Date: 17th August 2014 at 10:33am
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This was our first opening day victory since August 2009 or our first opening day home win since August 2010. Not stats that seemed to have previously bothered anyone greatly as far as I can recall but seems to have caught the imagination of some pundits this weekend. I guess the febrile atmosphere that surrounded last season’s opening day debacle may have heightened sensitivities and on the man bites dog principle of news worthiness an opening day defeat following our recent trophy triumph(s) would have created more headlines. In the end those headlines headed Louis Van Gaal’s way.

With or without Pulis Palace set up much as might be expected playing in the manner that has brought Pulis and others, as disciples of the simplest coaching strategy in football, admiration for their tactical ‘genius’ from some quarters. They defended deep and in numbers, scorned possession, were physical enough to notch up 19 fouls and earn themselves 4 yellow cards, with Puncheon’s second sending him from the field. They played for time at every opportunity with the eyebrow raising sight of a trio of players from the 75th minute onwards going to ground suffering from cramp! I’d have imagined that pre-season conditioning would have made that unlikely in the opening game of the season unless their conditioning required it of course. But for all that Palace stuck to their chosen strategy well and nicked a goal to make their task more comfortable and ours less.

The goal was a consequence of a corner with the team collectively failing to stay alert. Some seem to have thought Koscielny was the more culpable but it appeared that there were others that didn’t wake up to the dangers to me. Singling anyone player out in such circumstances isn’t really possible but it’s a matter for Bould to work on collectively if we`re to fare better than we’ve shown both in the opening game and in pre-season games.

That aside we showed plenty of energy and enthusiasm with Sanogo and Alexis working hard up front. Alexis particularly showed a willingness to track back, tackle and challenge for the ball. Whatever skills he possesses, his ball juggling on his chest late in the game is a clip we may well see again from time to time, he’s no precious prima donna afraid to do the dirty work. Still a number of his tackles led to fouls, he found limited success taking on and getting past people and his passing wasn’t as precise as it needs to be in our game. But his passing was creative at times and he created 4 goal attempts claiming an assist with a wickedly dipping free kick for Koscielny to score our opening goal. There’s more to come from Alexis I’m sure.

Our other two debutants Debuchy and Chambers enjoyed the opportunity to make their debuts in a match in which our defense wasn’t really tested – other than at set pieces. Debuchy looked what he is, an experienced buy of international class already hardened to the premier league. That Chambers calm assurance gives much the same impression is more surprising for a 19 year old who had only made a couple of dozen premier league appearances in a different role to the centre back position he adopted for us. He also shows a good range of passing, at times very positive for a defender, which adds to what must surely be a promising future. Gibbs going off with an injury is rather too common an experience which is sad because he does add a great deal to our game. He’s quite important to the way we play when he’s fit and on form.

If this wasn’t a game to test our defenders it was a game to test our midfielders and pretty well all came up short. Cazorla, who is a creative player, isn’t really a playmaker by which I mean he doesn’t orchestrate the team in the more obvious ways that Rosicky, who can set the tempo and movement of others, or the more subtle ways of Ozil with his vision and precise passing and accuracy. Faced with blocks of midfielders and defenders Santi struggled to make things happen for himself let alone get those around him playing. Ramsey had a poor game in losing possession in promising positions but he didn’t hide and his energy brought him the winning goal in added time. Jack saw a lot of the ball and won a lot of fouls but he needs to discover the ability that the best players have of not getting fouled as often as he does. Too often he appears as though he’s waiting for the tackle. Where moving the ball quicker, a quick turn and change of direction might elude a tackle Jack invariably ends up on the floor when we need to keep the play flowing. Arteta had a good game in a match in which he should have had a good game. He passed quickly and accurately, tackled, intercepted and made the clearances you’d want him to make against a team that didn’t send forwards and midfielders rushing forward to get by him.

We’ll have more fluent performances but we passed accurately if not always imaginatively or creatively, and we managed 6 shots on target two of which brought goals. More importantly we showed the desire and commitment to get back into a game against obdurate opposition that had gone a goal up. Apparently we hadn’t managed to do that in the opening game for a few seasons! It’s a long season and there’s no better way to start it than with 3 points under our belt.


16 Replies to “Arsenal v Crystal Palace”

  • Hahaha! “Star Player” is the three points? Nice one; I would say it was between Chambers, Arteta and Koscielny. A fair take on the game and performance of individuals mentioned. It wasn’t our most fluent performance but, fluency would come with the games. I agree about Jack and the tendency to get fouled. I remember debating with a friend and fan whether his size has something to do with the tendency for opposition players to climb all over him. I think he holds on to the ball too long, even when surrounded. This appeared to be the subject of discussion amongst the 3 midfielders when they came back on for the 2nd half. Not just Jack, but the need to release the ball quicker and to move it at pace.

  • It would be interesting to see how the manager chooses his team when they are all back and fit. Would we drop Chambers for Mertesacker? Or move him into DM, dropping our skipper in the process? What about Ozil? One of the midfielders has to be dropped for him. Then there is Manolas (if it is true we are likely to get him). He is very decent and deserves to play games, so it would be a headache for Wenger to keep the players happy. It is a nice problem to have though.

