no problem being ready for Sunday, injury permitting.

  5. I can only laugh. It was a very good team performance. Very well-calibrated. We played with all 5 gears and thoroughly dominated the game.

    In analysing the game last night you’ve superimposed your worries about Sunday.

    Weird analysis.

  6. A “nice performance” but Roscisky is far from 1st team material at this stage of his career.. if he gets played on his reputation we would be admitting defeat already.. he seems totally uncoordinated

  7. I think Nasri was not that poor. He had some good tackels, good control on the ball und was hard fighting. Rosicky was really not good enough. You dont see him when he came on. Same for your little russian. They have to step up against chelsea!!

  8. Hans, I couldn’t disagree with you more – our moves are so much quicker with Rosicky on the field, he is the master of the quick first time pass forward.

    For me, he is a top player when fully fit, even at this stage in his career. He may have his injury problems, but he’s only just turned 29.

  9. Its really a pity that we have lost RvP but I still think that with the rest of the crew & knowing d importtance of a slip off wt Chelksi on Sunday, they r more than motivated to up the ante of their performances. I still believe that our boys can handle whatever Chelksi throw at them even wt Drog.. Most often that not, we seem to underestimate our boys’ capacity to handle the big boys and wt the home record, lets see and await Sunday and hopefully we wld ve reduced the points….

  10. What a cracker by Denilson it makes me laugh how so many people wrote both him and Song off and yet they are showing there worth. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest Clichy fan. I think hes overrated. To be honest would our team be that different if we sold him and Gibbs stepped up? Eboue did good at rb and showed us just how different playing out of position is (he is more consistent at rb then rm) ala Walcott (a striker playing right wing). His runs are more direct then Sagna as Sagna seems to go for the cross by the corner post. Song and Denilson are a great mix in midfield. Song has greater awareness and naturally covers when a centre back attacks has greater strength and tackling. Denilson has better passing, technique, vision and shooting and also he is a real work horse. Fabregas didn’t have his best game it’s funny how some games he just misplaces the simplest passes and we look flat he really is our heartbeat. Well done to Vela and Walcott they did ok seeming as they havent had alot of minutes this season.

  11. Good on you for giving us a pragmatic, critical take on the game, Andrew – but I’ve just watched it for the first time and without the anxiety of fearing a SL comeback I thought the team played very well, pretty much all across the park. In fact I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Arsenal dominated and played some wonderful passing, moving, flowing football. Their forte in other words. SL are definitely not mugs. They can play a bit and were very motivated. Yet for most of the match they were chasing Arsenal’s shadows and only managed a couple of snatched goal attempts. Lovely to see Denilson back and with a smile on his face again as he notched up another long range cracker. I thought Eboue had some very good moments. Song, Gallas, Vermaelen, Nasri all good as usual. Very bad news about Gibbs who was excellent again and improving every game – now he’s going to be out for a couple of months at least. Only Vela was a little disappointing I thought because he’s very talented and didn’t really show it but he’s still just fitting in so we can excuse that. Anyone who criticises Arshavin doesn’t understand – he’s different. You can’t judge him by normal players standards. He can do something absolutely brilliant at any time and must be given as much lee-way as possible. But MOM was Fabregas – after the poor show at Sunderland he was right back on form and had a hand (or rather a foot) in practically everything. I feel very confident that we can do damage to the Rent Boys at the weekend. I’d play Walcott at the start – but that’s just me I guess. Also I forgot to mention Rosicky – lovely touches. Love watching him play. Watch the game again, Andrew, if you’ve got it recorded – I think you’ll feel better.

  12. The performance last night was not one of total focus and concentration. Sunday will now present some selection problems for the manager. My guess is he’ll be forced to re-instate Eduardo up front, and play Arshavin and Nasri with him. I think the midfield will be the same as faced Liege. William Gallas appeared to suffer concussion and Wenger’s side finished the evening with ten men as Kieran Gibbs was taken off in the dying seconds.

    The players have to step up a gear in a big way, especially with Didier Drogba apparently fit again. If Gallas doesn’t start, I think we can safely say it’s curtains. I can forgive the lapses last night because Arsenal did what they needed to and there is no need to do more than that when there is a busy fixture list looming. Mentally, players are not switched on 100% of the time.

    Having said that, I didn’t see a Champions League winner in waiting. If Arsenal face the kind of tight, tense matches they did in their run to the final in 2006 – as they surely must at some point in the knockout stages – I can’t see them coming off best. They are simply not set up to play that way. Liege were a very average side. There is an argument they might not even be good enough for the Premier League. Arsenal, through their attacking style, offered them plenty of encouragement. The warning signs have been there all season, and the fear is the chickens may come home to roost on Sunday.

