Easy Win For Arsenal – We Find The Cost Later
UEFA Champions League, Group Phase
Arsenal 2 – 0 Standard Liege
1 – 0 Nasri (35)
2 – 0 Denilson (45)
A performance and a win that erased the memory, somewhat, of the weekend’s defeat at Sunderland. First place in the Group was secured but a price has been paid with Kieran Gibbs out with a broken bone in his foot and William Gallas’ ankle injury has left him doubtful, at the moment, for Sunday’s clash with Chelsea. The full extent of his injury will become clearer as the days pass and it is premature to write him off just yet.
It was a night he will not remember with any particular fondness as he left the pitch at the interval not to re-emerge for the second half, having departed in a similar facial condition to many of Muhammed Ali’s victims when the Great Man was in his prime. Andrey Arshavin had staples inserted in his head following their collision in the first half. Nothing so namby-pamby as stitches for this boy, just a Rexel for him.
Without being disparaging to Standard, they were poor last night. Despite this, they rattled the woodwork twice which would have put an altogether different complexion on the result and an altogether unfair one as well. Arsenal dominated possession and should probably have been three up before Nasri’s excellent finish as the interval approached.
Cesc and the Frenchman could, and perhaps should, have scored in the opening minutes. Nasri had an excellent chance for breaking the deadlock and you would have to assume that he thought the angle for shooting tighter than it actually was, Bolat some way across from the near post. Instead, a cross came, Vela shot and a chance went begging.
The notable moment before the breakthrough came from a corner. Fabregas’ delivery was good – a noticeable improvement this season, perhaps because there is a genuine threat in the shape of Vermaelen and Gallas. Arshavin’s close range effort was blocked; Vela hit the rebound against the post; Bolat twice denied Gallas before Arshavin had a Bendtner moment, blocking Vermaelen’s drive, the ferocity of which left the Russian seeing double.
With the pressure all one way, a typically continental break ensued with Mbokani striking from the edge of the area, hitting the angle of the bar and post before flying to safety. That was the prelude to Gallas’ second injury of the night. Early in the match, he had suffered a knock to the ankle in executing a block tackle. Limping, he was left to persevere in pain, the old adage of running a knock off being adhered to. Whether that was wise or not remains to be seen although with Silvestre on the bench and Standard offering little, surely caution should have taken precedence for Wenger? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It would have prevented his clash of heads with Arshavin as they both went for a corner, Gallas heading narrowly over.
Both players required treatment and Standard scented blood with Arsenal down to 9. A goal duly arrived in their net; Vermaelen sent a long pass over the top of the Liege defence, a defensive slip and an exquisite finish by Nasri. Arshavin returned and almost double the lead, shooting narrowly wide.
The result was sealed as half time rapidly approached. Denilson received the ball from Gibbs and shot from distance. Bolat had his angles all wrong and flapping vain as the ball entered the net. It was a good strike but not an unstoppable effort.
In the second half, Arsenal visibly relaxed. Witsel found himself free in the area but Almunia collected the ball as the opportunity withered away. For Arsenal, Vela and Walcott had decent chances as the game appeared to be heading for a gentle conclusion. That was not to be.
Both sides finished with ten men with Liege’s as a result of a red card for a stupid lunge of Gonzalez’s head at Fabregas whilst Gibbs foot was broken needlessly.
It was a comfortable performance all round. Denilson had a good game on his return to the side, offering plenty of support and to an extent freeing Fabregas a little more than normal by covering a bit more defensively. Song was his usual non-expansive self, quietly getting on with the business of minding the midfield, effective on the odd occasion that he chose to stride into the attack.
Up front, Nasri was certainly sharper than at Sunderland although the freedom he was allowed by Liege was considerably more than he will get in the Premier League. Arshavin added an intuitive inventiveness to the attack whilst Vela, I thought, did well leading the line. He will need to time to develop in that role but his link play was good, another sharp stick in the eye for those who believe that you have to be a neanderthal to succeed in that type of position.
The refereeing was pretty abysmal. Eboue did not dive, his knees were clipped by the defender. Perhaps there was an element of doubt in the referee’s mind on that instance. He may have been thinking of his role as Sir Joseph Porter in HMS Pinafore rather than concentrating on the game as Gallas clearly brought down the Liege forward, the referee not far behind.
In the end, all that matters was the result and the cobwebs being dusted away ahead of the Chelsea clash. It is pretty much certain that Traore will replace Gibbs whilst we wait for news on Gallas.
Posted on November 25, 2009, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Standard Liege. Bookmark the permalink. 145 Comments.