Arsenal 3-1 Partizan Belgrade: Watching Arsenal is like going to the dentist

Watching Arsenal this season is a bit like going to the dentist: it’s an unnecessarily stressful experience but at the end of the day, they tend to get the job done. Sometimes, on nights like last night, my desire to go under general anesthetic and ask to be woken up when it’s all over is extremely strong.

On paper we won 3-1, the same scoreline we achieved against the same team in Belgrade. On paper we qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League for the tenth (or eleventh?) season running. But goodness me we made life difficult for ourselves.

Walcott's goal relieved intense pressure

With Belgrade packing their defensive third with as many players as possible the first half was a predictably difficult for our boys. To criticise them for not making many chances would be harsh — our forward players were working extremely hard and Belgrade’s attempts to nick a goal for themselves were quarter-hearted at best — but our lack of goal-mouth pressure was nevertheless quite stressful for the viewing public.

I thought Arsene Wenger’s decision to change his formation to 4-4-2 on such a vital night of football was a poor one. The rigid nature of the formation combined with the presence of two industrious rather than creative central midfielders in Alex Song and Denilson ruined our attacking cohesion. Fortunately Robin van Persie, smart lad that he is, adjusted well to the situation and began to drop deeper to receive the ball as the first half dragged on.

His intelligence lead to our only real chance of the half, a clear-cut penalty that also lead to the first goal. Wanting to make a mark on his return, van Persie took the kick himself — turning away Samir Nasri’s warranted claims to take on the responsibility — and convincingly converted.

As take the leading so often does to this team, we played some good football leading up to the break. Partizan’s reluctance to maintain their defensive shape continued to make things difficult though, and a 1-0 half-time lead was all we could manage.

The second half summed up this season’s Arsenal for me: a soft goal conceded, intense pressure unwillingly welcomed but just enough quality to make the final score look convincing. The twenty minutes that unfolded between Cleo’s equaliser and Theo Walcott’s fine finish were genuinely worrying: with Braga v Shakhtar poised precariously at 0-0 a goal to the Portuguese side and no change to the score in London would have seen us go out of the tournament.

But just as against Fulham we found enough quality in the final third to score not once, but twice and turn a potentially disastrous evening into the footballing equivalent of a Valium shot. 3-1 it finished, our most recent trip to the dentist a relative success.

Our final position as group runners-up leaves us with just four potential second-round opponents. Real Madrid and Barcelona do not make for pleasant reading, whilst out-of-sorts Bayern Munich and a frankly ordinary Schalke do (particular for a Berlin-based writer who is excited at the prospect of adding to the Arsenal aways support in Germany). It’s true that to be the best you have to beat the best, but I would be extremely keen to avoid both Spanish sides.

As for our next league challenge, an away trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United, it is obvious that we will have to improve on last night’s performance. The irony is that United’s desire to win the game will probably allow us more space to play than was afforded against Partizan, but the obvious negative is that the Mancunians will offer us far more problems in defence. We conceded cheaply again last night and simply must avoid that fate in five days time.


Have your say on Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Partizan Belgrade by leaving a comment.



  1. It seems as if he’s already conceeding to Barca. Every dog and his donkey knows it if we get Barca they will rip us apart – God help us if we get them coz i can see the scoreline becoming embarrasing.

  2. to be honest I cant remember when I last enjoyed a arsenal game and thats weird seeing as where we find ourselves. I said after the spuds game that we could find ourselves top of the league, in the carling cup semis and through to the knock out stages of the champions league after the next four games and that is what has happened but did I enjoy any of them? Villa? No, not untill the 91st minute, wigan, no! Fulham, no! and last night? Not a chance. It was horrible. A wins a win but there was nothing last night, no confidence, no bite it was weird. Walcott was rubbish apart from his goal, denilson, well! how many times have we seen that expression on his face when he gets the ball nicked off him from behind? or when the ball leaves his foot and he is looking where he wants it but it goes straight to the opposition? OHH, and Fabianskis kicking!!! aHHHHH, he doesnt want it! stop passing it back to him!! he kept shifting it onto his left foot, taking too much time and panicing! scary stuff! I’m terrified of Utd on monday, we could end up giving them a massive confidence boost and they could use that to go through the season unbeaten, nobody wants that sh?t, thats our crown!!!!

