Daily Archives: January 26, 2014
As you’d expect from a team in a blistering run of form, Arsenal swept past Coventry in emphatic fashion but the scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of how the game had fared. There’s no doubt that the Gunners deserved to book a place in the fifth round but the visitors gave them a run for their money and the usually dependable Leon Clarke had a stinker in attack.
All focus has been shifted to the crucial mid-week clash with Southampton but I’d like to throw some light on some positives taken from the win over Coventry.
The Fringe Players Put Up Great Shifts
Arsene Wenger, like any other football manager, has his preferred starting XI and he will always want to field those players when they’re fully fit. However, the Coventry game offered him a chance to give some game time to the likes of Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson, Serge Gnabry, Lukas Podolski and the world’s best striker, Nicklas Bendtner.
The second-choice goalie’s contract expires this summer but he proved to Wenger why he was keen to sign him from Legia Warsaw in 2006. Coventry’s captain, Baker, made a slalom run that saw him take on all comers before unleashing a fierce drive at goal. Fabianski was on hand to tip the ball over the bar to keep the score line intact. He also made great saves from Leon Clarke and he dominated his area well.
Carl Jenkinson hasn’t gotten much game time due to the form and fitness of Bacary Sagna but his energy, work rate, attacking play and crossing were the major highlights of his play on Friday night. He worked in tandem with Gnabry and together, they terrorized the full-back of the visiting team.
Lukas Podolski’s Claim for a First-Team Berth
Lukas Podolski is one of the highest earners at the club and his output of 16 goals and 11 assists endeared him to the fans. However, a nasty hamstring injury sidelined him for the best part of four to five months and the chances of first-team football have been few and far between.
Despite the fact that Podolski played against a perceived “weaker” opposition, he had a couple of attempts on goal and he’d pat himself on the back following a two-goal performance that would give his manager something to think about.
After launching Jenkinson’s cross into orbit, Podolski latched onto Mesut Ozil’s threaded pass, coolly rounded the goalie and smashed the ball into the back of the net.
Just when we thought we had seen it all, Podolski showed his predatory instinct to attack Per Mertesacker’s flicked effort to head home his second goal of the night.
Serge Gnabry has been favored ahead of the efficient German machine in recent times but I believe that his performance has showed his manager that he could do a good job for the team. It’s time to bring Prinz Poldi back to consistent first=team action.
Mesut Ozil’s Improved Performance
When a team signs a player for 42 million pounds, the expectations are so large that you may even want him to cross a corner kick and somehow find a way to head the ball into the net. After his scintillating performances after his move from Real Madrid, Mesut Ozil has been playing within his shell and he has come under heavy criticism.
Many were more concerned about his fitness rather than the performance he was going to put when he started the game, but Wenger opted to hand his German maestro an opportunity to express himself against a side like Coventry and boy, did he take his chance!
The German wasted no time in creating a brilliant assist for his compatriot, Podolski, that rounded the keeper before scoring, and his movement and passing was top-drawer stuff all game long. A late opportunity in front of goal arrived but Ozil was saddened to see his shot clip the post and go wide with the keeper beaten hands down.
The German would seek to build on this performance and I hope he comes back to his very best against Southampton, as well as the crucial months of February and March, because Arsene Wenger would need his senior players to stand up and be counted when the time cometh.
Was That an Ox in the Middle?
The manager has spoken a couple of times about fielding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through the middle and with Mikel Arteta injured and Mathieu Flamini rested, the gaffer fielded the Ox alongside Jack Wilshere in the middle of the park with Mesut Ozil ahead of them in the creative hub.
My verdict? – an intense all-energy, high work rate performance from the physical lad and he slotted into the holding role like it was his natural position. Arsenal’s midfielders are renowned for their versatility and they have been drafted across several positions on the pitch this season.
It was a great performance from the Ox and he showed that he could provide adequate cover to a holding midfielder in the worst injury crisis.
With the Gunners taking a comfortable 2-0 lead into the break, I had a hunch that they would take their feet off the pedal and they did just that as Coventry grew in confidence. Instead of finding ways to close up shop as some managers would have done to preserve the lead, Wenger chose to bring in two attack-minded players (Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla) into the fray and there was also time to hand a professional debut to young starlet, Gedion Zelalem.
Giroud latched on to Kieran Gibbs cut back to make it three while Cazorla fired in the icing on a well-baked cake late on. These were spot-on substitutions by the manager.
The draws for the fifth round would take place today and it would come just before the first leg against Bayern Munich. Arsene Wenger would be mindful of his opponents and the squad he intends to pick because that was the round he was knocked out from last season.
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