Sunday, September 30, 2012

Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2

Arsenal's unbeaten run finally came to an end. The defeat came as a shock to us as we had so much belief in the quality of our team especially after the last week's convincing performance against Manchester City. It was the first time in quite a few years that we, Arsenal fans, had gone into one of big games with such optimism.

Some questioned Wenger's decision to leave Mertesacker on the bench, whose performance has been impressive so far this season and was behind Arsenal's solid start to the season. However, who could have predicted set-pieces would become match-deciders. The boss thought this game was going to be an open game and in fact, Chelsea's starting line-up seemed to have supported his assumption. We also expected Koscielny to get the nod for this one, based on Torres' pace and the French defender's impressive performance against Manchester City. Also, he kept the Spanish striker in his pocket when Spain and France met in the Euro 2012.

According to site's fans opinion poll, fans' favourite centre-back partnership was Vermaelen-Koscielny with 56% of total votes. Mertesacker has his critics about his pace or lack of it, but he compensates it with his positioning. This match exposed the vulnerability of the Vermaelen-Koscielny pairing. They are both aggressive defenders and tend to push the defensive line high on the pitch, which was not seen this season before this game, when Mertesacker was involved. Although Chelsea didn't score from open play, Vermaelen had to foul in order to stop Torres breaking away, which cost us a free-kick that resulted in Chelsea's second goal. In hindsight, Wenger admitted that he might have made a wrong decision, but it is too hash to blame him for that decision.

The team selection was not a problem. It was consistency. There was only one change to Arsenal's starting XI who outplayed the defending champions in the first half. Vermaelen was fit again to take the left-hand side of the center-back positions, with Mertesacker dropped to the bench. Ramsey retained his starting place on the right flank on the back of his excellent performance last Sunday, although he was soon moved to the central midfield, following Diaby's early withdrawal due to a thigh strain. The Welshman's first-half performance was decent at best, but not as good as last weekend and the second-half was terrible. He was rightly taken off in the 66th minute.

The boss kept his faith in Gervinho despite his futility during the Man City game and it paid off. With a beautiful turn and subsequent powerful finish, he scored an equaliser, which sent Arsenal in ascendancy at the end of the first half. His goal came just as we had thought that Arsenal were looking to regroup their attacking at half time and might need something different, perhaps the introduction of Giroud.

Then in the second half, the Ivorian was not as effective as in the first half. We wondered if Gervinho's abrupt halts to his runs were affected by a knock or team tactics in our match review on the Montpellier game, and we found the answer in this game: he stops when he doesn't know what to do with the ball. In this way, he squandered a couple of glorious quick counter-attacking chances, when a few Arsenal players made a run. When substitutes came on in the 66th minute, we thought it was Gervinho who was going to be taken off, but it turned out to be Podolski.

This game was another big test for us, but the disappointing result did not seem to have done much damage to our title credentials, which nobody questioned this time around. This match was a stern test for Chelsea rather than for us as they had a relatively easier run of games compared to ours, their recent league performances were not so convincing, and they failed tests when they faced strong sides, such as Atletico Madrid and Juventus. Many think that there was little in it between the two London sides. It was a close contention. Although there may have been just a little bit too many players who were not at their best, we could still have snatched a victory had it not been for those defensive mistakes.

It was a blow that Diaby suffered another injury, which is likely to force him on the sidelines for a minimum of three weeks. His early retirement upset Arsenal's shape and balance without doubt. Some argue that we might have dealt with the free-kick that led to Chelsea's first goal better if he had stayed on the pitch. As for his replacement, fortunately, Jack Wilshere is not far away from his return. The Englishman will play an hour or so in the U-21 (reserve) game against West Brom on Monday afternoon. Provided that he will come through this game and the following one against Reading on Monday 8th October unscathed, he could feature in a game against Norwich after the international break. In the meantime, hopefully Coquelin, who missed out on the clash with Chelsea through illness, can fill the void Diaby has left.

