Sunday 3 August 2008

Promise in defeat

Arsenal met a typically stubborn and well organised Juventus side at the Emirates yesterday and despite suffering an undeserved defeat, showed a great deal of promise with a very solid performance from some very talented young Arsenal players. Of note there were four englishmen in the starting eleven, something that will provide some ammunition for use against our rather xenophobic press.

We started with Djourou and Senderos at centre back, Gibbs and Hoyte at full back, Ramsey and Denilson in the middle of the park, Eboue and Wilshere on the flanks, with Bendtner and Vela up top. The first half was largely dominated by our inexperienced side, with Juventus only creating two decent chances, both offside and both ending up in the back of the net, one being allowed to stand by a linesman who clearly was still relaxing on his summer holidays. Despite our domination we failed to convert this into copious chances, with Ramsey's fine skill leading to one very good save being forced from the legs of Buffon.

The second half saw several new faces appear, firstly Adebayor, Diaby and Gallas appearing at half time, while Walcott, Nasri and Sagna came on after sixty minutes. Juventus were very well organised and solid at the back, frequently leaving two banks of four men to be broken down. Of note I felt Djorou had a decent game, Gibbs did nothing wrong, while Ramsey looked solid throughout. Denilson was outstanding for me, reading the game well and always getting a foot in when it was needed, while never over elaborating in possession. Vela looked sharp during his short spell on the pitch and Wilshere excelled again, Eboue was as erratic as ever; while Bendtner demonstrated just why he is not first choice as yet, sometimes giving the ball away a little too cheaply. Adebayor did make a difference when he emerged to lead the line, and despite what some may say he will be key for us next season given his ability to hold the ball up.

The substitutes all did pretty well, Walcott and Nasri both added pace and directness on the flanks, Adebayor added some focus up front, while Diaby worked hard in midfield. I get the feeling that Diaby will be Wenger's choice to partner Cesc, however in my gut I feel that he just doesn't have the defensive instinct to give us the solidity that we need in the centre of the park. Maybe I'm shooting wide of the mark, but Diaby doesn't appear to have an instinct for knowing where the danger is, he appears a bit too lethargic in front of the back four and doesn't seem to know when not to dive in.

Overall the passing was crisp and the teamwork was generally slick, however there was just a little too much dwelling on the ball in the final third and a slight lack of directness when it really mattered. Having said that enormous credit must go to our youngsters who made a very experienced Juventus side look distinctly average for very long periods, and a special mention must go the our 16 year old Jack Wilshere who has had a brilliant pre season so far. My one big concern is that Diaby will not be the right partner for Cesc, I just hope I am wide of the mark in this regard, it will be interesting to see the line up for Sunday's game, it may well give us some real clues as to Arsene's plans for the season ahead.

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