  3. Arsenal still needs a goalkeeper.a midfield-defender and a good forward goal striker.If not,Arsenal’s fans will have to consult Psychiatrists & Cardiac-Physicians for watching Arsenal.Only winning is beautiful.

  4. Having watched the gooners in all of their recent matches a worrying trend that I have noticed is the teams tendency to defend high up the pitch. It is not uncommon to see our center backs parked on the halfway line and all it takes is an average ball over the top and we are completely exposed. This happened a couple of times last night and against better teams ie utd on monday we will pay the price. Some people will put this down to playing attractive attacking football but less not forget defending is also a skill and is one that alot more emphasis should be put on in training.

  5. have taking my arsenal destiny into my own hands.if we put in a descent performance,fine,and if not,life goes on.pls i need more friends on adedayo adeyemi akanbi

  6. the center-half partnership was once again far from convincing. Only the return of JD (along side Squillaci) will give us a fighting chance at OT.
    We really need to improve; otherwise, the best we can get from the next game is a high-scoring draw.
    as for the CL, I hope we travel to Germany to face either Schalke or Bayern b/c our defense (in its current shape) will ship loads of goals in Spain.

  7. Different sport, but in baseball, the San Francisco Giants announcer called it “torture”, but they won it all this year. Beautiful cross from Sagna led to Wolcott’s goal, well taken, and Nasri again showed excellent poise on his. Injuries make it almost obligatory that we get a center back and left fullback in the window. Am afraid of both Spanish teams, especially without Sagna for the first leg. Not afraid of Manure or Chelski. Does anyone really think they have played that much better this season? As they say on Monday night football: “come on, man!!” and they don’t mean manure. When gooners win, the week is wonderful. When they lose, nothing can be any worse. Who are ya? Gooners!

  8. I’d like to comment on Wenger’s tactics. I don’t thinks it was a 4-4-2 but rather a 4-4-1-1 like vs. Wigan in Carling Cup. The problem is the 1st half both Song and Denilson played as sitting holding midfielders and even though van Persie dropped down it wasn’t enough. The 2nd half they got directions to attack and you could see very early that Denilson and Song alternated making forward runs and forays. I think that could be a winning concept on Monday. Especially if we have Rosicky and Nasri as winger we have a strong defensive four in midfield and can close down a very dangerous Man U offensive line with Nani and Park esp. being threats to stop. We can then have van Persie pressing their midfielders and waiting for a chance to counterattack which he is very dangerous at. I prefer this setup to going back to 4-3-3 since it would make us more vulnerable on the flanks. Or if we are pressured back into a 4-5-1 then we have to little goalthreat since Rosicky as a playmaker is nowhere as dangerous as van Persie.

  9. They should be a big banner in every Arsenal changing room that reads “ If you don’t want to play today, please don’t wear the uniform”….cause they are some players like Arshavin who play whole heartedly when they want to and when they don’t feel like it spend 90mins strolling around the pitch. If we go to Man U with that attitude, we sure are gonna get buried alive.

    Our midfield was dead as we missed the services of Fabregas and Diaby and to top it up Clichy and Djourou were also greatly missed as assists to the midfield hence we lost all the balls in the midfield and got no play there. As for Van Persie maybe he lacks match fitness or something but I just wasn’t feeling him at all.

