Benfica 2-1 Arsenal: Analysis & Goals As Gunner End Poor Pre-season With Loss
As expected with the new season just a week away, Arsenal put out the strongest available line-up, with only those injured or want-away left out. Szczesny, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Djourou, Sagna, Ramsey, Song, Rosicky, Gervinho, Van Persie (C) and Arshavin all … Continue reading →
As expected with the new season just a week away, Arsenal put out the strongest available line-up, with only those injured or want-away left out. Szczesny, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Djourou, Sagna, Ramsey, Song, Rosicky, Gervinho, Van Persie (C) and Arshavin all started in what was to prove the toughest encounter of the pre-season for the Gunners.
It was Benfica who started the better side, putting Arsenal under pressure from the word go; the ball was forced back to Szczesny to make a hurried clearance within seconds of kick off. This pattern continued for 20 minutes and Gervinho provided the only real spark as the Gunners struggled to get a foothold in the game. The balance of power then began to swing with the likes of birthday-boy Van Persie and Arshavin becoming more involved – the deadlock was very nearly broken on the half hour when the World Cup finalist was just wide with a Vela-esque chip.
Arsenal did take the lead just a couple of minutes later; Arshavin slipping Gibbs in down the left and the fullback cutting the ball back for Van Persie to tap in from five yards. However, the celebrations from Arsenal fans turned to despair when five minutes later he stayed down after a heavy challenge from Garay. The knock was on his ankle, but he may also have twisted his knee in an attempt to roll the challenge – the extent of the injury is currently unknown. The challenge provoked an angry reaction from Van Persie leading to players squaring up on the field and in the tunnel at halftime.
Van Persie did manage to finish the half, but was among those substituted prior to a fiery second half, with Wenger making 6 changes in the break; Fabianski, Jenkinson, Squillaci, Frimpong, Miyaichi and Chamakh replacing Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Song, Arshavin and the aforementioned Dutchman. The Portuguese side also made a number of changes, bringing on many experienced players including Argentine Pablo Aimar.
It would not surprise many fans that the introduction of Squillaci resulted in the collapse of Arsenal’s defence – and it hadn’t exactly been solid to begin with. Within 5 minutes of the half Benfica were level; Gibbs and the overly-zealous Vermaelen caught out, allowing Aimar to turn and slot the ball into the bottom corner past the helpless Fabianski. In the following minutes the home side had multiple chances to take the lead, Luisao coming closest with a shot that hit the bar from just 10 yards. During this open period of play Arsenal did have one chance, but it was wasted by Rosicky who attempted a flick to another player instead of turning and shooting himself when through on goal. Armand Traore then came on in place of the often missing Kieran Gibbs.
Benfica took the lead on the hour, this time Nolito rounded the hapless Squillaci before firing in from the edge of the box – once again Fabianski had no chance. The Lisbon-based club remained in control for the rest of the game, forcing many good saves out of Fabianski whilst the closest Arsenal came to testing keeper Artur was an awkward backpass from one of his defenders.
Arsenal did make two further substitutions, Lansbury replacing the less than impressive Rosicky and the young Spaniard Miquel coming on for Vermaelen whose temper, along with Frimpong’s, had begun to flare. The Gunners’ defending this pre season was summed up in the 90th minute when a simple goal kick from Artur bounced over Miquel, resulting in Fabianski making another good save from Urretaviscaya.
It was a well earned win for the Portuguese side and they deservedly claim the 2011 Eusebio Cup, whilst Arsenal will be left to reflect on defensive errors and a lack of creativity in the centre of midfield; Aaron Ramsey had little impact, highlighting just how much the club will miss Cesc Fabregas if Barcelona finally stump up the £40 million required for his signature.
Overall, a disappointing end to a lacklustre pre season, although it is important to remember it is just that: a pre season. The real test will come when the season proper starts next week, by which time it is expected a few more players will have departed and with any luck (OK, a lot of luck) one or two may have arrived.
Submitted by clockendview – just another Arsenal blog
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