Archive for August 7th, 2011

Benfica defeat needs to be put in perspective

333 comments August 7th, 2011

Arsenal lost their final pre-season friendly of the summer 2-1 to Benfica last night, sparking widespread panic among Gooners and initiating a witch hunt for Sebastien Squillaci.  Video highlights here for those that are interested.

A little perspective is required.  Missing from the squad were:

Laurent Koscielny, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and Carlos Vela

That’s without mentioning Emmanuel Eboue and Nicklas Bendner, who could yet remain at the club.

Even so, in the first half we were on top, and indeed went in at the interval ahead thanks to a goal from birthday boy Robin van Persie, who lashed in Kieran Gibbs’ cutback.  Gibbs was one of the real pluses, showing tremendous energy to break forward in to the box, as well as composure once he arrived.  Gervinho also looked lively, as he has done throughout pre-season.

The second half was, of course, a different story.  Benfica dominated and only a string of saves from Lukasz Fabianski prevented it from becoming a rout.  However, it is worth pointing out that for the majority of the second 45 the XI we had on the field was:

Fabianski, Jenkinson, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Traore, Frimpong, Ramsey, Lansbury, Gervinho, Miyaichi, Chamakh

With the exception of Vermaelen and Gervinho, and possibly Aaron Ramsey, this was essentially a ‘Carling Cup’ side.  None of the others can expect to be first choice this season – and the players themselves acknowledged that they had an off night, to say the least:

However, it is worth saying that the performances of Squillaci and Chamakh underline the fact that there are areas of the squad where we seem very short of depth.

If Nicklas Bendtner does leave, it’s vital he’s replaced.  And even if we retain our current quartet of centre-backs, there’s plenty of room for a step up in quality there.  As others have suggested, you don’t have to be “super quality” to enhance this Arsenal squad.

Arsene’s pre-game interview in Lisbon suggested we were on the verge of adding at least one player this week.  Of course, comments like that run the risk of generating mass panic if we don’t.  Whilst I’m as desperate as anyone else to see us bring in new players, we’re now less than a week from the big kick-off, and I’ll be getting as excited as anyone else about the prospect of facing Newcastle with our current crop of players.  As things stand, even accounting for injuries, we could be seeing:

Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Song, Ramsey, Nasri; Gervinho, Arshavin, Van Persie (c)

It’s an XI good enough to go to St. James’ and win.  And, crucially, it’s a side significantly better than the one which lost to Benfica last night.

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