  10. it doesnt matter who we get in the draw for the last 16, obviously schalke would be the preferred choice but to win this cup we will have to beat either barca or real madrid. without vermaelen i would not be confident of our defence against barca or madrid, even bayern but he should be back before february according to reports. walcott is better as an impact player and even though arshavin was apalling i would still have him starting on monday. arshavin is a very odd player, watching him play you would think he puts in a bad performance in most games but somehow he does turn up with a much needed assist or a goal quite often. it really annoys me because i just think if he did put the effort in he would be astounding however he does raise his game on the big occasion so monday i think we will see a more enthusiastic andrey. 3 points on monday will really see us take top of the league, at the moment it is not properly held, you would think that man utd will go to bloomfield road and odds are that they will win but nothing is promised in this league and we, as arsenal fans, should know that more than anybody. im staying optimistic for monday, fabregas has been in training for 2 days now but wenger wont rush him back and shouldnt.

  11. As usual we always shoot ourselves in the foot but this time i think we shot ourselves in the chest which is most fatal.
    For all the boast that arsenal have of reaching the knockout stage of the champions league for 11 years in a row (which is a great accomplishment) but most seasons the opposition ha been relatively poor on almost every season so by merit they should progress every year and very easily to boot and as group winner if you please. But in the last few seasons we have adopted a habit of making a mess of qualifying, qualifying as group winner is very important because to avoid potential problem but arsenal seem to thin otherwise.
    The group this season is one of the easiest in the competition one we should have one quite easily, now we find ourselves in this position.
    Lets be frank football can change in a heart beat but it can be either for the worst or for the better having, said that who can we beat of the four potential opponents, MY view

    Bayern are very inconsistent this season BUT they have quality and can hurt us especially since we can’ t defend.
    schalka seems to be the best bet but they too have quality and can hurt us, if a teams has an attack with a hint of ability the will score on us.
    This leaves spain and we all know the record againt barc, unless some thing goes wrong with them there is no way in hell we can beat them.
    Madrid is as much very difficult not only because of the players but simply becaus of the manager wenger has never beaten mourinho simply because of the tactical side of the game which wenger lacks, against them would be real problems am sure.

    So based on this any team we get would be a problem as far as am concerned, and wenger can talk all he wants about not fearing anyone in Europe does he really want to face barc or madrid? i think not, and mr vaninjury i mean vanpercy should concentrate on playing more games, getting fit, getting sharper, AND start scoring a those free kicks he must have taken almost a hundred in the last 3 years and core none and you guys say he is world class simply bullocks, start performing so you can pay back some of the big bucks we pay you man and stop the piss talking vanpercy.
    For me this weekend will confirm if this defense is rubbish or not simply i think its pathetic to say the least, look at the goal last nite, crazy.
    So i ask the question what the hell is wenger teaching these defenders? what do they do in training? sit around talk to one another some thing is wrong, what ever wenger is doing seems to not work.
    This defense seems to be getting worst every week, they make the same mistake every game and still play the next game, am stressed!!!
    The positives are they attack can cause problems for anyone but they cant’ bail us out every time we have to be balanced
    Nasri i think ur special keep it up lad.

    Arsenal always……………….

  12. @ kel – The very reason that this group was so easy was why we didn’t top it. I said when the draw was made that the chasm in quality between Arsenal and Shakhtar and the other two sides and the fact that Donetsk is in Ukraine meant that this was the biggest possibility of us finishing second since we were drawn with Sevilla. So it proved, Shakhtar comfortably dealt with the other two sides and it came down to our loss in Braga.

    Not that I’m making excuses, we should still have topped the group. But until the draw is made we can’t really make any conclusions on whether it was a good or bad thing that we didn’t top the group. Drawing Schalke – a team in 17th in the Bundesliga – is preferable to the likes of Milan, Valencia or Lyon. Although as I said, it could be Barca or Madrid.

    Regarding the defence, I believe it is incorrect to blame the individual players. It is our ATTITUDE towards defending that is the major problem, the fact that Song/Denilson want to get forward and Wenger is happy to let them, not the presence of Koscielny or Squillaci. In fact, I’ll go on record now and say that the only defender who genuinely makes me fearful is Clichy, which makes Gibbs’ latest injury a significant annoyance.

    There’s quite a lot of negativity in the comments today, but I suppose with a title like the one I used that is to be expected. We did get through people!