The season has still a long way to go. One defeat is just a blip, but two defeats can make a crisis when you are a big club. The most important thing is how we respond after a disappointment like this. Fortunately, a chance to show that (and to brighten up the rest of our week) is coming as early as on Wednesday. We expect a good response from the team on Wednesday's night against Olympiacos.

Player ratings

Mannone: 7
With Chelsea registering only three shots on target, he had little to do and could not do much about Chelsea goals.

Jenkinson: 7
On the day when quite a few players who were under par, he maintained his standards, which have improved significantly this season and continue doing so. He won Arsenal fans' Man of the Match with 26% of their votes on the site, followed by Kieran Gibbs' 21%. It is reported that Roy Hodgson is considering his inclusion in the England squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers amid a right-back injury crisis. If he can continue producing this kind of performances, he may get a call-up. Against Liverpool, he was a better right-back than an England international, Glen Johnson.

Koscielny: 5
He was guilty for the both goals we conceded.

Vermaelen: 6
His foul on Torres led to Chelsea's winner.

Gibbs: 6
Had a decent game, but his positioning, which has improved considerably this season, was dubious in this game. He often left space behind him for Chelsea to exploit, when he got forward. Some sloppy mistakes.

Cazorla: 6
Not up to his high standards. It was a shock for us to learn that he has an off-day as he had been performing consistently well up till this game.

Arteta: 7
Solid as usual.

Diaby: 6
Had a good run and made a decent attempt, which led to the injury.

Ramsey: 5
Disappointing display after last weekend's stellar performance.

Gervinho: 6
Scored a classy goal, but let us down in the second half.

Podolski: 6
Made a couple of great runs and his header forced a brilliant save from Cech.


Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6
Replaced injured Diaby in the 17th minute. Set up a goal for Gervinho. Some good play, but not at his best.

Walcott: 5
Came on as one of the 66th-minute double substitutions to replace Podolski and Ramsey. Anonymous.

Giroud: 5
Came on as one of the 66th-minute double substitutions to replace Podolski and Ramsey. Had a golden chance in injury time. He had rounded Cech only to hit the side-netting, when he only needed to put the shot on target.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Arsenal 6 Coventry 1 (Capital One Cup Third Round)

The game was not as easy as the scoreline may suggest. Many headlines included those words typically associated with emphatic wins, such as "cruise", "convincing", "comfortable", and "ease", but it could have produced a totally different result as Coventry started well and never gave up. However, Arsenal's clinical finishing made a difference. Five of Arsenal's six goals came from the first-teamers, who also play for their respective senior national team. Their class was the difference between the two teams. This Arsenal side, a mix of youngsters and fringe first-team players, has plenty of room for improvement.

That said, the improvement over the past seasons has been clear. Although Arsenal's track record against lower division clubs in the domestic cup competitions is impressive, they have struggled to see off these teams in the recent years. They eventually beat them, but it took replays or late penalties to progress, even with a help from the big-name players.

Apart from the goal fest, a number of factors made this game even more special. Giroud has finally broke his Arsenal duck. His expression said it all...a pure relief. Although he had his penalty kick saved (it wasn't a bad penalty kick. It should have been smashed into the bottom left-hand-side corner if the keeper had gone the wrong way), scoring his first goal for Arsenal should take pressure off and help his confidence grow. We are happy for him as we are fed up with reading the phrases like "the £13 million summer signing yet to score a first goal for his new club".

Secondly, Arshavin has proved what he is capable of. Arsene Wenger acknowledged that just behind the striker is the best suited position for the diminutive Russian. However, it is difficult to find this position in the current first-team system.

Thirdly, Walcott proved that his finishing has improved considerably. Walcott's desire to become a central striker has been well-documented and it is reportedly a key factor behind the ongoing contract talk. Prior to this match, there was an argument among Arsenal fans whether Walcott should be given a chance to prove himself as a central striker. Some thought Wenger should give him a chance to play the central role and this game would present an excellent opportunity for that, but we believed it was a more urgent issue that Giroud got off the mark and we thought that the France international should get the central striker position in a game like this under less pressure and possibly with more chances to score.

