Arsenal Not Quite Through But Almost Donetsk
UEFA Champions League, Group H
Arsenal 5 – 1 Shaktar Donetsk
1 – 0 Song (19)
2 – 0 Nasri (42)
3 – 0 Fabregas (60 pen)
4 – 0 Wilshere (66)
5 – 0 Chamakh (69)
5 – 1 Eduardo (82)
The beauty of this competition is that each match can be treated as a one-off, erratic form at home can be cast to the winds and performance levels raised to achieve the necessary home win. That most opposition in the group phase play a style of football which suits Arsenal assists even more but should not detract from this comprehensive victory. Shaktar were quite simply overwhelmed.
On a record-breaking night, Arsenal sumptuously brushed the Ukranians aside. The passing was autumnal; crisp, the ball floating across the turf with the ease of leaves falling from trees. Shaktar had no response as Nasri shone throughout with Wilshere, Rosicky and the returning Fabregas prompting from midfield.
In the opening stages, Shaktar held their shape, disciplined in performing their defensive duties, setting the scene for an obdurate night where Arsenal would need to be aware of the counter-attacking threat. It lasted eighteen minutes. Pyatov fumbled a corner, Djourou poked, Song flicked sublimely into a defender, the ball rebounding off his ankle into the net.
Midway through the half, Pyatov made amends (almost) for his error. Chamakh flicked the ball to Nasri, the Frenchman’s ferocious drive parried to safety by the goalkeeper. Arsenal were in the ascendency and in the mood to put the match beyond the visitors reach.
That was not happen until the interval beckoned. Eboue and Song’s neat interchange of passes enabled the Cameroonean to feed the ball to Nasri. This time, subtlety prevailed as he ghosted past Srna before an emphatic finish gave the half-time scoreline a more reflective, and decisive, turn.
Fabianski had nothing of note to do in the first half, the type of match where a goalkeeper’s abilities are tested, inactivity requiring concentration to be kept. In the opening minute of the second half, the Pole confirmed his recent improved form by standing tall and then making an excellent save from Adriano.
It proved to be the wake-up call Arsenal needed as they turned the screw on Shaktar. On the hour, Djourou was wrestled to the ground by Adriano and as is the wont of referees in european competition, a penalty kick was awarded, quite rightly. If their English counterparts would apply the rules as rigorously, perhaps defenders would concentrate more on defending through ability than trying to gain entry into the WWF. Fabregas’ spot kick was perfect; high, hard and accurately into the top corner. Minutes later, his fitness proven for the evening, he made way for Denilson as Eduardo joined the party as well.
Three minutes later, Jack Wilshere proved the clamour for his inclusion in the starting line-up for England’s encounter with France next month is not without foundation. Picking up Chamakh’s knockdown, he advanced to the area, interplaying delightfully with Rosicky, creating space for himself before deftly lifting the ball over the advancing Pyatov into the net. The fifth followed swiftly. Nasri’s lofted pass over the defence found Chamakh in space, unmarked and undecided about whether he was onside. Not that it mattered; the Moroccan continued his impressive home scoring record by putting the ball into the net.
The final denouement came with Eduardo rifling home from close range, refusing to celebrate true to his word but when you are five down, a long way from home, there is not much to be happy about. Arsene noted post-match that they were happy for him also; whether that would have been the case if he had scored a point-saving or winning goal remains debatable.
The emphatic nature of the win means that along with Sporting Braga, the only way Shaktar can qualify in a higher placing from this group, is if Arsenal capitulate by four goals or more in the return fixture or the most likely they gain more points. That is going to be no easy task since the form displayed by Arsenal this season has been close to imperious in this competition.
There were many positives for Arsene to draw upon from the performance. Few can complain about anyone’s contributions. All of the players concentrated, presented few opportunities to the Ukranians and importantly, they held their shape defensively.
Wilshere, Song and Fabregas proved to be a formidable triumverate although once the second goal was scored, heads dropped in the opposition ranks. Even so, the hard work the trio put in, ably supported by Rosicky and Nasri in ensuring ascendency created the opportunity to push home that advantage.
Wilshere is taking some criticism for his unpunished poorly timed challenge. A break away from the limelight is going to do him no harm and also emphasise that he needs to improve on his tackling technique. Quite simply, the exuberance of youth needs to be tempered and channelled. That he will now not play again this month ought to focus his mind. If not, Wenger and his staff have some work to do.
Arsenal broke Real Madrid’s record for scoring in the first three games. That will please Wenger as the fluidity in attack is vital to this team and their style of play. Where plaudits should also be directed, and are not, is that the defence has only conceded two goals in three matches. Frankly, with the criticism that follows the back four domestically, this is something Wenger will find as pleasing. Yes, the opposition has not been as intense as that of the Premier League but it is a building block upon which to build.
Posted on October 20, 2010, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Shaktar Donetsk, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 214 Comments.