Friday, August 26, 2011

Champions League draw

Following the qualification for Champions League Arsenal will be the group with


Dortmund look the strongest as winners of the Bundesliga last season and Marseilles were second in League 1, Olympiakos won Greek Superleague.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Benfica 2 Arsenal 1

As the cliché says, this was a game of two halves. Arsenal played their stronger team in the first half and the fringe players in the second half, while Benfica did the other way round.
Benfica pressed Arsenal very hard from the beginning, but as they ran out of steam, Arsenal eventually started finding their way behind the Benfica defense line. The goal came out of a beautiful linkage play starting from RVP and ending with RVP. There was intensity in the game on the both sides.
The second half was a totally different story. Arsenal brought on six new players at half time, which included, to my horror, Squillaci. The whole first-half team, except Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey, were gradually replaced by the 86th minutes. While the defensive frailty was all too familiar, unlike the previous pre-season matches, Arsenal could not even dominate in possession.
If Arsenal are to fight in all four fronts again this season, depth in the squad will be a key element for success. The poor performance in the second half against Benfica's world-class players highlighted the fact that Arsenal's second-string players were not good enough at the top level.
Benfica also lost out for the Champions League automatic qualification spot in the domestic league last season, but they seemed to have made good reinforcement with a number of quality signings. Arsene Wenger reportedly said there might be a "super quality" signing, which could happen next week. Keep fingers crossed. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

What We Have Learned from the Emirates Cup

The results were disappointing. Arsenal let the two-goal lead slip against Boca Junior, could not hold the one-goal lead for another five minutes to see off New York Red Bulls and failed to retain the Cup. However, these matches did not mean much for Arsenal. Arshavin pointed out before the tournament started that Arsenal had won the Cup twice with him but they did not win any silverware in the following seasons. He would have been happy to swap the Cup wins for any major titles.

Arsene Wenger revealed his plan to have Thierry Henry to play for the both sides in the last game of the Emirates Cup. He wanted Henry to play for Arsenal for the last five minutes, but the referee was adamant that the rules should not allow it. In Wenger's plan, Henry should have been playing for Arsenal when he set up the goal for RB New York. The episode illustrates how light-heartedly Wenger took these "friendly"  games (he did not even regard them as competitions).

NY Red Bull must have been desperate for the Cup. They had 10 men behind the ball and played a very defensive game, looking like they would be happy to get a draw against Arsenal. The match was just like a typical Arsenal home game last season against a lower table team. It could have been a good test for Arsenal if they had taken it more seriously.

The two games highlighted all too familiar Arsenal's weakness: occasional lack of concentration in defense and the inclinations to try to walk into the goal. OK, Arsene Wenger would not have substituted Kyle Bartley for Lauren Koscielny with 15 minutes remaining, if it had been a Premier League match (or he wouldn't have played him at all). The more serious problem lies in attacks. There was no urgency. Arsenal had good possession, but they failed to make it count. Arsenal's attacking desperately needs the tempo and intensity to crack the opponent's tenatcious defense.

We may not have to be so worried about these problems, but the start of the season is only two weeks away. At the moment, there is no sign of reinforcement in the squad (just talks). I hope we can see significant improvement in Saturday's friendly against Benfica.