Yesterday was a very important game for us and two things that we needed to do before the game: score and keep a clean sheet, we did. There were some fears before the game that Rosicky and Koscielny would miss the game – coupled with the plethora of suspensions and other injuries, left our squad thread bare… but both the aforementioned players were passed fit and we managed to field the following line-up:
Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs
Ramsey – Song
Walcott – Rosicky – Gervinho
The bench was Fabianski, Djourou, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Arshavin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bendtner
The game was won by a good move just after 4 minutes, when Theo & Ramsey broke the defence, Ramsey going wide, and Sagna passing the ball into his path. Ramsey kept the ball under control and then swung the ball in for Walcott to volley into the back of the net. The goal was good and highly needed and it seemed to be the one thing we clung on to as Udinese came pouring forward in search of their equaliser. Personally I feel that we were lucky not to concede – but the luck was born out of sheer determination to keep a clean sheet – our defensive performance was amazing considering how badly positioned we were – Gervinho and Walcott did well tracking back, but not positionally – more in effort.
To not concede a goal was amazing – when I look back at the game and the number of chances Udinese, it’s incredible that they failed to score and that we kept a clean sheet. Sagna for me, was absolutely outstanding and the partnership of Koscielny and Vermaelen seems to be gelling a bit better. One thing to note was the injuries to both Gibbs and his replacement Djourou – both hamstring injuries – meaning both players will miss the Liverpool game. With Jenkinson having made his debut yesterday, he could be thrusted into the weekend game from the start.
Walcott looked like he had more hunger – it was like he has realised his responsibility in the team. “I have to win games”, rather than “Robin or Cesc will win the game”… type of attitude, which is what we need out of him. His runs were good – his goal was good and we need him to stay injury free this season. Gervinho also looked lively and I’m sure he will contribute a lot this season. Ramsey was also very good throughout the game – but I was very excited with him when he moved up to the “Cesc role” and was playing just behind the striker – he seems to prefer a more attacking role – and when Jack returns, I can see him playing more in that position. Another positive point is the introduction of Frimpong who looks like a very decent player – early days I know, but with Song’s suspension, we’ll see what he is made of soon enough…
Chamakh is not the replacement for Robin Van Persie we need – his overall play lacks conviction and it’s very worrying to have him slot in when Van Persie is unavailable. More worrying is the lack in strength in depth – if Song / Ramsey are injured, who will come in? Will Lansbury, Frimpong, Miyachi win us the league? Hell no… Another negative point is the injuries to Gibbs and Djourou – with Squillaci out of favour and Traore also injured, we’ve got no other options – Eboue’s gone too, so no cover at all – we’ll have to play Sagna, Kos, Vermaelen and Jenkinson on the weekend – we have no other options.
I often wonder whether the suspensions to Gervinho and Song and injuries to Diaby, Wilshere, Djourou and Gibbs are like God telling Arsene to buy… but the manager never seems to take these signs and go into the market.
After the game, Walcott spoke and was keen to emphasis the importance of keeping a clean sheet:
“The most important thing was the clean sheet. Our defence was solid again, like at the weekend (against Newcastle), and it’s nice to get the goal. They are a very strong team and we will find it difficult over there but I believe, if we play the same kind of football, we can get a result.”
And Aaron Ramsey, who played well too, echoed Theo’s sentiments:
“It was important to keep a clean sheet tonight. They were good opposition and it was a difficult test for us, but we have come through it and we have scored a goal. But it is far from over yet, we have still got another game to go and hopefully we can finish the job off out there. We dropped off a bit in the second half and there were gaps appearing, but we did well. We dug in and gave absolutely everything tonight. We have done well to keep another clean sheet, that’s two in two games, so hopefully now we can continue that. We believe we are capable of going over there and getting a win.”
And if you look at the team and the circumstances, I am sure you’ll agree that it was a very good victory. One that was hard to achieve with a young squad missing a lot of players – no Wilshere, Nasri or Van Persie, a few injuries through out the game and a few youngsters in the fray too… Well done to the team… We’ve got the second leg next Wednesday – it’s very important for us to do well over there – it will be hard, but we’ve got to give everything.
Onwards and upwards my friends…