Slightly delayed return following yesterday’s birthday celebrations but back into the swing of things.
It was surprising to realise that Arsenal were in the fourth round of the FA Cup with all of the doom and gloom in the media following Saturday’s 3 – 1 win over Plymouth at The Emirates. It is hard sometimes to fathom exactly what is wanted from the team in matches such as these. No, it was not a vintage Arsenal performance yet, with all due respect to the opposition, Plymouth did not extend the team and the objective surely overrides the events on the pitch? Whilst there is an expectation from us as supporters to be ‘entertained’, is that not secondary in these matches?
There were positives that, for me, override the ‘negative’ image of the match. Individuals showed that they are preparing to step up into the first team in seasons to come. That does not negate the necessity for Wenger to strengthen in the current transfer window nor should it ‘kill’ routes to the first team. If a younger player is better than the current incumbent, they will find their place as Djourou did this season.
Gibbs, for me, was a bright point in the match. There are some weaknesses to be ironed out but he was purposeful in going forward, his distribution perhaps helped by starting his career further forward. Fabianksi had an interesting afternoon, one that marked his style out as different to Almunia. His willingness to come from crosses, despite not always making the best of contacts, is refreshing. Perhaps it is a pity that he is not more experienced for that kind of aggression and willingness to attack the ball in the area may hold the defence together under pressure from high balls.
In midfield, it was very much a mixed bag. For Nasri, he seemed more effective in the centre post the interval. I am not sure whether that was a ‘concious’ decision on his part or simply that Plymouth found it harder to deny him possession. Whatever the cause, the impact was more noticeable, serving to emphasise the point that he is becoming rather rapidly a key player in the side. Ramsey meanwhile had a hit and miss game. His abilities were clear to see but surrenders possession too cheaply at times. It is something that will be cleared up in time and with more experience. As for Diaby and Eboue, it was a match that they will not want to remember. Not for the paucity of their performances – they were average – simply because they did not do themselves justice. Both are capable of better yet they did their jobs quietly. Diaby concentrated more on his defensive duties which robbed him of the surging runs that are a key quality to his game. In this role, it would be easy to compare him to Vieira which if he can balance the two aspects of his game would be an ideal role. Plus he needs to stay injury-free.
Up front, Bendtner flattered to deceive. Speculation at the weekend linked him with West Ham as a makeweight in some idle transfer gossip and to be honest, his performance was the type that would be expected from one of their forwards. It is difficult to reconcile his self-belief with his performance on afternoons such as this. He can make it at Arsenal but he is starting to remind me of Kevin Campbell; lots of ability but question marks emerging over whether he can make it at Arsenal.
He would do well to learn from van Persie, who lead the team well through his effort. Involved in all of the goals and a livewire performance. Criticism of him in the media suggests jealousy on the part of the journalists in question. Jealous that they had limited football ability and the fact that he is determined to defy their proposition that Arsenal cannot win a trophy this season.
A trip to a Cardiff side who are in the upper echelons of the Championship suggests that a strong side will need to be fielded in the next round but it is that phrase which matters – ‘next round’ and Arsenal are there.