  13. another point i wanted to make is that on monday i would like to see us player alot deeper. we are weak against the counter attack and man utd and chelsea especially seem to exploit that with great success. we do play too high up the pitch and pass it around in front of the opposition penalty area (which is so frustrating!) this leaves us open to a counter attack if its nicked from us and passed quickly to an attacker with a bit of pace, it can also be like playing in front of a brick wall. if the man utd defence keep in line and work as a unit they can keep us where they want us for 90mins and we have to rely on lapses of concentration but with rio ferdinand that might work. playing deeper will allow nasri and arshavin to run from knock ons from chamakh which he does well and it will give us more space to work with behind the man utd defence. we used to be the best counter attacking team in the world, it was beautiful to watch henry, pires and freddie bomb down and put it in the net, nowadays our counter attacks seem to lose momentum and usually end up passing back to the defence and we start again with slow build up play and knock it about in front of the penalty area. its like a cycle and against the top teams we really do need to deploy a different tactic.

  14. happy we got through, but…. i wanted to scream when gibbs was hobbling off the field again. i know it’s been said for a long time, but what’s going on with the trainers/medical team? sure, he’s coming off an injury, but the injury appeared to come from a routine movement and he turned an ankle. that screams of the need for strengthening. i swear if i handled a team with so many injuries i would be fired in no time. and if arshavin is sucking wind after 60 minutes (or 20) get his back side in the training room and get him conditioned, if he refuses, let him sit.

    i won’t way any more about the defense it’s all been said and we’re all frustrated. i bet we get a spanish side next.

    here’s to hope for next monday… may DJ return, and the team really be up for it.

  15. I’ve had two root canal and definitely do not want to remember that experience.

  16. @ andrew The only defender who genuinely makes you fearful is Clichy, andrew how could you say that? are you for real
    I will remember you said that for sure…………..
    But that’s your view and whilst i respect everyone’s view i disagree with this one, don’t have to give evidences we all are aware some of the basic defensive mistake made this season………….

    I am a 41 yr old Gooner with not a filling in sight so a trip to the Dentist is a pleasure for me in relation the excuriation of watching our team play against very average competition.
    Shitscared about 13th … but slightly hopeful ? Hoping fora ‘Fever Pitch’ moment

  18. What Partizan did was to cram da middle field there by suffocating us, so we had 2 resort to da wings. Here we dont have those ‘minus clinical passes’. Den 2 make matters worse Song took on a roving free role. Leaving Denilson who was half awake al times.AW instil one fact in Song, dat he iz the first defender during any siege not to leave dat role no 5 & 4. While @O.T for sure Denilson (if u stat) pliz stay awake.

  19. @ Andrew
    I am surprised you did not specifically mention Squillachi’s blunder from last night and Songs contribution for the two goals (i count the penalty!)

    I think you need to give Song a break, our defenders are weak (especially Squillachi). how many goals have we conceded as a result of Song running wild??? there is a lot of negativity around Songs new role (i also think he is overdoing it at times) but the fact is that he is not costing us. more than half the teams we play park the bus, we are always on top in terms of possession. Do you really expect Song to just sit at the back and watch the game???

    if 4 defenders can not contain two strikers then they are useless.

  20. I’d obviously like to avoid Barca but wouldn’t be too worried about meeting Real. Their defence is no better than ours after witnessing what Messi and co did to them – it was the same as against us last season when we were without five key players. I reckon we can still score against them. Maybe I am being overly optimistic I admit! Top of the table, semis of the carling cup and knockout round of the champions league – we must be doing something right. Hardly what you would call a crisis! We are due a result at Old Trafford. What a confidence booster that would be. I can’t wait. On the injury/fitness front I think Gibbs was unlucky. He rolled his ankle – don’t think you can blame the merdicos or training regine for that. he is just unlucky fullstop. Am worried about Arsh’s fitness levels thou – he rarely seems to last the full 90 mins. Mind you he was crap on Wednesday from the start. Hope he can play at his best Monday.

  21. @NPG.