  13. Andy @ Arsenal FC Blog – I thought we played very well last night.

    Denilson and Song were absolutely outstanding in the middle of the park. At present I personally believe that Alex Song is the best defensive midfielder in Europe, whilst we missed Denilson’s ability to intercept passes and his tenacity when he was out with his injury.

    I would go as far as saying that I hope Wenger plays the same front six against Chelski on Sunday.

  14. I watched yesterdays’ game n am v sure that if we are going to employ the same tactics in our game against Chelsea this Sunday then we’ll lose by more than 3 goals to maybe 1.

  15. yes it is unusual to hear andy being a little negative but one thing that is not unusual is his honesty and ability to summarise a game so in this sense i absolutely agree with him,we shud be apprehensive,both goals wer fortunate and before that it looked like we would struggle to convert…these guys hav told us they hav learned from the alkmaar/west ham games but i dont believe it cos once again they lowered their standard and the flicks and overkill littered the second half and liege had alot of joy and only for song,and with the hapless sylvestre at the back,we cud and maybe shud hav conceded.also i hav a point in relation to the critisism levelled at AW for not making substitutions at the correct times,i agree with this,when a game needs changing for the positive he waits till its too late for a player to make an impact,but in games that we are comfortable in like last night he leaves gibbs and more notably song on for 90mins,i mean song took some punishment last night and wer we to lose him for sunday wed be in the shit whereas gibbs has just returned and we ‘were’ relying on him to fill in…fair enough we brought on theo and ros but they had zero impact and looked terribly rusty…needless risk by the manager
    like andy at the moment i feel very frustrated at the apparent passengers in our team who only come to life when we hav the ball,what will happen sunday when our honest players like cesc,song and deni are nullified by the stiffling chelsea midfield??????nasri,rosicky,walcott,dudu,arsha and vela cannot hide if called upon and this is also where you hav been proved correct about bendtner andy,he will always make himself available and wil put himself about,both he and RvP are big losses for this game

  16. one more vote for a frustrating performance yesterday. honestly don’t have much hope in an arsenal win over chelscum. a draw would seem ok to me right now. once again we’re seeing a need for a transfer agent or two for back-up with injuries mounting and song off to africa before long. our boys have surprised me before… here’s to hoping they can do it again.

  17. Man I hate short corners with a passion as well. Rarely do they amount to anything of quality.

    I pray Gallas is fit.

  18. I have to say I’m a little relieved not to be slammed by people for being overly negative. It’s certainly the way I feel about it, let’s hope my perspective changes over the next couple of days or I might not have any hair by Sunday.

    Go Arsenal.

  19. Yo all, unfortunately i could not watch the game because i was called into work. It wasn’t on the radio either. I expected yr boys to win the game but a few of my gooner mates say to many players did not put in a shift. I myself am a little worried that Alex is consistantly the man of the match for he might be carrying to much on his shoulders and could break down any time. Can u all imagine how much stronger the team would be if Wenger was to promote a couple more like him into the squad. It would be a massive help for the Chelsea game. Though its not the Wenger way. Shame, for i could see u winning two cups this season.

  20. read this from a liverpool fan posted today:

    “humphs1213 (Liverpool fan)
    Posted Today @ 14:42 View all humphs1213’s posts:Should Rafa be sacked? Definitely not! We as LFC supporters are not and will never be supporters who want to sack our manager after one bad run. If you take the whole 5 years Rafa has been here and not just the last 2 months we have come a long way! Dont’ get me wrong I get extremely wound up at times with some of his decisions but I am 100% sure he can turn it around. Lokk at all the injuries we’ve has this year so far! Put our best team on the pitch fully fit and we can beat anyone! What about his poor record and the amount of poor players he has bought in the tranfer market, I hear you say. If you look at the facts and not listen to media propaganda he has had on average just over ¿16 million net each year. The turnaround of players is because he has had to buy and sell. With the players we have sold such as Crouch, Bellamy, Alonso et al; Crouch and Bellamy would not sit on the bench and each we sold for a healthy profit. With Alonso it was slightly different. I was gutted when he left and Rafa must take his portion of the blame, but it was only the season before last that Xabi was very average and Juve would not pay ¿15 million for him. we did sell him for ¿30 million! Where is all the money from the Americans that we were led to believe was there? Do you think SAF would have to look around for a defender for no more than ¿2 million. I doubt it! Taking everything into consideration and with a little more lady luck I am POSITIVE that something can be taken from this season. We as supporters must at this time stick together and support our club. This is what sets us apart from the rest! C’mon Rafa, go for it! We are with you!!!!! ( 5 exclamation marks because we’ve won it 5 times not 3 ). YNWA”

    hmm i wonder whether the gunners have such fans in the ranks.

