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Arsenal 1-0 Udinese

by on August 17, 2011

Highlights pack

As I left the stadium yesterday afternoon, there was a wide mixture of feelings. Most of those I’ll discuss in the blog later today, but the main feeling was one of frustration. After a bright start with Aaron Ramsey crossing and Theo Walcott proving why he should play in the middle by finishing at the near post. The atmosphere was really positive. Having said that, Arsenal failed to build and Udinese came as close to equalising as we did to scoring a second, the frustration boiled over in the second half when the team’s midfield seemed incapable of holding the ball for more than three seconds.

Unlike the Newcastle match, Szczesny did have quite a bit to do here, with a few one on ones where he saved well from quick Udinese counter attacks. Being sat behind him also gave me the chance to see just how much he communicates with his defenders, especially Vermaelen. Overall it was a decent game for the young Pole, I wanted to pay attention to his kicking and it does seem to be getting better, if still less consistent than we would like. As for Sagna, well it was typical Sagna. He wasn’t too phased at the back, although he let someone past him on the halfway line that led to a one on one. Attack-wise, the usual mix of crosses. Some good, most not so good really.

As for the left-back position, Gibbs was good in the first-half, his high pressing game works so well at winning possession when we shouldn’t really get it. He seems to be getting better at the back as well, Vermaelen talks to him a lot. He went off at half-time with a hamstring problem so Djourou came on for ten minutes. He was quite good actually, I can remember him blocking a shot from about ten yards out. There was considerable bemusement when he went back off and a kind of semi-standing/sitting ovation. Jenkinson came on and filled in at left-back. It’s strange, a right-back by trade, yet almost all of his professional career has been at left-back. He wasn’t a Gibbs in attack, not surprising given the fact that he’s right-footed. Having said that, he looked good at the back, barring one moment when he seemed to lose sight of the ball.

Koscielny and Vermaelen both had good games. Both were strong in the air and I think someone (Koscielny?) forced a save from a corner early on. We do look a lot better on set-pieces I have to say and it looks like the centre-backs and the ‘keeper have been told to communicate as much as possible and make sure everyone knows what they’re doing. Alex Song had a decent game, the midfield is always a bit skewed with Ramsey and Rosicky playing as Arsenal Report demonstrated after the Newcastle match. Having said that, all three midfielders were good in the first half and not so good in the second half, where they were keeping possession in the first half they were losing it in the second half and just not looking up before passing.

Aaron Ramsey is starting to show sparks of excellence in games, it’s good to see he’s finding his feet. Rosicky grimaced for a few minutes before he came off, it could be that slight ‘tightness in ze leg’ that’s troubling him. Frimpong came on and did well. He has so much drive and energy when comes in and he’s always looking forward. I distinctly remember him complaing to nobody and everybody when we passed it back to Szczesny. Also, he got hit on the back of the head by a ball during the half-time warm-up, he literally didn’t even feel it. The guy is built like a tank.

Theo obviously started the match really well, what with the goal and all. When Gervinho put him through near the end and he shaped to curl it into the far-corner ala Henry, I think the whole North Bank was getting ready to celebrate. That tells you all you need to know about how much his finishing has improved in the last year or two. There wasn’t  much wrong with the shot, just that Handanovic did really really well to get a hand to it. The gentleman next to me wasn’t that keen on Theo, repeating that he wasn’t fit to wear the shirt. Strange really, is anyone fit to wear the same shirt as Henry? Secondly, Theo was involved in almost every attack we had. He was getting more time up front as well due to the constant inter-changing of attackers and was able to use his pace to exploit gaps and get in space.

Gervinho wasn’t too bad, he still seems to be lacking end-product, although in fairness when he cut in from the right things were always promising, but his left-foot shots were always either blocked or just not powerful enough. We’ll have to wait till the second leg to see more from him obviously. As for Chamakh, it’s confusing. He gets involved in aerial duels and looks confident close-up, trying all kinds of little flicks and tricks, but in the area… Did he even have a shot yesterday? I think he had one blocked. Needs to score soon though, or Bendtner may get playing time and if he starts scoring then I fear Chamakh will be a sad third-choice player really.

That’s it then, a 1-0 win will have to do. The second leg away, I’m not particularly looking forward to it. Let’s hope for an early goal or two, because Udinese have a strong attack. Reaction and other news will be up a bit later.

If you don’t already then be sure to follow me on twitter @SavageGooner. Also, be sure to comment below. What did you think of the result? Who did you think stood out and who failed to impress?

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