This was billed as a routine game for Arsenal and so it turned out. Fabregas’ first appearance of the season coincided with Arsenal’s most fluent and attacking performance of te season and a 4-0 rout of Steve McClaren’s FC Twente.
Arsenal knocked the ball around without threatening, until the 28th minute when Nasri picked the ball up on the edge of the area, he jinked past a couple of defenders before slotting the ball home for Arsenal’s first of the night and effectively killing the tie off.
Arsenal should have added to the goal, but Arsenal’s strikers were having a bad night. First Bendtner received the ball, his first touch let him down when he was through on goal. Next it was van Persie to show that he too has not yet found his scoring boots. Following a great run from Walcott, he squared the ball, with the goal at his mercy, van Persie curled his shot around the post.
Denilson and Walcott both came close, but the Arsenal fans could not believe that the score was still 1-0. Fabregas was the difference, he controlled the midfield, always available to receive the ball, shielding it well and his distribution was first class. His display coincided with Theo’s best game of the season. Runnign at the defenders with great pace and aggression, this is the type of display that we want to see from Walcott.
In the second half Eboue replaced Nasri, but Arsenal pushed on. Bendtner was having a nightmare game trying to control the ball. It was no surprise that Fabregas nearly engineered Arsenal’s second, a ball to Gallas saw Arsenal’s captain run through the Twente defence, only to be tackled, the loose ball fell to Fabregas who threaded the ball to Denilson, his shot was parried by the keeper, but Gallas knocked in the rebound.
Adebayor and Song replaced van Persie and Fabregas. The game entered the training ground phase with Twente having plenty of possession, but little to show for it. In the 68th minute, Walcott scored a typical Henryesque goal, a goal that should become his signature goal if he is confident to execute it.
With game over, the fans were hoping for a Bendtner goal and at last the Dane got his rewards, but neither he nor van Persie could be happy with their performances.
Today sees Arsenal take on FC Twente in the second leg of the Champions League Qualifier. A 2-0 lead from the first leg should be enough to see Arsenal progress through to the group stages.
What remains to be seen is not whether or not we win, but can Arsenal , for the first time produce flowing, attacking football. The return of Cesc Fabregas will go a long way to helping that happen. But one player will not change everything, the others namely Nasri and more importantly Walcott, need to produce the kind of football we know they can.
Adebayor has been out of sorts so far, but he has not been alone. Van Persie has not yet sparkled, the Dutchman looks desperate for a goal and the longer he goes on without scoring the more desperate he will get. Bendtner has so far not been able to produce his pre-season form, whilst Carlos Vela has not come off the bench yet. This game should see Vela appear for at least 30 minutes, to show the fans what he can do.
At the back, we may see Silvestre given a run out some time during the game, his reception from the Arsenal fans will be interesting. Though Song played well towards the end of last season, I expect Toure and Gallas will be given time to sort their partnership out.
On the bench we might get a glimpse of Ramsey, Randall and Wilshere. Wilshere may be given a cameo role if Arsenal are cruising.
The primary purpose of the game is for Arsenal to progress to the group stages, but also important will be the performance. But no matter what the result, we cannot allow this to mask over the cracks that have recently become so apparent.
Arsenal’s young midfield were put through a stern test at Arnhem tonight, and though the first half tested Arsenal to the maximum, they slowly took control in the second half and ran out 2-0 victors and have all but secured their place in the group stage of the Champions League.
The paucity of the squad was there for all to see tonight, Ramsey at 17 making his senior debut alongside Denilson. They struggled in the first half and Arsenal failed to play any of the trademark flowing football.
Arsenal were fortunate not to fall behind on a couple of occasions; firstly Denneboom waltz through the defence but blasted his shot over the bar, then the hapless Arnautovic missed the first of a couple chances, when he was clean through only to stumble and present Almunia with an easy save.
Arsenal failed to trouble the FC Twente defence and the whole first half was a very disjointed performance.
The second half saw more concerted Arsenal performance. The fluidity was not there, but Arsenal persisted with attack after attack, but failed to create any meaningful chances. The best chance fell to Arnautovic, who placed the ball wide off the Arsenal post.
An innocuous foul on the 63rd minute, led to Arsenal’s breakthrough, a looping cross from van Persie was met by Gallas who managed to scramble the ball past the goalkeeper, From that moment Arsenal controlled the game and it was a matter of whether Arsenal were going to add to the scoreline.
A long ball from Denilson found Walcott, who had been fairly ineffective for the whole game, his first touch was good and he squared the ball to Adebayor who made no mistake in scoring Arsenal’s second of the night.
Arsenal saw out the remaining minutes, and have booked their place into the next round. Wenger knows that going into the new season with the inexperienced midfield is suicied and a new addition is required soo. With Alonso playing for Liverpool, this player can now be written-out of the equation.
Walcott failed to impress last night, but he was not the only player to be be below par. Denilson did an admirable job in central midfield. For young Ramsey, this was certainly a good work out and justification for choosing Arsenal over Manchester United.
Line up – Almunia; Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy; Eboue, Ramsey, Denilson, Walcott (Randall -82); Adebayor, van Persie (Bendtner – 85)
The pre-season jockeying is over for Arsenal, tonight Arsenal face arguably the most important game of the season. Failure to progress to the Champions League group stage would be a disaster both financially and in terms of the club’s standing in European football.
Arsenal travel to FC Twente managed by former England manager Steve McLaren, knowing that a repeat result of the last two season’s qualifying games, 3-0, will see them through to the next round. FC Twente will be no pushover, and McLaren will have them well drilled and knwos what to expect from Arsenal.
Arsenal are not taking the encounter with FC Twente lightly, their opponents beat Ajax in a play-off to reach the Champions League. “It’s a big day with a big meaning for us because the target – to be in the Champions League – is very high,” said Wenger. “You know that when you come to Holland you always get a good game and a tough game. No matter where you play.
“We know as well this side demands a lot of respect and concentration. They are a team who have knocked out Ajax in the qualifiers of the Champions League. We know they have the typical Dutch culture of playing football and keeping the ball very well. Therefore we need a good defensive concentration.”
Arsenal’s problems are injuries. Out of the game are central defenders Toure, Senderos and Song. But it is in midfield that Arsenal’s problems are severe. Missing are Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri and Rosicky. This leaves a very threadbare midfield with Denilson likely to play alongside Eboue in central midfield and either Ramsey or Vela on the wing. The short-term, injuries to our midfield necessitates that Wenger acts before Saturday in the transfer market.
“I have said many times we were short of one player and I hope to do something this week before the transfer deadline,” Wenger said on Arsenal.com.
Upfron Arsenal have no problems with Adebayor, Bendtnet and Vela all hitting good form and van Persie is so far staying free of injuries. Arsenal’s strike force should be too strong for FC Twente who lost yheir best players in the summer.