Frimpong made his first appearance since February when he ruptured his anterior knee ligament, while playing for Wolves on loan. He has been unlucky with injuries, suffering a similar injury two years ago. It was good to see the enthusiastic young player on the pitch again and it is good to have him in the squad, but his first-team action is expected to be limited as our midfield seems to have settled with the Cazorla-Arteta-Diaby line-up and Coquelin is ahead of him in the pecking order.

Nico Yennaris aged seven in September 2000

There is a lovely story behind this match. Nico Yennaris was Arsenal's mascot the last time when Arsenal hosted Coventry in September 2000, aged just seven. 12 years on, he was on the pitch as a midfielder playing for his boyhood club. It's good to see players, like him and Carl Jenkinson, realise their dream and play with passion and love for their boyhood club.

Arsenal will visit Madejski Stadium for the fourth round of the Capital One Cup against Reading. Does this Arsenal ream have enough quality to beat a Premier League side away from home? Maybe we need more first-teamers to compliment the young side. Rosicky and Sagna should be back in the first-team action by that time, as well as Jack Wilshere, which means Arsenal will probably have more first-teamers who need more playing time.

Players Ratings

Martinez: 7
With Coventry registering only two shots on target, he didn't have much to do, but did what he had to do well.

Angha: 6
Busy going forward, but his crosses left much to be desired, except for a couple. He has a long way to go before he becomes a threat to Carl Jenkison's position as Sagna's understudy. Nico Yennaris looked much better in this position last season.

Djourou: 7
He should have picked out Ball (the scorer of the Coventry goal) and prevented the goal.

Miquel: 8
Looked comfortable on the ball and composed. Scored his first goal for the Club with a brilliant header.

Santos: 6
We were surprised that his name was not on the scoresheet when we scored six goals, but in fact, he had a quite game. Some of his passes were sloppy. We think Kieran Gibbs will remain as a first-choice left-back.

Yennaris: 7
It looks the boss is still experimenting on the 19-year old's positions. He was deployed on a right side of midfield and did his job reasonably well.

Coquelin: 8
He was impressive offensively and defensively. Set up the opener by sliding in and laying the ball for Giroud.

Walcott: 7
His Henry-esque second goal showed his class, but he also missed easier chances.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
Scored a sublime goal from distance.

Arshavin: 8
He was in the centre of Arsenal's attack, pulling the strings. Scored a great goal himself after an exquiste touch, which showed his class. He answered to his critics by his impressive work rate as well.

Giroud: 7
Scored his first goal in an Arsenal shirt. Provided an assist for Arshavin. His movement off the ball has been good and he contributes a lot to the team. Hopefully, this goal will open the floodgate.


Gnabry: 7
72nd-substitute for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Looked promising with great technical abilities.

Chamakh: 7
Came on as a 73rd-miute substitute for Giroud. Involved in some good attacking play.

Frimpong: 7
Replaced Coquelin in the 73rd minute. Emotional first appearance in seven months.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Manchester City 1 Arsenal 1

Although the season was only four match old, this game came as a big test for Arsenal and their title credential underwent a close scrutiny as they faced one of their title rivals for the first time this season. And how did they come out of it? It seemed that most journalists and pundits alike admit Arsenal passed the test with flying colours. They certainly think Arsenal are bona fide title contenders now.

Arsenal may have deserved more than a point as they were clearly a better side in the first half, but Manchester City had more clear-cut chances. Coming away with a point from the Etihad Stadium, where the hosts haven't lost since December 2010, is not a bad result at all. The draw also meant that one of our rivals dropped two points at home.

