There were some good things from tonight's game and some bad. The thing that stood out for me was another poor defensive error from Gael Clichy, they have become something of a habit over recent months. I do not enjoy criticising a player who always gives his all for the cause, but his recurrent errors are something that have been concerning a lot of us for quite a while now. How long can one do this before it becomes more than bad luck?
In my opinion Gael Clichy has gone over this line now. There are some terrific aspects to his game, his work rate, his athleticism, but solid defending is a fundamental part of being a good left back and this essential ingredient has been sadly lacking of late. If Kieran Gibbs could stay fit for any period I have no doubt that he would take over as our first choice left back. I used to sing the Clichy chant and strongly believe him to be as good as Ashley Cole, I can no longer do this. If Gibbs cannot get fit and stay so, then a new left back should be purchased in January. Arsene blamed a lack of maturity, Clichy is no youngster now, he simply should not be making these kinds of errors with the experience he has. It pains me to say this.
Clichy should not be scapegoated for the defeat though, there was more to this that one Gael Clichy error. Shakhtar pressed us efficiently and put us under far more pressure than they did at the Emirates. Our weakened side didn't quite have the ability to resist this pressure, we didn't hold onto the ball well enough for periods and we were slightly over run in the midfield at times. Eastmond did ok and was unlucky with his own goal, he didn't know much about it when he flicked in a dangerous free kick past the helpless Fabianski.
Still it wasn't that bad at all. Overall we were pretty unfortunate to come away with a defeat against a decent side in a hostile environment, they are also unbeaten at home for 2 years. Generally our weakened side performed pretty decently. Walcott's goal was outstanding, Wilshere had a very solid game, Fabianski played consistently, JET worked hard for his few minutes at the end. Bendtner was rusty as expected, there were a few rather heavy touches, it's to be expected when you've been out for a long period. I was encouraged by Johan Djourou's performance, some excellent defensive clearances and interceptions, he look strong too. Squillaci was steady again. Eboue didn't have his greatest game, but he was up against an extremely pacey and skillful Willian.
This result puts things back in the balance again. Realistically if we win at home to Partizan then we are through, still if we don't get a result in Braga things could be rather tense come that final home fixture. Interesting that while some people in the media go on about a certain Welshman being the best player in the world after a handful of good games, Arsenal go into yet another game with a couple of talented homegrown English players starting (Eastmond/Wilshere). Homegrown starters for Tottenham ZERO, for Chelsea ZERO and Man United two (both older players). Strange how the media don't point this little fact out. Not the end of the world true, but I do fear for Gael Clichy's future.