Date: 5th October 2008 at 1:47pm
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1.Manuel ALMUNIA– My doubts about him evaporate by the week. Didn’t have a great deal to do, but a smart save from Cisse in the first half kept us in the game and, as with every other goal we have conceded this season, there was little he could have done about Leadbitter’s strike. Distribution could do with work but I wonder how closely the Spanish coach is watching. 7

3.Bacary SAGNA– A much less effective display than we are accustomed to, largely due to Walcott’s lack of defensive nous. Defended well against Andy Reid, but could not strike up an understanding with Walcott on the right, Eboue has to be a starter away from home. 6

4.Francesc FABREGAS– Was played a little further forward, which robbed him of his effectiveness as he couldn’t dictate play. Was notably more productive when Nasri came on in the centre and Cesc dropped deeper. His injury time header was a sign of quality, desire and spirit. Perhaps less illuminating, but similar to the moment he visibly decided to win us the match in the San Siro in March, he stepped up when it mattered. It keeps me awake at night thinking what we would do without him. 7

5.Kolo TOURE– Coped with the threat of Cisse well enough, but was a little cumbersome bringing the ball out of defence and giving the team an attacking impetus, which is surprising. It was Gallas who drove us forward later on. 7

10.William GALLAS(c)- Arsenal did not have a great deal of work to do defensively, but what was required he produced. Looked noticeably more swithced on and cajoled his players more than I have seen at any other point this season. Ended the game as an emergency striker. 7

11.Robin van PERSIE– Put in an industrious shift, tracked back when it was required and showed for the ball. However, his manager really should have moved him upfront in the second half when it was apparent that 4-5-1 was not really necessary. When he did move more central when Bendtner and Vela were on, he was at the centre of two good opportunities. 7

14.Theo WALCOTT– Did not defend at all, did not retain the ball well, did not pass it well, he had a poor game. That said, as usual he produced some end product when he set up van Persie’s ill fated goal. He still isn’t ready to play this sort of away match, certainly not at the expense of Nasri or Eboue. 5

15.DENILSON Pereira de Neves– With Cesc sat forwards and Song positioned in front of the back four, it wasn’t particularly clear what Denilson was supposed to be doing. He didn’t seem too sure either, worked hard enough and was economic with the ball. 6

17.Alexandre SONG Billong– Was impressive shielding the defence and kept the ball well. Overall he did the job he was deployed to perform, whether it was and absolutely necessary one is another question. You’ve the feeling that both Song and Denilson were required. The only reason Song gets a higher mark than Denilson is mainly due to the manager rather than the individuals, Song had a clear role, Denilson didn’t. 7

22.Gael CLICHY– Was not his penetrative self going forwards, but didn’t really have a great deal to do defensively. Another average performance, I still wonder if he is carrying that knock from Kevin Davies and Wenger has to trust Silvestre for a game. 6

25.Emmanuel ADEBAYOR– Worked manfully, but was isolated and could not effect the game. van Persie should have been moved upfront alongside him at half time. Had to drop deeper to try and effect play which took away some of our threat. 6

SUBSTITUTES

26.Nicklas Bendtner– Another very impressive cameo and the Dane is pushing very hard for a start. He’s always had the vision to be more than a target man, but his execution has improved no end. Drifted in from the right to great effect. 8

8.Samir Nasri– Came on in the centre, freeing up Cesc to drop and influence the match. Very clever play and added another dimension to our attcaking play,nearly scoring on one occasion. Probably should have started. 7

12.Carlos Vela– Came on for the last few minutes and kept the ball impressively, particularly in the attack that led to our productive last minute corner, shrugging off a challenge from three players to move us forwards. 7