Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction
In the end, we got everything we wanted from the game: a thumping victory, game-time for squad players and promising youngsters, and even a first Arsenal goal for Olivier Giroud.
It was clear inside the first couple of minutes that there was a significant gulf in class between the two sides. Coventry were also playing with a suicidally high line, and were there for the taking. With that in mind, I was pretty frustrated by what was a very lacklustre first-half display, capped off by a solitary goal.
In the second half, however, we were far better. Coventry tired too, and as we pressured them higher up the pitch mistakes began to creep in to their play, and we took full advantage, adding a further five goals to the tally and conceding just the one.
Highlights and a match report are available from the above links, but for those who weren’t able to see the game live I thought I’d give you a run-down on how the individuals involved equipped themselves.
Not a game in which he was hugely tested. He’ll have been disappointed to have conceded, but had no chance on the Coventry goal. One moment that stood out was when he came fully ten yards off his line to claim a deep set piece, dove and caught it cleanly in mid-air. His distribution was good, and all-in-all this was a solid if uneventful display.
Martin Angha arrived at Arsenal as a centre-back, and has spent a good deal of this season playing as a left-back. He started this game on the right side of defence, and whilst he was solid throughout, going forward he looked very much like a centre-half. It was unfortunate because his stamina meant he was constantly available on the overlap, but his dribbling and delivery left a lot to be desired.
Captain for the night, Johan Djourou was quiet but steady. He came close to scoring with a diving header, and played the part of the senior man in defence well. He was, however, outshone by his partner…
I was really impressed with the Spaniard this evening. He has inherited the Vermaelen trait of nicking the ball and early and sprinting onwards up the field, which he did several times to great effect. His goal was a thumping header, and everything he did tonight he did with full commitment. He has the physique, he has the technique. Now he just needs experience. I suspect a loan deal might be on the cards sooner rather than later.
I’m a fan of Andre Santos. He’s clearly a great personality to have around the club, and going forward he is capable of great things. Tonight, however, he looked plain lazy. He wandered around the pitch, sauntering back and generally looking disinterested. In the interest of fairness he is lacking match practise, and I recall that last season it took a run of a few games for him to get going, but on this evidence Kieran Gibbs is not going to come under serious pressure for the left-back spot anytime soon.
Yennaris started in centre-midfield, and was almost anonymous throughout. Sometimes that’s the mark of a good holding midfield display. He didn’t do a great deal wrong – collecting the ball and playing the simple pass. However, I felt at times he could have been a little quicker to close Coventry down in central areas.
Coquelin was his usual busy self. His intervention helped create the first goal, lunging on to a loose Arshavin pass to divert the ball in to Giroud’s path. It’s clear that Coquelin has designs on a first-team spot, but I do worry about just how many opportunities we’ll be able to give him. His impatience may lead him to look elsewhere.
In the first half, Walcott was poor. His touch was off and his movement was often selfish, driving in to the centre when he ought to have stretched the play. In the second half, however, he exploited a ragged Coventry, scoring with two excellent finishes. The headline-writers will have rubbed their hands together: I expect to see a load of stories tomorrow about how Theo “sent a message” to Arsene about his desire to play as a centre-forward. I’d counter with two observations: on top of the two goals, Theo also missed tow clear one-on-one opportunities. Perhaps of even greater significance, all four opportunities came whilst playing in a wide role. It is naive of Theo to believe that playing through the middle will necessarily lead to more scoring opportunities. Receiving the ball in the channels actually enables him to use his pace and get in to dangerous positions.
Arshavin will always divide opinion. Tonight, he did plenty wrong. There were stray passes, inexplicable backheels, and the occasional comical loss of balance. There was also a goal, the winning of a penalty, and two assists. The goal in particular was a lovely take, controlling the ball in mid-air on his toe before poking beyond the keeper. I’ll say this for the Russian: every time he gets the ball, he tries to make something happen. Sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t. My instinct tells me that there will come a time when we need to gamble with him to unlock a defence this season. When we do, we should deploy him centrally – he’s far better when free of the defensive responsibility that comes with a wide role.
What a goal. The lad absolutely thumped in a thirty yard strike in a manner that won’t be a surprise to anyone who has ever watched this video of him in training. Now he’s pulled it off once, I expect he’ll try it a little more frequently. Just a word of warning, though: in the first half he was prone to a bit of show-boating, trying unnecessary tricks and dribbling when a simple pass was the better option. It’s something I’ve seen creeping in to his game recently, and it was noticeable that after half-time he was much more efficient. Hopefully someone had a stern word.
Finally, the Frenchman is off the mark. It was telling that when the chance came to him, he didn’t panic, carefully clipping the ball over the advancing keeper before looking to the sky with relief. That said, when he stepped up to take the penalty, I didn’t have much confidence: the forward has a bit of a history with spot-kicks. The Coventry keeper’s save was superb, and hopefully the miss won’t dent Giroud’s improved confidence. It was a good sign that shortly afterwards he set up Arshavin when other strikers might have sought to redeem themselves by going for goal. His all-round play was good and improved dramatically after he broke his duck. Hopefully this is the start of a good thing.
The Dench man came off the bench for an uneventful twenty minutes. He got a tremendous reception from the crowd, but like Coquelin I wonder just how many opportunities we’ll be able to grant him. Perhaps he, like Miquel, could soon be heading out on loan.
For those of you who haven’t seen Gnabry play before, the similarities with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are striking. He has a very stocky frame, with big powerful hips and startling acceleration. Even in this short cameo, it was clear to see this is a player with real potential.
I liked what I saw of Chamakh in his brief appearance. I forgot how mobile he is, and his team play remains excellent, even if he offers almost no goalscoring threat. Not a bad player to have quite so far down the pecking order.
All in all, this was a good night. I don’t think any of the players who started tonight will edge ahead of those who faced City in time for the Chelsea game, but the goalscoring form of Giroud, Walcott and Chamberlain certainly gives the manager food for thought after Gervinho’s erratic display in front of goal.