Today’s post is focused on my opinion of many of the talking points surrounding Arsenal’s first loss of the season, to Sevilla in the Champions League.
I have a feeling this one might entice some debate so and I encourage you to voice your thoughts on the matter by leaving a comment. Cheers!
On not finishing top of the group
Finishing second in the group, on the outset, seems like a bit of a problem. It is true that if Arsenal do finish second they are likely to face one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan or Inter Milan. While any of these games would provide a huge test for Arsenal, I have no doubts in my mind that Wenger’s young team could defeat all three. Indeed, when you look back at Arsenal’s recent history in the Champions League knockout stages there is a distinct pattern of them losing games they were expected to lose and winning games they were expected to lose.
As Cesc Fabregas said following the Sevilla loss, if Arsenal want to be the best then they’ll have to beat the best at some stage. Better sooner than later in my opinion. There’s also the small matter of Sevilla having to beat Slavia Prague away and they have shown to be quite a tough proposition on their home turf thus far, so those concerned about Arsenal finishing top in the group can still hang on to the fact that it is still quite possible.
How the team’s morale will be hit by the loss
Not at all, in my opinion. If the young side’s morale is affected by losing a match like this then I wouldn’t hold much hope that Arsenal can achieve much this season. Sevilla are one of Spain’s top sides and have finally started to hit their straps after the losses of Antonio Puerta and Juande Ramos, so to lose to them with a much-changed lineup is no disgrace. Supporters should remember that Sevilla have won the last two UEFA Cups and their home record in European competitions is formidable, to say the least. The reactions of Fabregas and Wenger as well as Kolo Toure to the loss suggest that Arsenal know they deserved to lose and are not too concerned about it. As such, I would not expect any sort of hangover to be affecting the squad when they travel to Villa Park this weekend.
Wenger’s decision to play a much changed team
The decision by Wenger to rest Emmanuel Adebayor and William Gallas was a good one. Although Arsenal are unlikely to finish at the top of their group in Champions League, the opportunity to rest top players without harsh penalties does not come around very often, and Wenger was right to take it. Adebayor and has played a lot of football so far this season and deserved a rest, whilst people should remember that despite Gallas’ imperious form of late, he would still be recovering from the groin injury he suffered at Blackburn earlier in the season. If Arsenal want to keep challenging at the top in both the Premiership and the Champions League then players need to remain fresh, and resting them in a game that Wenger’s side did not have to win was definitely the perfect time.
On the other side was the opportunities that were given to Armand Traore, Justin Hoyte, Philippe Senderos and Nicklas Bendtner to have some precious game time. Whilst the former three did not take their chance, the likes of Traore and Hoyte will have been shown a valuable lesson in top-level football. They were caught out on numerous occasions trying to play the ball out of defence when it was just not possible and hopefully the pair can learn from it.
Senderos was a different story (more on him in a moment) and Bendtner took his chance well, in my eyes the second best player on the pitch after Eduardo da Silva. However, the assertion that Bendtner should replace Adebayor based on this performance is absolutely wrong – the Togolese striker has been instrumental this season and in my eyes, his position is not under threat. It is nice to know that if Adebayor does hit a rough patch then Arsenal do have a player who is ready to step into his boots.
The performances of Senderos and Gilberto
I spoke in detail about Senderos in yesterday’s post (check it our here) so I’ll focus more on Gilberto today. He has copped a lot of criticism for his sluggish performance and I tend to agree with most of the comments, however the notion that Gilberto was not putting in 100% because he is angling for a move away from the club is difficult to understand. More than any of the players in the current squad, Gilberto is the one should never have his loyalty questioned. He is in a difficult situation at the moment and may indeed leave when the January transfer window opens, but for so-called supporters to suggest that he does not care about playing for Arsenal anymore just annoys me.
I also don’t buy the suggestion that Gilberto has no longer got the quality to play for Arsenal anymore. He is the Brazilian captain and was, in my eyes, the outstanding performer in what was a difficult season last time around for Arsenal. The arrival of Lassana Diarra and his bright start at the club and the continued excellent performances of Mathieu Flamini do not make Gilberto any less of a player, and I think some people need to realise this. The Brazilian is the type of player that always requires time to work his way back in the side and despite the fact that he was evidently poor against Sevilla I would be more than happy for him to play in central midfield if Flamini gets injured again.
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What do you think?
Have your say on the fallout from the Arsenal-Sevilla game by leaving a comment.