  • I reckon we’d drop Chambers for Mertesacker – but he’ll get games covering right back and centre back positions. We may try him in midfield in a domestic cup game but I can’t imagine we’d drop Arteta or Flamini too quickly for him. Ozil would play in place of Wilshere who, when’s everyone’s fit, will have to compete with Diaby for Ramsey’s place when Ramsey isn’t fit.

  • Naijagunner you beat me to it. I think chambers has all the right attributes to play that role. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet, a little to comfortable for a center back. He has good distribution, he’s already a strong lad who will only get stronger. Which ever role he nails down, 16mil in this market seems like a steal. One thing chambers does give us right now which could come in handy through a long season is his versatility. Seems that he can drop in seamlessly. As for wilshere, I remember the season he owned barca, his game was a lot quicker, he did release the ball a lot quicker, playing quick intricate triangles. Scratching my head as to why his game has become a lot slower, maybe the players around him, do certain players bring out the best in him? Obviously he needs to bring out the best himself! Just watching him with the ball leaves my heart in mouth sometimes when you see a lumbering midfielder snapping away at his ankles. It’s certainly a big season for jacks development. He is the master of his own destiny. Needs to pull up his socks and make himself undropable.

  • Forgot to mention, I’m slightly worried with szczesny. He doesn’t fill me with confidence when he has the ball to feet. His kicking and general ball distribution is very poor. Ranting like a raving lunatic when palace had that corner in added time. Sometimes can be a liability. I have never forgiven him for kicking the ball straight back to Liverpool a couple of years ago in the last seconds for them to come straight back and score, instead of rolling the ball out to one of our defenders so we could just play keep ball for the last 30 seconds.

  • I wouldn’t hold it against the young keeper ranting to keep the focus of his defenders, seeing as the Palace goal was scored from a corner kick. It is his normal thing; he’s always been a loud one and would tell each player where to defend. It usually worked with van Persie and now, with Giroud. You will be amazed at the stat of how many clearances our top strikers make when they stay just where Szczesny has asked them to stay;-)

  • …and Jack worries me too as I can’t get over that performance against Barcelona, when he was just over 18 years.

  • It’ll be Ozil for Cazorla, not Wilshere and rightly so. 3pts are 3pts, delighted with Chambers and Sanchez looked very handy even tho he didn’t set the world alight you can tell he’s top drawer. Sanogo absolutely baffles me, he’s nowhere near the level required. Debuchey looks good n all

  • The star player indeed was the three points. For yesterday’s game I would have to agree Ozil for Cazorla swap looks better (at least on paper). The latter is more dedicated to bringing others into the game and looking to assist in the goal scoring efforts than the former. As Amos noted, as creative as Cazorla is, he is really not a playmaker. Perhaps rather than Jack looking to increase his goal tally he should improve in making those around him better by giving them exquisite passes.

  • Taking the starting front 6 from the Palace game and bringing in Ozil for Cazorla, Rosicky for Wilshere and Giroud for Sanogo would be in my opinion give us good balance and strength in both defence and attack.

  • Cazorla just looked rusty to me. He show in the FA Cup final and the Community Shield just what a player he can be. I would definately keep him in the side tomorrow. Chambers, Debuchy and Sanchez all looked excellent and slotted seemlessly into the side. Very happy with those guys.

  • I’m not sure why Cazorla seems to have come out of this game with less credit than others. He passed more accurately than most, took on and got past players as many times as Wilshere, Alexis and Ramsey combined and created 3 goal attempts. Not his best performance by any means but nobody else in midfield did any better. He’s not the most likely player to find himself on the bench.

  • We were pretty awful on Saturday.

    Debucy and Chambers were both excellent. Alexis was eager is about the best I can say about him but his form will improve as the team finds its feet.

    Santi was woeful, worst performance I’ve ever seen from him.

    Sanogo was quite frankly a joke, when you look at who our opposition can play up front and you see that Sanogo is our second choice it really is frightening.

    Jack was terrible, still holds onto the ball too long. Really can’t see him near the first 11 when everyone is fit. He simply doesn’t offer enough.

  • I am not sure, myself, why Cazorla is getting this much criticism other than the fact we expect him to be perfect; or, perhaps, it is easier to pick on the aging Spaniard with the smiling face…he is a soft touch for fans. He had a few moments of lapses but not that we had any midfielder without similar moments. The thing is, we do have a rich list of options of near equal quality in midfield and this is a good thing that bodes well for the state of preparedness of our players when called upon.

  • Midfield didn’t work well at the weekend but we weren’t let down by anyone single player. Cazorla didn’t perform any better or worse than any other midfielder overall. But Palace did well to limit the spaces and break up play. We just weren’t fluent enough to break them down from open play. Partly because we didn’t have our most creative players on the pitch and partly because the more forward players are still familiarising themselves, and vice versa, with their team mates. Digging out any player on the basis of this game is a bit premature.

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