The performance may have been lacking but the result certainly wasn’t as Arsenal came away from a difficult first game of the new season with a 2-0 win over FC Twente.
After absorbing quite a lot of pressure in the opening hour Arsenal took the lead through William Gallas’ bundled finish before Emmanuel Adebayor added the icing on the cake by tapping home with seven minutes to go. The result means that Arsenal are virtually assured of their place in the group stages of the Champions League after scoring two unanswered away goals.
It was very much a case of a job done as opposed to a job well-done as an Arsenal side that saw a number of players perform well below their best. Indeed, FC Twente had at least three very good opportunities to score and their Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic will be particularly disappointed that he could finish the guilt-edge chance that was fashioned for him midway through the first half.
Twente was gifted with the first real chance of the match when confused defending from Denilson and Gael Clichy (of all people!) gave Romano Denneboom a clear sight on goal. Thankfully for Arsenal he blasted over the bar.
Johan Djourou – who was one of few who performed quite well – soon went off with a blood nose before Twente carved out their best chance of the match through the aforementioned Arnautovic. Gallas was at fault for trying to play the striker offside but with only Manuel Almunia to beat he thankfully miscontrolled and lost his balance and the chance was gone.
Soon after Robin van Persie clattered into the goalkeeper and was down injured for quite a while. When I first saw the reply I was pretty worried that he had sustained a corked thigh or something more serious. But soon after I saw him holding his manhood and I realised that everything would be alright. I think even van Persie would prefer not being able to have another child over missing more game-time. Maybe not, but you get my point.
Then came Arsenal’s best chance of the half when a long range effort from Clichy was spilled by Twente goalkeeper Sander Boschker. The ball fell to the feet of Bacary Sagna but he could only flash a shot wide of the post when he really should have scored.
Sagna’s shot was the last action of a strange first half for Arsenal and an encouraging one for FC Twente.
Not too much chanced after the break as the Dutch team enjoyed more possession and generally looked a better side than Arsenal. But they were made to pay for missing their early chances when Emmanuel Eboue was fouled on the right wing and van Persie whipped in a free-kick that was bundled home by captain Gallas. It was hardly a great finish but another example of the Frenchman being able to find the net at an important time.
Arnautovic had another good chance to score when he got in behind Djourou and Gallas but the Austrian was well closed down by Almunia and could only find the side netting. Afterwards, Arsenal sealed the two-goal win when Gallas’ long ball found Theo Walcott and the winger put it on a plate for the almost anonymous Adebayor to finish low past the goalkeeper.
2-0 it finished and as I said, an excellent result if not an amazing performance.
After the match Arsene Wenger was unsurprisingly delighted with the result and pointed to his side’s ability to keep their heads while the were not in control of the match. In his own words:
“We were a very young team and we did not lose our nerve, did not panic and in the end maybe our technical superiority allowed us to score two goals. That is a massive advantage for the second leg but we will be on our toes.”
And you have to say he’s just about right. It was a young side that played last night and I think at times it really showed. When you consider that the players who made up the midfield were Denilson (20), Ramsey (17), Walcott (19) and Eboue (25 – but acts like he’s about 12) you can understand why the struggled to win the midfield battle on the night.
But as Wenger points out, the younger players keeping their heads allowed more experienced players like Gallas, van Persie and Adebayor to make the difference. Often in important Champions League games like this, that is all that matters.
I think it would be unfair to criticise such an understrength team in the first game of the season when they achieved such a positive result but there is one observation that I made that has me a little worried about Arsenal’s chances of picking up silverware this season.
A lot of people will argue that the injuries to Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby meant that Arsenal’s midfield was not at its best – but I really felt that the side missed a player like Mathieu Flamini last night. I know there’s not much point bringing up the Frenchman again but I really feel that if Wenger doesn’t bring in a player who can do a similar job to what Flamini did last season then I think we may struggle to match the intensity of stronger opponents.
Anyway, it’s just a small observation to make on an otherwise successful night.
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