Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arsenal 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

The hectic schedule during the festive period means rotation is inevitable. Yesterday's starting line-up saw some changes from Arsenal's established XI. The notable omission from the squad was Theo Walcott. According to Arsene Wenger's post-match interview, Theo was sick with a stomach problem (but he is already better and should be available on Saturday). We could have done with his pace on the flank to get behind Wolves defence.

One of the major talking points regarding the team selection in this period was when to rest RVP. Given his injury record, it would be too much for him to play three games in a space of 6 days. However, this game came 6 days after the previous match and 4 days before the next one, so his inclusion in the starting XI was pretty much anticipated especially as he was only 2 goals away from matching the goal-scoring record set by Alan Shearer. In the ideal world, if he had scored a hat-trick in this game and broke the record, Arsenal could have rested him on the last day of 2011 ahead of Fulham away game in the New Year. But it wasn't to be. In fact, RVP had enough chances to score a hat-trick, but luck and his finishing deserted him yesterday.

The impact subs against Aston Villa earned their deserved places in the starting line-up thanks to their impressive performances 6 days ago. Rosicky came in for Ramsey, who has had a couple of disappointing games recently and looked as if he could have done with a breather, so the boss' decision was understandable. Benayoun filled in for Theo. We were disappointed to see Oxlade-Chamberlain only make
the bench, but the winning-goal scorer in the last game deserved a place in the starting XI and actually started very well.

Arsene Wenger seems to prefer Koscielny in the central defence and Vermaelen at left-back as he deployed Djourou at right-back as soon as he had got back from injury. We don't know why the boss is reluctant to field Koscielny at right-back, Vermaelen in central defence and Miquel at left-back.

We compared the two contrasting games against Manchester City and Aston Villa in the previous post. This game was halfway between those two games in terms of performances and results and the most unsatisfactory. We didn't play as well as against Man City, but we outplayed and outclassed Wolves and surely deserved all three points. Obviously we were all disappointed at the Abbey Tavern and some expressed their displeasure with the team, but it wasn't fair to our players to criticise their performance. They played some slick football especially in the first half and showed their desire to win. They did absolutely everything but score in order to win the game. Unfortunately, Wolves goalkeeper, Hennessey, had an outstanding performance, while the ball did not fall for us.

That said, this was the game for which the results mattered. We couldn't capitalise on Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool dropping points on the previous day. Three points should have sent us to the fourth in the table and this time around not temporarily. The results frustrated us most rather than performance.

Fortunately, games come thick and fast at this time of the year, leaving us with no time to dwell on the disappointing result. The next two games can be tricky, which will be played within only two days of each other. RVP is likely to be rested in one of the two games. Now it looks a slim chance that he will break Alan Shearer's record, he might start from the bench against QPR at home on the New Year's eve. We probably need him more for Fulham away game.

We would like to choose Gervinho for Man of the Match, not just because he scored our only goal (you may know by now that we tend to avoid obvious choices), but because his constant hard work is due for some recognition.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 6
Didn't have much to do as Wolves registered only one shot on target. Couldn't he have done more to stop Fletcher's header going in or prevent him meeting the deflection?

Djourou: 4
His defence was far from convincing and his passing was poor.

Mertesacker: 8
Looked solid. Made some important blocks and good passes. Unlucky not to score.

Koscielny: 8
Defensively reliable and made good runs forward, too.

Vermaelen: 7
Good tackles, more runs forward and crosses. Had a better game as the left-back, but there were moments when his desire to win nearly got better of him.

Rosicky: 8
He was in the heart of Arsenal's attacking moves. Shame he blasted wide when he could have done better, but he looked more confident in shooting than he had been in the last couple of seasons.

Arteta: 7
Never put a foot wrong. I have seen better free-kicks by him in an Everton shirt.

Song: 5
We thought we missed him while he was serving suspension in the last game, but his performance was disappointing in this game. His passing left a lot to be desired. Replaced in the 71st minute by Ramsey.

Benayoun: 8
Set up a goal for Gervinho via a defence-splitting pass. Replaced in 64 minutes by Arshavin.

Gervinho: 9
Finally he got his decision and finish spot-on (to be honest, we didn't have much faith in him. We all thought he was going to mess it up) and his hard work was rewarded in the shape of a goal, which was executed with great composure.

Van Persie: 7
He was as creative as always. He had several chances to score himself, but it wasn't his day. Some fans say that this is the kind of game which makes him want to leave Arsenal. Maybe so result-wise, but he cannot fault his team-mates' efforts and commitment. He admits that at Arsenal he gets so many chances to score that he can afford to take gambles to try out various techniques, hence his impressive goal-scoring form so far. This game was no exception. He has an equal share of blame for not winning the game.


Arshavin: 7
Came on at 64th minute for Benayoun. Lively. Made a very good effort, which unfortunately hit the woodwork.

Ramsey: 6
Replaced Song as Arsenal looked for an elusive second goal. His introduction seemed to have fuelled Arsenal's attacking moves, but failed to make his mark.

Chamakh: 4
Came off the bench at 85th minute to replace Djourou as Arsenal desperately sought a last-grasp winner. He nearly knocked out RVP.


Stuart Attwell: 4
So many of his decisions were inconsistent. He gave a foul against Vermaelen for a handball, which was less clear than Wolves player's handball in the box just a minute ago. A red card against Milijas may have been a bit harsh. Another Wolves player's tackle on Ramsey, a couple of seconds after the incident, was worse than the red-carded challenge on Arteta, but it went unpunished.

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