Thursday, October 20, 2011

Arsenal v. Olympique Marseille Game Review

The Day 3 Champions league match between Arsenal and Olympique Marseille was, for long stretches, sloppy.  Here are some of the links:

Most of the press write up is positive.  Trecker, on Fox, is negative and off-base.  His criticism and praise both seem misplaced.  To his credit, I do think the first half was sloppy for Arsenal as they were not in possession as much as they would have liked -- and when they were, they were pushed back.  Arsenal has had a rough go at it since Summer after losing Fabregas and Nasri.  They struggled in early fixtures in the Premier League but are in the process of rebounding.

Wendy and I at Emirates on 9/23/11 (Arsenal v Olympiacos)
In the match yesterday, Jenkinson started at right back in place of injured Sagna.  Santos started at left back in place of injured Gibbs.  Sagna, more seriously hurt, is out for a few months so the right back position is one that needs sorting out.  Gibbs strained a stomach muscle in the last fixture against Sunderland.  

While the Santos transitions evenly for Gibbs, Jenkinson is a major downgrade at right back.  He must be a training monster because his play on the field has been unsteady.  Yesterday, he seemed to only have one thought -- sprint with every ball played to him down the right line and cross, no matter the number of defenders in the box (or attackers).  His crosses were ineffectual.  He does add defensive energy, but lacks the tactical understanding of other options with the ball.  When Djourou subbed in, Arsenal upgraded their attack.  In fact, the lone goal was from a cross served with a good angle for which Gervinho played off (accidentally) and Ramsey finished.  Jenkinson would not have been able to play the ball as Djourou did because he would have robbed himself of the angle with the depth of his drive.  Djourou's timing on the service provided a dangerous angle and options for the Arsenal attack.  

My critique of Jenkinson is that he is too one-dimensional in attack.  As a result, he pulls all of his teammates into his run and reduces the angles for scoring altogether.  It was clear the OM's defenders knew what he was going to do with the ball too -- as they happily accepted service time and again from him.  

I thought Song was great.  He did give up some balls with some poor decisions on angles and passing ideas, but his defensive presence was fantastic as usual.  Van Persie was not much of a factor and went long stretches without the ball.   He seemed frustrated at times (once even throwing up his hands when he was not served the ball while he was in the defensive line).  Truth is, he did not have a great match.  He was caught offsides in key moments and, when he did have the ball late near the top of the box, opted for a desperate shot rather than a more patient attempt.  

The center backs were stout and Koscielny impressive anticipating balls and disrupting passing angles.  Per Mertesacker gets lots of criticism for his lack of speed but I think, but years end, he will have a loyal following.  He has big game experience and has presence on the field.  

I am not sure what to think about Ramsey.  He seems to give the ball up a lot in the middle, but he has a knack for scoring.  He did it again here with a great strike in the 92nd minute.  

Great result away for the Gunners.  Anytime you can get 3 points in a Champions League match away from home is fantastic.  

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