As for the team selection, Thomas Vermaelen missed out due to flu and in came Laurent Koscielny, who was arguably our best defender last season, but he struggled to get in the team, with his involvement this season limited to just an injury time appearance against Liverpool. We thought the France international might get the nod, but we didn't expect he would start in place of the skipper.

A surprise inclusion in the starting XI was Aaron Ramsey, who had never started this season before this match. Prior to the match, Arsene Wenger boasted the quality and quantity of the Arsenal midfield and the team selection this day showed just that. In fact, Arsenal midfield dominated in the first half and looked imperious. Ramsey was probably the player who enjoyed the space and freedom given to him most and he used them very well.

Ramsey's inclusion meant that Giroud was left on the bench. Gervinho played the central role once again, with Podolski on the left wing, but these players and Cazorla were very mobile as usual. Ramsey took a unfamiliar wide-right position.

Another change to the side which faced Southampton was in the goal keeping position. Mannone came in for the injured Szczesny.

In the last season's same fixture, we were unlucky to lose. We played well again this season and although we fell behind against run of play, we kept going and fought back to earn a draw. This is definitely an improvement over the last season.

What a difference a year can make. This time last year, just as we had thought we would be OK with the five deadline-day signings after registering our first win against newly-promoted Swansea, we suffered a heart-breaking defeat to Blackburn. We were left with only four points from the first five games and a deficit of eight goals in goal difference. This season we have bagged nine points from the same number of games and are yet to be beaten. After going through another difficult summer, we, Arsenal fans, remain optimistic and look forward to this weekend's encounter with another title rival, Chelsea. And we have enough reasons to be hopeful. We have a good team with mostly experienced players aged around 26 years and a few young players who have been stepping up their game in each game, like Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs. We still have Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky to come back as well. There are still some sceptics about Arsenal's depth in the squad, but as long as we stay injury-free, we have enough quality in the squad.

Player ratings

Mannone: 7
Arsene admitted that the 24-year old keeper had a hand in Man City's goal through his misjudgement. But other than that, he had a solid game and made some excellent saves, including the fingertip save that denied Dzeko's effort. Can he keep his place when Szczesny's back?

Jenkinson: 8
Outmuscled Lescott and his powerful runs gave Garcia a hard time. On the defensive side, he kept Scott Sinclair in his pocket. Sinclair was so ineffectual that he was replaced by Jack Rodwell at half time. His best game so far this season, but we are quite sure at this rate he will improve further, which is an encouraging sign because it is expected to be a few more weeks before Bacary Sagna resumes his normal service.

Mertesacker: 8
Apart from a few mistakes, he was solid. Good positioning. Arsenal fan's Man of the Match with 27% of the total votes (according to the site), followed by the goal scorer, Koscielny, with 23%. The interesting thing about the fans opinions, they tend to rate the performance of the players who have been under criticism, such as Mertesacker, Jenkinson, and Ramsey more than acclaimed players like Cazorla.

Koscielny: 8
Scored a well-deserved equaliser. He smashed it at the top corner of the goal, just like a striker. On the other hand, his poor clearance nearly gifted Aguero a winner. Other than that mistake, he defended well.

Gibbs: 7
Good going forward, although some of his crosses left something to be desired. His unnecessary clearance at the cost of a corner, which led to Man City's goal, may have been avoided had Vermaelen been on the pitch. Captain would have called him to leave it.

Cazorla: 9
He seems to be journalists' Man of the Match. His passing caused Man City all sorts of problem.

Arteta: 8
In the heart of the Arsenal midfield. Made 106 passes and successfully completed 100.

Diaby: 7
Did OK in the first half, but was replaced in the 71st minute, when he started to look tired.

Ramsey: 8
Made good runs and incisive passes. Slid a pin-point pass to Gervinho, whose poor touch let him down. He had a good game and was effective for the team.
Gervinho: 6
Left his shooting boots at home. His finishes were awful and the timing of some of his runs were wrong. It was disappointing as he looked like going in the right direction this season.

