So Carling Cup defeat last night, and late defeat at that, but the overwhelming sense I have this morning is that of team that deserved more. Arsenal’s youngsters, combined with some experience, more than held their own against the most expensively assembled squad in modern football.
In the first half we had the two best chances. A great move saw Coquelin’s cross find Park at the far post, his strange skippity-hoppity attempt on goal was saved by the City keeper. And he was forced into making another excellent stop when The Ox’s first time, left-footed effort from a Chamakh lay-off looked as if it was heading into the top corner. For their part City’s only dangerous moments were an Adam Johnson shot from distance which dipped just over and a corner which Fabianski came for and missed.
In the second half it was more of the same. Periods of posssession for each side with anyone creating a real goalscoring opportunity, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was hugely positive down the right hand side, willing to take men on and shoot. In midfield Frimpong and Coquelin faced Nasri, Hargreaves and de Jong, they battled and scrapped and came out on top more often than not.
Defensively we looked sound. Squillaci might be much maligned but he and Koscielny kept Aguero and Dzeko – £60m worth of a strikeforce – pretty quiet for most of the night, and after his early shot Adam Johnson got little change out of Ignasi Miquel, a centre-half playing at left back.
Up the other end we struggled as much as they did. Chamakh and Park both worked hard but neither troubled City’s defence. Nor, to be fair, did they get much in the way of service. And all it took was one moment for City to undo us. An Arsenal corner was poor, cleared at the near post, two Arsenal players went to ground to try and win it back and City broke with pace, eventually creating an opening for Aguero which he was never going to miss from that distance.
It was a bit cruel really, I thought we deserved something from the game, but that’s football. It just shows that that extra bit of quality up front can make all the difference in a tight game. With respect to our striking pair they looked like they could be out there all night and still not score. A fantastic Gervinho cross in the final couple of minutes provided the sort of chance that a confident, capable striker would probably have scored. As it was it evaded Chamakh’s head which pretty much summed up the way things are going for him at the moment.
Afterwards, Arsene said:
It is frustrating because we put a lot of effort in and we were not rewarded. On the other hand I feel that considering the youth of our midfield we have battled really well and have shown some fantastic quality.
I feel I want to take the positives out of tonight’s game and of our run. We have a fantastic attitude and spirit and we have quality. How far can we go this season? I feel if we keep this attitude, we can have hope. You can argue that we lost the easiest trophy to win but as well if you look at the teams who are still in it, it does not look as easy to win as usual.
And for me the positives far outweigh the negatives. It’s becoming more and more obvious why Arsenal paid Southampton such a large amount of money for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. In the opposition half he was absolutely fantastic, fearless, creative, always trying to make something happen, and he wants goals, you can see that. We did see the other side to him as well though, the one that needs to increase his awareness when defending (learning to track the runners will be crucial) or how to use the ball more sensibly when in possession in his own half. However, these things will come with time, coaching and experience and once his game begins to round itself out I think we’ve got a hugely exciting players on our hands.
The two midfielders, Coquelin and Frimpong were impressive. The former looks to me the most ready of the two, benefitting from his season on loan and I hope he gets further chances because he looks a player determined to take them. Frimpong is physically imposing, and loves a tackle but also looks to have added a bit of maturity to his game. He’s less gung-ho and less recklesss, and that showed last night. Again, experience and time will help improve him, especially when on the ball, but there’s a lot to be encouraged about.
Overall it was the strikeforce which cost £60m which made the difference against the one which cost £1.5m. I don’t want to be overly-critical, and as I said I am mindful that neither Park nor Chamakh had great service last night, but I think it’s fairly obvious that the striking department is one that could be improved by spending some of the money we have in the bank during the upcoming transfer window.
Our unbeaten run comes to and end, and I know many will bemoan the Carling Cup exit as one which robs us of our only chance of silverware, but I think that’s a pretty negative outlook. Last night was about using our squad, seeing who was up for it and who wasn’t, and making sure we’re set up right for the weekend’s game against Wigan which is, in the grand scheme of things, far more important. We got some answers last night and I hope the manager looks at the positives, and negatives, and acts accordingly.
Finally, we’ve got to mention the tunnel incident. There’s a little clip here of Nasri and Frimpong niggling at the final whistle – kudos to Frimpong he was at Nasri from the first whistle and backed it up with a good performance on the pitch. From what I’m told it carried on in the tunnel, Nasri took a swing at Frimpong and then legged it to the away dressing room.
It’s quite normal for both sides to play down incidents like this, and it probably was just a bit of handbags, but it also shows how wound up Nasri was. I’m not sure what’s funnier, the idea of him throwing a punch at Frimpong and scarpering, or the fact he clearly would have been happy to come off after half an hour when City were making that substitution.
He was outplayed all night long by the FrimCoq axis and that’s the reason why his departure this summer was annoying but not heartbreaking in any way. He’s a player who went through a purple patch last season but the Nasri of last night is the one we were more used to seeing during his time at the club – tidy but ultimately ineffectual. And he looks like he’s been getting collogen injections in his arse.
Anyway, time for us to refocus, turn our attention back to the Premier League and begin another unbeaten run. Till tomorrow.