  21. its more about speaking some truth we are afraid of hearing,less about being negative,i however know the importance of positivity! Am hanging in there expecting the worst(loss) doesn’t happen against Chelsea. If it happens,its just a game,these things happen. A win will be spectacular,will “exceed” most expectations in these circumstances and will lead to a flood of comments here. Lets wait and see.

  22. @ANDY – U r not being negative at all…I mean when did being honest amount to being negative?
    Ur fairness in analysis is why I love reading this blog so much, it actually rubs off on a lot of ur readers.

  23. I don’t think Andy is being negative. Unfortunately the truth hurts with regard to our defence. If SL had scored who knows what might have happened.The gunners could have upped the temepo and in the process scored a couple of goals but a number of players could have been injured.
    I still think the defence needs tweaking/strenghtening call what you may.
    Remember it’s the defence that wins matches. A potent attack can be neutralized by two lines of defnders or parking the bus.

  24. @will,
    yeah man we hav hundreds of thousands of fans like that,thats why the emirates is full every week despite our trophy cabinet being bare in recent years,dont ever think scouse fans are above us because one of them writes the way EVERYONE in here does….with sense and honesty
    whats the point of writing lies just to make you feel good for the sake of positivity,you set urself up for major dissapointment,as gunnerboss said thats why we come here.real anaylsis and perspective,it was refreshing for me to read that today as it represented how i felt watching the game last night,doesnt mean i dont fancy us to play wel on sunday,it just means i expect more from lads who look to hav been conserving energy of late

  25. For me Arshavin is the player that worries me more!! he’s not playing well and is really bad, I hope it’s just because Russia is out of the world cup. sorry, I’m not good with english.

  26. @ Andy, good post , i also agree with you mate, Dont worry, you havnt been negative, you’ve just told what you felt as most of the Arsenal fan did. ive also felt the same way when i watched the game,It wasnt really very convincing!!!.To be straight forward, I dont trust VELA, I dont know if I miss RVP too much but i am just not convinced toward his performance, the way he always run away from defenders when he attacks.It was just after the sunderland game that AW mentionned abt getting behind defenders if you wanna score, and to me it just didnt happen especially durin the 2nd half.However, im very confident with our 3 midfielders trio, Song,Cesc,Deni.The trio up front is my biggest worry.Id like to see Arsha-Dudu-Theo this sunday agst Chelsea but who knows what the boss would put on.
    Defensively, i dont think we would stand agst the blues, but this game would be decided on our attacking performance and pace.The more we will attack them, the more chance we will have to break them down.If we play the laid back style type of football we used to play, they would bring us down.
    Having said that, i think that playing agst Chelsea is totaly another cup of tea, im defntly sure that the boys will wake up defferently.

  27. I think we played very well and this is the kind of performance I was personally hoped for with Chelsea in mind. No need to run ourselves to the ground when we can win easily. The only 2 things that I didn’t like were Vela’s “strictly left foot only” habit and only so because he was played centrally. I would have swapped him with Arshavin since we were not Arshavin is dangerous with both legs and a tad slower than Vela. The second one is Theo. He crosses with hope rather than look up and see where his teammates are. Looses too much possession needlessly with that.

    We should not be putting Chelsea on that pedestal at all. They are not that great. Stop believing the hype.

    If we manage to keep Theo and Ramsay off the starting lineup we should win comfortably. We thrive on precision, not indecision and “hope”.

    Also, I would never associate RVP with physicality. The guy is hardly a hardman. Eduardo is a tad faster than RVP. At least I have consistently seen Eduardo beat people for pace. RVP’s weapon is quickness of turn. So we are good on that front. No one in his right mind would leave Eduardo space.

    Kudos to Bendtner. I never expected that people would miss him this soon!

    With Arshavin-Eduardo-Rosicky as top 3 and Denilson-Song-Cesc in MF. I expect a good win on Sunday.

  28. nice read today lads,lots of good points and opinions shared.i think arshavin is sulking because he wants to play more central in the bergkamp role, for sunday v chelski the team must be almunia,sagna,tv5,gallas if fit traore,song,denilsoncesc,arshavin,eduardo,rosicky with subs theo,vela,ramsey,eboue,senderos with senderos to come in if gallasa is not fit.chelski can be beaten but it means big performances are required all round anything less and we could have a problem.we cant start too many players at once who have been out through injury for a long time or we will get overun. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!