Podolski: 6
Worked hard, but chances didn't fall on him. Had a good chance after receiving Jenkinson's pass, but blasted high.


Giroud: 6
Came on as a 71st-minute substitute for Abu Diaby. His introduction prompted Ramsey to move to more familiar central midfield and Gervinho to move to the left wing.

Walcott: 6
Came on in the 71st minute to replace Podolski and play on the right flank.

Coquelin: N/A
Left the bench to replace Gervinho in the 90th minute.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Montpellier 1 Arsenal 2

Our first reaction to the game immediately after the final whistle was a relief. Arsenal's second-half display was too hairy for our comfort. It made a very nervy viewing for us.

After the match, pundits and fans' views were split, depending on how they looked at Arsenal's defensive performance and which half of the game they looked at. Opionions tend to be formed centring around the second half of the game as it makes more fresher impressions on people's mind.

Arsenal were impressive in the first half, apart from Vermaelen's "unnecessary" challenge by his admission. They quickly responded to the early goal they conceded, by scoring two goals within two minutes of each other via excellent team play. Arsenal kept the game under control for the remaining of the first half.

However, the second half was a totally different story. Vermaelen admitted that they were not at their best in the latter half of the game. Tony Adams said Arsenal were lucky and he was not convinced with the Arsenal defence. On the other hand, a section of Arsenal fans claim that Arsenal defended well. We agree with the Arsenal legend. We were lucky as Cabella's effort hit the woodwork, Belhanda only managed a tame shot at Mannone in a golden opportunity, Mannone made some outstanding saves and Diaby escaped another yellow card and a penalty. Our defence looked far from solid in the second half, we were always second to the 50/50 ball and our passing was not as accurate as usual (although stats show our passing success rate was right in our standard range of 84.5%). However, it is also true that it is a champions' trait that they grind out results when they cannot play well as some fans say. And we have done just that.

Another point that splits views was whether Arsenal tried to save themselves for the upcoming Premier League match against Manchester City and decided to sit back and concentrate on protecting the one-goal lead. We have noticed Gervinho's abrupt halts to his surging runs in the final third and his inhibition to carry the ball higher on the pitch. We thought he might have been struggling with a knock, but as he completed 90 minutes and Steve Bould said after the match that everybody was OK, it may have been a team tactic. Some fans praise Arsenal for doing just enough to get the result, but it was still disappointing to see Arsenal on the backfoot and not fulfilling their potential following their superb performances in the previous two games against Liverpool and Southampton, which looked like a sign of some consistency. Also, doubt has crept in about our defence, which had been so solid this season that they had only conceded one goal prior to this match.

Another argument was whether we should have made substitutions earlier. Walcott and Coquelin were the 90th-minute substitutes. Diaby's fatigue was obvious. He should have been replaced earlier, which could have saved the controversy about Montpellier's penalty claim.

Whether we held on to the narrow lead thanks to luck or our resolute defending, the one thing is certain that coming away with three points from the hostile ground was a great result and excellent start to the new Champions League season. In this competition, home wins are imperative and any away win is a massive  advantage. The results of the English clubs' first games were mixed: Man City's 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, Man Utd's unconvincing 1-0 home win over Galatasaray, and Chelsea's home draw against Juventus after squandering a 2-0 lead. I'd happily take a lucky 2-1 away win any day of the week.

Arsenal's credentials as title contenders will under a scrutiny this weekend, when they face one of their title rivals for the first time this season. Let's hope everybody gets a good rest before the match and turns up fresh and sharp at the match on Sunday because nothing less than 100% from each player would do against the reigning Premier League champions.

Player ratings

Mannone: 7
Made match-saving saves. Was he too quick to commit himself to one direction for the penalty?

Jenkinson: 7
His low cross set up Gervinho's winner.

Mertesacker: 6
Had a relatively poor game by his standards.

Vermaelen: 6
Uncharacteristic mistake from usually reliable captain.

Gibbs: 6
The left side was more exposed in this game than before.

