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Saturday, 23 July 2011

FC Koln 1 - 2 Arsenal - Gervinho endears himself

Gervinho - off and running in Arsenal red

Gervinho started his Arsenal career in the grand manner this afternoon with two strikers finishes against Cologne. Jack Wilshere was instrumental in both goals - a brilliant pass over the top providing the first, and the second coming after Jack had set Theo Walcott free on the right side of the penalty area. Playing from the left side of the attacking three Gervinho showed great movement and a firm desire to get himself in the box where he could do damage to the opposition. This was in marked contrast to Marouane Chamakh who constantly drifted out wide and was never in the game - his afternoon was summed up, for me, when Theo stood a cross up to the far post and Chamakh stood and watched while Aaron Ramsey (who had a poor game with the ball at his feet) attacked the ball.
I was pleasantly surprised by Gervinho. If he performs like this when given his opportunities in the Premier League then he will quickly become a favourite with the fans. A feature of the first-half was Arsenal's pace on the counter-attack with Walcott and the new Ivorian, and then later with Miyaichi (Gervinho was withdrawn just short of the half-hour mark as a precaution). Gervinho looks quick and makes intelligent runs behind the defence. Jack Wilshere played in the Fabregas position today and was magnificent. His passing to the front men was superb, but I was most impressed by his willingness to run at the defence. When Jack was in the youths and reserves this was a feature of his game - I hope it is to return this season.
At the back Arsenal found themselves exposed far too often. Kieran Gibbs was constantly too far forward and needs to learn quickly when to attack and when to stick at full-back. I felt Koscielny was regularly the wrong side of Lukas Podolski and was bailed out more than once by an imperious Thomas Vermaelen. On the right of the back four I thought Carl Jenkinson was also outstanding - his own-goal was a complete freak, but would not have happened had he used his left foot so hopefully that's a lesson learned. The young man looked devastated as he trooped off at half-time but he has looked a promising prospect so far and should not let it concern him.
Cologne created a few opportunities in the first-half and, as much as Gibbs/Koscielny were lacking positional sense, the major problem was the lack of cover in front of the defence. Alex Song remains unchallenged for his position and continues to play like he believes he is Pele's son. He has no discipline in his role and is constantly caught out in possession (his ridiculous showboating when faced with the goalkeeper on one of his many attacking forays was embarrassing). Song has also not realised that a tackle requires you to win the ball - simply barging in to the opposition striker on the edge of your own box is only going to lead to problems. Emmanuel Frimpong came on for Song at half-time and did well again, but I would still like to see Scott Parker brought in to replace Song in Arsenal's midfield - experience counts for a lot in the Premier League.
The second-half lacked the zip of the first, particularly from the almost entirely different Arsenal team. I thought Arshavin got involved well, as did Tomas Rosicky, though the end product was non-existent. Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie were completely anonymous, as was Carlos Vela (though I will forgive the Mexican as he once again found himself on the right-wing). At the back Djourou and Squillaci did okay, but Bacary Sagna was all over the place for the first twenty minutes - Vito Mannone bailed him out on more than one occasion before he was replaced in goal by Fabianski.
The main concern for Arsenal at the end of a hard-earned pre-season win was the injury to Conor Henderson. Ridiculously played out of position at left-back (yet Arsene says we don't need another one) Henderson was getting twisted and turned all the time (not his fault - he is a midfielder) and one twist too many saw him go over very awkwardly on his knee. Young Conor has a bad history with injury, including serious knee trouble. Cesc Fabregas has hinted on Twitter that it may not be too serious, so let's hope he is correct.
As I said above, it was another hard-earned win. The attacking play was good at times and familiarly frustrating at others - too much passing when a shot is called for (yes, Theo, I'm talking about you). The defence remains worryingly awful for the most part. It seems that there is still no organisation, and no discipline. Frankly, it won't matter who Wenger brings in to the bolster the defence unless some proper coaching is done in this area.
One other observation from today is about the travelling Arsenal fans - particularly those from Eastern Europe. From what I have been told they were a disgrace to Arsenal Football Club this afternoon as they lit flares and threw objects and beer in the lower tier of the away end. This scum should stick to watching football in their own country if this is how they will choose to tarnish Arsenal's fine reputation around Europe.

I hope to produce a post at some point tomorrow, but it's my wedding anniversary and I'm on holiday after that. If you don't hear from me until Saturday then you know why!

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