19 November 2005

Wigan 2-3 Arsenal

Arsenal's first away win of the year. An exhausting, exciting, surging game.

I commented extensively over at the Big Soccer thread, so I won't say too much about the game here. In short: the Arsenal attack was fantastic, the defense was troubling, but more than anything, it was satisfying to see the Gunners get an away win against a quality team.

The left back situation for Arsenal is troublesome. Over the internationals, Gael Clichy broke his foot; he'll be out for 3 or 4 months. Ashley Cole is not due back until early December. So we'll have a couple of weeks with a makeshift solution over there. Today, it was Pascal Cygan, and he just didn't get it done. I like him a lot, and think he has an undeserved bad rep. But his decisionmaking today was not good, and in particular his positioning was faulty. He kept drifting into the middle of the pitch, leaving the left wing horribly exposed.

We'll play some of the youngsters at Thun on Tuesday, but it will be interesting to see what Wenger does for next weekend's game against Blackburn. I would predict that he'll start Campbell and Senderos at center-back, with Toure moving to left back. We'll see how it comes out.

And finally, my thoughts on Wigan. This was my first chance to watch them this year. Let's be clear: their overall level of talent is probably below average for the Premiership. But they play an excellent team game, and they have immense belief in themselves. There were a couple times, particulary at 0-2 down, where they looked close to packing it in. But instead, they fought back into the game. Their last touch was missing in the second half, but still they worked chances, and could have easily tied the game. My guess is that they'll suffer an inevitable drop in form at some point, and will finish the season somewhere around the middle of the table; I don't expect them to qualify for Europe. But they are clearly a quality team, and easily deserve to stay in the Prem... more so than many established teams. (I'm looking at you, Newcastle.) And all credit to Wigan for attacking throughout the game.

Player Ratings:
Lehmann: 6. Solid overall, though not really tested. Not really at fault for either goal.

Lauren: 6. Overall a good game. Lost his mark against Camara for the first Wigan goal. I'm growing to value his steady, solid play.
Campbell: 6. Well played. Had a few key clearances at various points in the second half.
Toure: 5. Not bad but a few dodgy moments. Was involved in both Wigan goals, though I think he was left exposed by Lauren and Cygan in turn.
Cygan: 4. Bad enough when on defense, but horrid when he was attacking -- too far to get back into position. There aren't many choices for Arsene at LB right now, but I don't think this is the right one.

Pires: 6. Worked hard but most of the game flowed through the center. Had some nice touches though.
Gilberto: 6. Overall not bad. An important calming presence at times. Still has a horrid habit of passing straight to the opposition.
Fabregas: 7. Overall a very good game. Much of the attack flowed through him, and he was instrumental in the posession game that Arsenal used in the second half. His finishing needs to improve though; he should have scored on the backheel from Henry.
Ljungberg: 6. See Pires.

van Persie: 8. Excellent work. I think his directness has been a key component of Arsenal's improved attack in the last few weeks. His goal is a prime example: he took a shot that the keeper was likely to save... but didn't. He's very efficient and his shots are always on goal or close.
Henry: 8. Another fine game from the captain. Two good goals, and in particular the free kick was a thing of beauty. He was also key in the passing-posession game that kept the second half under control. Man of the Match.

Flamini: 5 (75' for Pires). Frankly, not very useful. He has skill and pace, but seems to have a hard time integrating himself into the team. Did seem a bit better as time wore on. Stupid to pick up the yellow card, he has to get better at managing his emotions.
Bergkamp: 6 (75' for van Persie). Helped Arsenal keep posession late in the game. Nothing huge but still useful.
Senderos: 5 90' for Ljungberg). No time to establish himself — I think he only had one touch.

Arsenal travel to Bern to take on Thun on Tuesday, then have Blackburn at Highbury on Saturday. See you then!

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?