Benfica defeat tells us little we don’t already know

benfica_away

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So our final pre-season game of the season took place last night and it really didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.

An Arsenal team without Cesc, Nasri, Walcott, Wilshere and others was able to hold its own against Benfica in the first half, and play some good stuff at times. Gibbs looked good at left back, got forward well and did what Clichy rarely did and provided an assist for Robin van Persie.

Gervinho looked tricky, SZCZ shouted at his defence like a madman when defending corners (although we never quite got to grips with Benfica’s short corners which were generally well worked), we defended the set-pieces pretty well in general, and Robin van Persie showed just how important he is again with the Arsenal goal.

The second half was an illustration that without the aforementioned players we certainly lack some strength in depth. Some of the players who started the game wouldn’t have if we’d had our full complement, these are the guys who add some depth to the squad. If they’re starting then when we need to make changes we’re using players right from the fringes of the squad and it’s no surprise at all that Benfica had the best of the second half.

Defensive errors cost us again. I thought Gibbs had an excellent game overall but a Clichy-esque mistake let Benfica get forward and Thomas Vermaelen will be unhappy that he was out-muscled by Pablo Aimar. Then Squillaci was turned way too easily for their second. He’s on a spiral now, everything he does is greeted with dismay, no matter what. Last night someone remarked on Twitter that Squillaci had only been on the pitch for 4 minutes and we’d conceded. No mention of the culpability of Gibbs or Vermaelen. That’s what he’s up against and when a player has lost the fans like that there’s generally no way back.

The other thing that’s screamingly obvious to me is that for all our need of defensive reinforcements, we also need a striker, and we need him badly. After a promising start to his Arsenal career Marouane Chamakh looks anything but Premier League quality. He’s indecisive, timid, careless and if we have to rely on him to get us goals when van Persie is absent/injured then I’m afraid we’re really going to struggle. I’ve rarely seen a professional footballer who kicks the ball less assuredly.

I know a lot of people have strong opinions about Bendtner, and I’m quite happy to admit that he’s not as good a player as he thinks he is. However, he’s a lot better than he’s given credit for and, for me, a far better option than Chamakh. I can’t have been the only one who winced when Garay’s nasty tackle on van Persie left him grounded? We can’t rely on Robin to play every game but pre-season – and I know it’s only pre-season – has done nothing to convince me that Chamakh is the guy to fill in.

We have lots of wide forwards, and maybe Gervinho can do a job through the middle, but it’s curious to me that a manager like Arsene, who loves attacking football would leave himself so short of quality in this area. Worth noting as well that there was no Carlos Vela last night. He wasn’t mentioned as one of the injured players and there are rumours that he could be on the verge of a move to Real Sociedad. We shall see.

What else? Frimpong is eager, strong, determined, but not ready. How could he be? He has yet to play a competitive first team game for the club. Traore continues to baffle me, one moment in the second half summed him up – the ball came to him and he simply hoofed it to the far side of the pitch like a Sunday league player. There’s talk after the game of a Gibbs injury (and a Vermaelen one too), Traore could be at left back until he recovers. Scary.

On the plus side though it was a good, competitive work out. Fabianski made a number of really excellent saves, I thought Vermaelen was good (goal apart) and got really stuck in on a couple of occasions, and … erm … well, we don’t have the burden of the Eusebio Trophy to carry around with us for the season. Just … can’t … reach … those … straws.

It showed us that Arsene has got a lot of work to do this week. With the Interlull upon us, and players away with their countries, it means that changes on the training ground are going to be hard to make. Will it have an effect on any potential signings? Beats me. It’d be typical of Arsenal to have all summer to do business at their leisure, then make signings when it’s most difficult. There were whispers last night that Ivan Gazidis was in Liverpool as Valencia played the Mugsmashers, but whether that’s true or not I don’t know.

It also showed us that Arsenal don’t need ‘super quality’, much and all as that would be nice, some run-of-the-mill quality would be good too. The team, not just the squad, needs to be strengthened and not doing so before the first game of the season would be poor management indeed. Let’s hope the something that might happen does happen. And quick.

In other news Man City still want Samir Nasri, according to The Mirror. I have to say, at this point, I’m coming around to the idea of him staying for another season. I still think it’s mental to turn down that kind of money for a player who wants to leave and who is in the final year of his contract but I have absolutely no faith that if we sold him we’d replace him. I’d be quite happy to be proved wrong on that though.

Also in The Mirror, we’re going to spend £12m on Oxencart-Chaberpot from Southampton this week. I think this is about the 12th time I’ve seen this exact story so the pinch of salt I’m taking with it is quite large indeed. They also say we’re after Jagielka or Cahill or Samba ZZZZzzzzzzz.

Right, that’s your Sunday lot. I suggest pork based products, more coffee then some afternoon beers. It’ll make everything seem better. Until you get up for work tomorrow strangely tired but fuck it, that’s tomorrow.

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