  29. @shambogunner – I enjoy your posts, mate, but some of the things you say are just outrageous. Theo and Rosicky ‘had zero impact and looked terribly rusty’. S’funny because I could have sworn I saw Theo have a shot on goal that JUST missed the far post. He also put in some crosses – one of which went right across the face and just needed someone to touch it in. Rosicky had some very good moves and touches and kept the opposition more than busy enough (ie. instead of attacking us). I mean what the hell? Whaddaya want? What was the ‘needless risk’ by the manager? Leaving Gibbs on because of course he knew he was going to get his foot broken in the last minute – or bringing on the ‘rusty’ Theo and Rosicky – instead of leaving them on the bench to do er…nothing. Rusty? Christ I’d like to be as rusty as Walcott who was zipping down that touchline like a rocket. And did anyone notice that, by the way, we just qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League – top of the group. Fans, Cah!

  30. “Rusty” Theo???????/
    @Taygoon, nice to have you back mate, its been a whle isnt itz?/
    Well,you ve mentionned some good points (Chelski being not that great,Arsha being put central..) but there are few tht I dont agree with as usual,
    1- Not having Theo in the starting line up to me would be madness, he would be the only one who could challenge Ashley cole.How could we leave one of our best player on the bench agst a team like chelsea?remember he just came back from injuries, its normal that he might loose posession somtime, but he is a good player and he can recover his fitness quickly.As for Theo’s crossing,I agree when he didnt see Arsha backward in the box on his left who shud have dfntly scored our third goal that night but I think that the most important thing is for him to over run the defender and get the cross over in the box while our attacking mdfldrs ans strikers choose their way to fill the box.The guy who never looks at his mate when passing is always Sagna, the guy can make ugly crosses and kicking the ball blindly.
    2- Dudu faster than RVP? i dont think so!! RVP has more finishing senses, and more sharper and faster in the box.The way I see it is,Who runs faster in the box? Dudu may have more pace than RVP on the run, but RVP has more quick acceleration and sharpness on escaping from defenders in the box.RVP not being associated with physicality? he is more physical than you think he is!! you usually talk abt statistics, then let me tell you that 92% of RVP’s goal have been all associated with a fight of over-runnin defenders in the box itself, rarely a challenge run from midfld.
    3- you can never win easely agst chelsea,They arent easy to break down, very organised defensivly from full back to midfld, and i personnaly beleive that pace with agressivity would be our most effective tool to bring them down cos they are old and we are young.They are the only team in the league who have all 3 midfld players attacking and defensive midfldr at the same time (Diamond midfld), and they can defend with 9 players with one single striker up front.I know that they dont look as dangerous as Manu or Liv or mancity when they attack with their only 2 or 3 attacking force but still its dangerous enough for any top 4 in the league.

  31. I aggree with Taygoon, Theo’s decision making is not very good, he’s playing purely on instinct, problem is his instinct is usually not accurate. Lots will flake me anyway but that’s what I see of Theo alot of pace but nothing else. Hope he surprise me against Chelsea.


  32. wel rusty may hav been the wrong word but wasteful wud maybe more accurate for theo,very rarely an end product,i know ur gonna now tel me hes only back from injury now so am just gonna stop….listen my point is they came on at 2-0 and the game ended 2-0 with neither creating or havin a chance of note,theos was a hit and hope that flew thru the def legs and keeper laughed at,and i just feel AW cud hav taken gibbs and song off because both are very important to us at the mo and you cud see right from the restart that liege were diving in wrecklessly….ramsey for song and traore for gibbs,then you cuda given theo a run out….

  33. It’s not being negative,there’s nothing wrong with being objective or realistic.Am sure both AW and d players knows d importance of this match.Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  34. It’s not being negative,there’s nothing wrong with being objective or realistic.Am sure both AW and d players knows d importance of this match.Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  35. Im a Barcelona fan, that follows Arsenal exclusively because of Carlos Vela. Ive been following him since he played for Osasuna here in Spain because i believe he is one of the most talented prospects world wide.. I find the Arsenal fan mentality on this blog to be very negative. This was Velas 1st match in 6 months, before that when he did play he only got like 10 minutes a game and still you want him to perform as if he had allways been in the starting eleven. Wenger said he was happy with Velas performance, and its funny when i see some fans think they know more about football than the coaches.. Or do you really think you know more about the sport than Wenger??.. I would love to see Barca SNATCH Vela from Arsenal, it will happen soon enough, right after we bring back Cesc home…

  36. negative, negative, negative.. One even wrote: “i dont trust him” WTF?? do you know him?? have you played with him?? or is it just a hunch??.. very stupid thing to say.

    You have a GREAT TEAM, you should be proud of it.. So grow a pair, get behind the team, and support it.. too many unsatiable whiners.

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