Flamini & Bendtner win it for Arsenal
Arsenal scored a solid 2-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in their first Emirates Cup game at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal lead the match 2-0 after goals from French midfielder Mathieu Flamini and young Danish striker Niklas Bendtner, before PSG pulled a goal back through Peguy Luyindula and Bendtner missed a late penalty kick. The result has given the club every chance to actually win the Emirates Cup, despite Spanish side Valencia scoring a convincing 2-0 win over Italian champions Inter Milan.
I did manage to catch the Arsenal match on Arsenal TV and so rather than just including a report of the game I thought I would provide a bit of an analysis of Arsene Wenger’s sides performance against PSG. If you’re after a full match report then check out the official Emirates Cup homepage here.
The starting team proved to be far different than the one I was hoping Wenger would pick in yesterday’s post and looked like this:
(4-4-2 L-R) Manuel Almunia; Gael Clichy; Kolo Toure; Philippe Senderos; Bacary Sagna; Abou Diaby; Denilson; Cesc Fabregas; Mathieu Flamini; Robin van Persie; Niklas Bendtner.
Arsenal really struggled to get going in the first half as PSG dominated possession with their quick passing and general speed. As always, Clichy was outstanding at the back but the central pairing of Toure and Senderos struggled on numerous occasions to deal with PSG’s attacking pair of Pauleta and Luyindula. Almunia made a couple of smart stops and Sagna looked decent, if unspectacular playing at right back.
It was in midfield where Arsenal’s real problems lay. Fabregas was his usual self, but I was very disappointed with Denilson’s contribution. His touches and passing were very sloppy and he looked distinctively lightweight on the ball. Playing with Diaby and Flamini on the flanks gave the side no width at all and meant that PSG could just jam up the centre corridor, restricting supply to the likes of van Persie and Bendtner.
Whilst van Persie has the natural ability to make space and create chances, it was obvious to me that Bendtner needs the ball delivered to him accurately to create chances for others. The couple of times he did get good service he made chances, one of which was expertly finished by Flamini just before half time. It was an undeserved lead, but the manner of the goal was a fresh change for Arsenal supporters. An early cross from the left from Clichy was chested down by Bendtner and Flamini struck home on the volley. 1-0 to Arsenal, just before the break.
Second Half Analysis
Wenger made five substitutions at half time and also proceeded to alter Arsenal’s formation from the usual 4-4-2 to a more dynamic 4-5-1. The team that ran out in the second half looked like this:
(4-5-1 L-R): Manuel Almunia; Armand Traore; Phillipe Senderos; William Gallas; Justin Hoyte; Gael Clichy; Denilson; Alexander Hleb; Abou Diaby; Emmanuel Eboue; Niklas Bendtner.
Things were completely different for Arsenal in the second half. Clichy and Eboue were moved to the wide midfield positions and provided the side with the width that the lacked in the first half. Both Traore and Hoyte provided consistent overlapping runs for the midfielders and a number of good crosses were delivered into the box as a result. Diaby moved to his natural central position and dominated the game but, as he did in the first half, Denilson struggled.
The most promising aspect of the second half was the performance of Hleb. He was deployed centrally as support for Bendtner, and provided some scintillating runs. He looked far more comfortable in a central role than out on the right and hopeful Wenger will take note of this and use him there more consistently. Another highlight of the half was the second Arsenal goal from Bendtner. It was a real Bolton-esque effort as Bendtner challenged the PSG keeper in the air from Denilson’s corner before the ball deflected back to him and he forced it home. I can’t remember the last time Arsenal have scored such a scrappy goal and personally, I loved it.
I thought that Gallas brought real stability to the backline. He was excellent and seemed to calm down the sometimes panicky Senderos. Also, is it me or has Senderos gained a yard of pace since last season? And although Arsenal did concede a soft goal, I thought it was Denilson’s inability to track back rather than the efforts of the defence that caused the problem.
Late on, Arsenal won a penalty thanks to a superb bit of dribbling from Hleb, but Bendtner saw his poor shot saved. I thought it was great to see him step up and take some responsibility but he will be most disappointed with his weak effort. Arsenal played out the final minutes without any dramas and the match ended 2-1. Job done, and a positive performance in most respects.
Wenger happy with Arsenal win
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in the post-match press conference that he was happy with his side’s performance and enjoyed the opportunity to try some different ideas during the game:
“You can learn about the different associations in your teams. Does Denilson work with Diaby, can Eboue play in right midfield? You can risk things you can’t in the Premiership or at least risk things all at the same time when you can only risk one or two in the Premiership.”
There’s no question that Wenger did try some new things in this game and some of them came off. I thought playing Hleb centrally worked wonders and pushing Clichy and Eboue forward also came off. There is also no doubt that Denilson will work with Diaby but as I said earlier, I thought Denilson was – in most facets – below par against PSG. Hopefully he can improve if given another chance against Inter Milan.
New winger still required
It is clear that playing Diaby and Flamini are not effective when deployed out wide and hopefully Wenger will realise this. Flamini did well as a defensive full-back in the 2005/06 season but there would be few Arsenal fans out there who would like to see him played on the wing. As for Diaby, his second half performance made it clear that his best position is central midfield.I still think that Arsenal is lacking a wide midfielder and Wenger did not rule out the possibility of this happening:
“If I find the right player, I will take him. If I find two, I will do it. But it is not compulsory. If we do not get them, we do not get them. We have enough quality. That will not be an excuse if I do not get a player, not to compete with the top teams.”
I agree with Wenger in part but I do not agree with his statement that “we have enough quality”. Regular readers will know that I believe Arsenal needs an experienced wide player and if one is not brought in then the responsibility being placed on the young players may be a little bit too much.
What do you think?
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