View From The North Bank: Arsenal 0 Man City 1
I wouldn’t normally be all that bothered about losing a Carling Cup tie but I cant help but be a little frustrated after last nights defeat to Manchester City. An even first half was followed by a second period which a much changed Arsenal dominated.
Whilst defeat in these circumstances is preferable to last years exit we can still reflect on what might have been had we taken our chances.
Ten changes were made from the team that recovered to draw against Fulham. An injection of youth in the shape of Miquel, Frimpong, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain was supplemented by more experienced heads like Chamakh, Benayoun and Park; all trying to play themselves into form and contention.
It was the fledgling midfield which really caught the eye. Frimpong showed a healthy appetite for competition, even if he needs to learn when to control himself at times, whilst Coquelin added to his already impressive performances this season showing real dynamism in all elements of his play. I wrote after Saturdays game that our midfield might need a rest and I would have very little problem with the young Frenchman being offered the chance to cover one of those roles in the weeks to come.
Our major attacking threat came from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Several mazy runs and one left foot drive from distance had the City back-line worrying. Similar to Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain looks ready for first team outings. Wenger recently remarked that he believes the England U21 can develop as required with plenty of work on the training ground however, it would make sense to use his direct running at selected intervals to help relieve Walcott and Gervinho or simply as another weapon to worry opposition defences.
The biggest frustration of last night perhaps came up front. Both Chamakh and Park looked out of sorts. The Moroccan, who this time last year threatened to mount a genunine challenge for a starting berth, continues to look bereft of confidence. He shows flashes of ability and pops up in decent positions to attract crosses however his lack of conviction means that he doesn’t really worry his opponent. It was this apparent apprehension which arguably stopped him netting an equaliser in the closing minutes. A striker with real belief might have thrown himself at Gervinho’s cross however Chamakh never really looked like he felt he could score.
Park got another start and unfortunately did little to suggest he’s going to get many more in the immediate future. His control was poor and he looked rushed in possession. There is obviously a period of aclimatisation required when a player joins from abroad so it would be unfair to write him off just yet. His biggest problem might be that as long as games need winning and Van Persie extends his run of form and fitness there will be no real opportunity for Wenger to ease him into the team.
Contrast our attacking options with those of Man City. Balotelli didn’t play, Tevez is otherwise indisposed whilst Aguero came off the bench to supplement Dzeko. It was a break involving three players, acquired for around £70m, that eventually settled the game. We over committed at a corner from which Dzeko accellerated forward to feed Johnson. The ball was turned on to Aguero and that was that.
Whilst we cant compete with City’s financial might we must seriously consider adding an extra striker in January. I wouldn’t give up on Chamakh or Park just yet however it would be a huge gamble to hope they can come good in the all important months ahead. We have been linked with many forwards in recent weeks and if we could attract a player of confidence and pedigree like Lukas Podolski it would certainly seem sensible to try to turn the speculation into fact.
Whilst failure to take something from a game we dominated for large spells is always dissapointing there were enough positves to make this a worthwhile exercise. Individual players showed real talent and the team as a whole showed great spirit. It’s also worth noting that the general fan reaction was good. There was a recognition that we worked hard and gave a good account of ourselves. Whilst we would have enjoyed a win, a glimpse of future stars means our current good form will not be disrupted by this minor setback.
What really matters is Saturday and getting three points from Wigan. Let’s hope that the first team regulars are suitably rested up and that RVP didn’t strain a muscle as he kicked every ball from the bench.
Keep The Faith.