Cazorla: 7
Faded in the second half, but did well to get to the end of Diaby's pass and make an effort.

Arteta: 8
Had a tough day, receiving rough treatment by Montpellier players.

Diaby: 6
First appearance since his injury during the international break. He looked tired in the second half and was clearly not at his best.

Gervinho: 8
Started on the right flank and scored the winner. Maintained his scintillating form.

Podolski: 8
He slotted home coolly after set free by Giroud's pass. There is no doubt about his quality. On top of his technical abilities, we like his confidence and determination to win. He says he loves one-on-one situations with the keeper. We have a great goal-scorer in him.

Giroud: 7
Set up a goal for Podolski, playing a part in Arsenal's slick attacking movement. The media are trying to make us believe that the fans are not happy with him yet to break his Arsenal duck, but as long as he contributes to the team through his work rate and gets in great positions, goals will come sooner rather than later. In the meantime, goal-scoring responsibilities can be shared among other players, such as Gervinho and Podolski. We are not worried. Besides, we paid only £13 million for the last season's Ligue 1 top scorer, not £50 million. How many months did it take for Torres to score his first goal in a Chelsea shirt? I don't know what all the fuss is about.


Ramsey: 7
75th-minute substitute for Giroud.

Theo Walcott: 6
Came on in the 90th minute for Podolski.

Coquelin: 6
Came on in the 90th minute for Cazorla.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Arsenal 6 Southampton 1

Talking points for the team selection prior to this match were (1) who was going to replace injured Diaby as Arsene Wenger was unlikely to take a chance on the France international's fitness ahead of the important two matches in the coming week, (2) if fit-again Wojciech Szczesny would start instead of the third-choice keeper Vito Mannone, and (3) if Koscielny, who grew into one of the finest defenders last season, was to replace Per Mertesacker.

As it turned out, Coquelin started in midfield alongside with Santi Cazorla and Arteta. Some expected this as the France U-21 midfielder was more similar fit to Diaby, but others, including myself, assumed that Wenger was more likely to choose Ramsey because Coquelin would make Arsenal's midfield too defensive. Ramsey came off the bench to replace Coquelin in the 67th minutes after a spell of rallies from a Southampton side and within 10 minutes he set up a goal for Gervinho to kill off the game. Wenger's tactics were spot-on.

Szczesny resumed his service in goal, but this decision turned out to be a wrong one. Vito Mannone never put a foot wrong during the two matches in which he deputised the Pole. Mannone deserves a chance to challenge Szczesny's No. 1 status. Szczesny's goal-keeping error cost us a new record, a fourth clean sheet at top flight, and his clearance and distribution made us very nervous. After the match, it was revealed that he was carrying an ankle injury he sustained before the match. Perhaps, it affected his kicking.

As for the third point, Koscielny was left on the bench once again. It shows that we have plenty of depth in the squad at the moment. A great defender like Koscielny cannot get a starting place in the current team.

While the above changes were expected to some extent, the starting line-up supplied a larger surprise, as Gervinho came in for Olivier Giroud, who was dropped to the bench, and this was a straight swap. Gervenho was deployed as a centre forward, with Podolski on the left wing. In the post-match review, Arsene Wenger explained his decision as follows:  "I decided that during our tour of Asia when I tried to play Gervinho there against Man City in that position. I liked what he did and it was in the back of my mind. He joked "You know we transform all wingers into central strikers and all the strikers into wingers! " And on leaving Giroud on the bench, he said "I felt that he is under much pressure at the moment and sometimes to get a little breather is good". Two goals from Gervinho vindicated Wenger's bold decision.

It was a great result with another superb team performance. We have just shown the world that we are no longer a one-man team and we can score goals without Robin van Persie. Some say that the emphatic win was not worth all the plaudits as it was against a team at the bottom of the table, but the same team scored two goals against each of the Manchester clubs and gave them good games. Also, critics say the wins so far are against minnows, but aren't Liverpool supposed to be one of the big clubs?

