A happy, enthusiastic and hungry Andrey Arshavin can still be an effective player for Arsenal. Especially when deployed in the no.10 role...
As the final score suggests, Arsenal enjoyed a very comfortable evening against Coventry City in the third round Capital One Cup fixture. The League One side are really struggling for form at the moment, sitting second bottom without a league win, and were devoid of any real confidence. With the exception of their consolation goal in the 78th minute, which was taken nicely by Callum Best, their most notable contribution to proceedings came via two of their travelling fans. Escaping the attentions of the stewards, they stepped onto the lush Emirates turf before stripping down to their pants. Having showed a change of pace to evade those trying to catch them, they were inevitably wrestled to the ground in the usual comedic fashion. The only thing missing was the Benny Hill theme tune being played over the Emirates sound system.
Arsène Wenger named a relatively strong second-string side, highlighting the depth of talent available within the squad. The manager admitted recently that he believes this to be the most balanced squad he has ever possessed and, although this can be partly put down to brinksmanship, I do feel as though he had a point. Ignasi Miquel produced a very strong performance alongside Johan Djourou, whilst Francis Coquelin equipped himself well in midfield and Emmanuel Frimpong made his return from a long injury lay-off. It was ahead of them that the gulf in class was apparent though, with an attacking quartet of Andrey Arshavin, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud far too talented for the blues defence.
Arshavin can be incredibly frustrating at times but there is so much ability stored in those little legs that he is a joy to watch when he’s in the right mood
The first half was played at a very pedestrian pace, with the Arsenal players seemingly aware that they could step it up a gear or two whenever required. Until Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock with a deft Carlos Vela style chip in the 39th minute, Arsenal did not threaten the Coventry goal. It was a cool and exquisite finish from the Frenchman, who produced another promising display to suggest he will develop into an excellent centre-forward. He showed great awareness to create Arshavin’s goal and again exhibited that clever movement to create space for others on numerous occasions. Although he had a penalty saved, which was delayed several minutes by the aforementioned streakers, he should be very pleased with his contribution.
If you’ve not yet seen them, I recommend viewing the highlights of the game as Arsenal scored some exceptional goals. Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the second, a stunning 25 yard strike that dipped over Coventry ‘keeper Joe Murphy, while Arshavin grabbed Arsenal’s third by completing a lovely, flowing move. The diminutive Russian had a superb night, playing in his favoured position behind the central striker and was my Man of the Match. He can be incredibly frustrating at times but there is so much ability stored in those little legs that he is a joy to watch when he’s in the right mood. He dictated the game from his central position, stretching the Coventry defence with his darting runs and clever passes. Most promisingly, Arshavin was encouraging his teammates and genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself, displaying the hunger that seemed to have escaped him last season. If Wenger can keep him motivated then he could prove to be a very useful player in the squad as the campaign progresses.
Most promisingly, Arshavin was encouraging his teammates and genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself
In yesterday’s match preview, I discussed Walcott’s demands to play as a striker and concluded that whilst he could be effective in the right system, it was unlikely that Wenger would change his preferred style to accommodate him. It proved to be the case, with the young pace merchant starting in his usual position on the right of the attacking unit, and he produced a typically Walcott performance. He scored two fantastic goals, showing the composure and clinical eye that we know he has, yet his general play was poor. He often made the wrong decision, his passing was erratic and his movement off the ball lacked the intelligence that is required at this level. He displayed the qualities which show he has the capability to be converted into a deadly striker, yet also exhibited his failings which indicate why he could not lead the line in Arsenal’s current system.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a nice story. On the last occasion that these two sides met, the Arsenal mascot was a young boy who dreamt that one day he would be walking out in front of those same fans as a player in the famous red and white shirt. Ten years later that boy, Nico Yennaris, was named in the starting eleven.
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