    Speaking of ‘Fever Pitch’, I re-watched it again last weekend and strongly urge anyone who hasn’t already seen it to do so ASAP.

    Nothing better sums up what it’s like to be a Gooner than this film. Without ruining the plot, the final scenes Colin Firth’s characters flat are priceless.

  22. I don’t necessarily think that it’s Arshavin’s fitness (or alleged lack thereof) that is the issue. With a usual three pronged attack of Chamakh, Arshavin and RvP, Andrey clearly does the most work in terms of chasing the ball and recently to our surprise, back-tracking to help defend. Out of the above stated three, who would you the armchair manager, substitute for a fresh Walcott? Assuming that Chamakh will remain in the middle and RvP to the left of course. I also noticed that his stats after being subbed showed that he ran for over seven kilometres. Whilst it’s not a distance that’ll have the Kenyan’s looking over their shoulders, I’d be that it was much more than RvP or Chamakh.

    I have no doubt that Andrey can last the full 90, but I feel that having him on for an entire match would jeopardise the lethal influence of Theo.

  23. Just checked out another site and saw my most hated player of all time(Evra) running his pie hole again. Being a gooner is more than righteous. Only players ever for manure with any class at at are Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskaer. With that name he should have been one of ours! Can’t wait for Monday, fear of the dentist or not? Go you Gooners!

  24. Yes am surprised no onwe has commented about Chamak.Didnt you people see his ineffectiveness and lack of awsareness infront of goal. I hardly saw him . Why does wenger delay this guy on the pitch. I have said this again a half fit Bendtner is better than Chamak. Chamak should only play in particular games. We have to give Vela, Theo,JET,B52 to play.He is some times lazy and fearful to take on defenders.I still surprised how fans are fooled by this guy.At this rate Bendtner must start games before chamak. He is just not a striker.@ About Championsleague. Dont you peolpe think Barca or Madrid could also be worried of meeting Arsenal. Stop the fears. Apart from Barca ,we have a good record against Madrid. Barca is beatable when arsenal assembles its best. Any average team could have scored against a defense of Silvester and Campbell all in their forties. Just pray that by February there are no major injuries and then bring on Barca.@ United game. The trick is simple and clear.We either pack the bus or pack the midfield.playing for a draw is better than loosing all 3 points. United is in all respects stronger than us for this game. We have played more games than them meaning they have rested enough.Should we paly our stupid style of attacking football, they are going to rip us apart.I just hope Wenger reads or understands this simple tactic.As long as we dont loose the game psychologically we are in the title hunt.They have no dribblers to penetrate a packed wall but we have that in plenty. We pack the bus in midfield and wait for openings to counter attack and this means Walcott must be brought in atleast for 30 minutes as he looks hyped for it than even Chamak can be.We are not scoring many goals just because chamk is not sharp and clinical more over he is supposed to be our lead striker.We open up the game United wins , we pack the bus atleast get a point or even 3 points who knows. Its up to Wenger now.

  25. I have always said that we need a strong exprienced CB , as things stand now we need to score more than our opponents if we are to win games. With our defence i do not know wat will happen against Man U. We definately need a strong CB and a leader at the back this January window pliz!

  26. @dk,
    Denilson was his usual casual careless self, where did he go at 1-1??? Worst concentration of any footballer anywhere….FACTO
    spot on, 4 defs vs 2 attackers is a no-brainer, but not with this arsenal side as they more often than not fluff their lines, why was Squilachi backing off wed night for their goal? if he held his line and met the threat the runner would have been flagged offside but he dropped because he has no brain and invited the shot….am saying it now, drop Squillachi and play Kos and Djourou otherwise Rooney will destroy Squillachi and destroy us.

  27. gunnerz are not alwys answering when it matters most at least they have an out of form chelsea kudos for that why did wenger bench walcott, nasri, fabregas against wigan he better stop gambling cos am tired i dont want hrt ache any longer pls just win a cup 4 us it might not be the d premier league but we need sumtin to hold on too at least in d carling cup the coast is clear we should be able to have that with ease i just hope wenger dont misbehave again

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