Southampton may have been a bit unlucky, conceding two own goals. However, the own goals were the result of the relentless pressure Arsenal applied on them and if Southampton players hadn't put the ball in their own net, Arsenal players would have finished it anyway. Arsenal were unlucky not to put their own players' names on the scoresheet for those goals. Last season, Arsenal were usually stranger to this kind of good fortune. However, I could not help thinking that luck might be on our side this season or at least in this game, when Ramsey's shot was denied by the inside of the post, which then fell for Gevinho to tap in. We may have been luckier this season, but the difference is that we tend to have more players in the box this season in order to capitalise on these occasions.

Arsenal's solid start to the season is largely attributed to the improved defence. While the new attacking players were bedding in, the solid defence kept clean sheets to ensure the team's unbeaten run. What a genius strategy Arsenee Wenger came up with!

Another sublime performance from the Gunners after the dreaded international break is an encouraging sign of consistency. Keep up the good work, boys.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 4
Made a mistake, which led us to concede the first goal this season.

Jenkinson: 8
He has been improving every game. People started to recognise his work, but he still seems underrated compared with Gibbs. Yes, Gibbs are more experienced than him at the highest level, but Gibbs can also go forward more freely because he has Podolski, who is an excellent defender, in front of him. Jenkinson seems to be learning the right defence-attack balance as he went forward more often in this game. Some of his crosses and passes are good, too.

Mertesacker: 8
Reliable defensive play. Unlucky not to score.

Vermaelen: 8
Solid as usual.

Gibbs: 9
Many think he was the Man of the Match, based on his contribution to attacking play with two assists.

Cazorla: 9
He was again in the heart of Arsenal's attacking play.

Arteta: 8
With a holding midfielder in the starting line-up in the shape of Francis Coquelin, he was allowed to push further forward in this game. Made an incisive pass which allowed Gervinho to get behind the Southampton defence and smashed his effort home.

Coquelin: 8
Did his job well, by keeping up the pace of passing.

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: 8
Looked dangerous on the right flank. Made a good effort, which forced a save of the match from Kelvin Davis.

Podolski: 9
His curler was exquisite. The free-kick was right in the RVP-speciality zone, but who needs him, when you have Poldi's quality. Cazorla is another decent free-kick taker. Poldi revealed that he asked Santi to let him take the free-kick. Poldi is a very confident individual. The way his goal set the Emirates alight will only help his confidence grow further. In the build up to the first goal, he showed his physical strength to shrug off the challenge and made a wonderful run and continued it after his pass found Gibbs.

Gervinho: 9
He may be the player who has benefited most from RVP's departure. Last season, he did everything right but decisions for the final ball. Especially when he couldn't find RVP, he looked lost. His potential was already obvious in his pace and trickery. His pre-season form suggested that this would be his breakthrough season and this game was just the beginning of its manifestations. On top of his stellar performance for the Ivory Coast national team last week, the two goals against Southampton should serve as a confidence booster for him.


Ramsey: 8
Showed his technical ability in the clever turn. Provided an assist for Gervinho's second goal.

Theo Walcott: 8
74th-minute substitute for Gervinho. Scored a late goal with composed finish. Showed his class by not celebrating the goal against his old club.

Giroud: 7
Came on in the 75th minute to replace Podolski. He could have scored his first goal for Arsenal, only had Walcott made a pass in the right time when the French striker was making a parallel run in the middle unmarked.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2

Arsenal's attack has finally delivered end-products thanks to the excellent linkup play between the two new signings, while the team kept a third successive clean sheet. Diaby, Arteta and Cazorla dominated in midfield, outplaying their counterparts. A 2-0 win at Anfield was a great result in every aspect. Three points, two goals, and a clean sheet. It was just a perfect afternoon for us.

The new-look Arsenal impressed us with their quick passing with purpose and solid defence as a team. Especially, the quick counterattack that led to the first goal was something we have been looking for for some time. We are extremely happy with the two new signings playing key roles for setting up and scoring eagerly awaited first goals. Podolski's influence was already obvious in the Stoke game, in which his direct style raised our expectations for a new dimension to be added to Arsenal's game. It took no time for Cazorla to fit in Arsenal's playing style. Many think he is the best signing for Arsenal in the recent years. We have finally found a perfect replacement for Cesc Fabregas. Now all we want is a goal from Giroud so that it will take some pressure off him and give him confidence.

Two goals in three games may not be enough to make us forget van Persie immediately, but Arteta and Diaby's superb display against Liverpool certainly softened the blow that Song's departure caused. If both of the midfielders stay injury-free and Wilshere comes back when he is expected to do (which is in a month's time), Wenger's decision not to bring in Song's replacement should prove right.

The Man of the Match is widely considered to be Abu Diaby, but it is difficult to pick a single player because it was an accomplished team performance.  Everybody contributed to keeping a third consecutive clean sheet. However, it is fair to say that Diaby was outstanding both defensively and offensively. This was one of his best performances without doubt. Personally, I wasn't a big fan of Diaby (not because he is an alleged Tottenham fan, but) because he was so inconsistent you never knew which Diaby was going to turn up on the day. When he had just began to show some kind of consistency, he suffered the long-term injury. Let's hope he can keep up the good work after the international break.

Overall, it was very encouraging team performance, which suggested us that they could be title contenders if they can reproduce this day's performance week in week out.

Player ratings

Mannone: 7
Made a couple of good saves. There were moments of indecisiveness, but other than that, he had no problem.

Jenkinson: 7
After poor passing at early stages of the game, he looked solid defensively. He is sometimes criticised for not getting forward enough to help the right winger, but he is a defender at the end of the day. We are quite happy with him concentrating on the defensive side of his job, especially when compared with his counterpart, Glen Johnson, whose too much involvement in going forward cost his team dearly. Jenkinson even made an effort from distance.

Mertesacker: 7
His passing was mixed. One of the bad ones forced Arteta to earn a yellow card. He presented a strong case for Liverpool's penalty claim, but thankfully he got away with it, probably because of Suarez's reputation for going down too easily. Replays showed that the first Liverpool penalty shout was ruled out correctly as the Germany international won the ball cleanly.

Vermaelen: 8
Made some crucial clearances and blocks. Committed performance from the new captain.

Gibbs: 7
Good going forward as well. Had a shot worth trying.

Cazorla: 8
He was in the heart of Arsenal's creativity. Delivered the killer pass to set up a goal for Podolski and scored Arsenal's second goal.

Arteta: 8
Most underrated player because of his deeper position and defensive role, but he put in some important tackles and made 92 passes with passing success ratio of a staggering 94.6%

Diaby: 9
He was awesome in winning the ball, carrying it forward and passing it.

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: 6
Largely kept quiet by Sterling.

Podolski: 8
Scored his first goal for Arsenal, Arsenal's first goal of the season, and set up for a goal for Cazorla via a neat one-two with him. His finish was precise and composed. In light of his performance for the German national team in the Euro 2012, we were sceptical about the best position for him being the left wing, based on his poor crossing. However, this game showed we were wrong. He often cuts in to the middle and helps Gibbs defensively so that the left-back can go forward to provide the width and deliver crosses. Arsenal's attacking lineup started taking shape. It seems the only position open to competition is the right wing.

Giroud: 6
Missed a couple of good chances to score, but worked very hard. His movements were good on and off the ball. Made a few good interceptions.


Ramsey: 6
73rd minute substitute for the Ox who got a kick. He did what he was supposed to do, which was to help Jenkinson and protect the two-goal lead.

Santos: 6
Replaced Podolski in the 82nd minute in order to shore up the defence.

Koscielny: N/A
Came on in the 90th minute to replace Vermaelen who suffered a knock.