Key Observations From Arsenal’s 2-2 Draw With Schalke
Arsenal let a two goal lead slip away to Schalke in Tuesday nights Champions League action. Here is a review of another frustrating evening for the Gunners.
Arsenal let a 2-0 lead slip through their grasp away at Schalke, with early goals from Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud cancelled out by a Klassy finish from Class-Jan Huntelaar, and an even better finish from Thomas Vermaelen.
I said before the game that a draw would be a good result, but given the context of the game, in which we were two goals up and in a relatively comfortable position, it is a little frustrating to leave Germany with a solitary point.
You would have thought that with Arsenal’s Champions League experience we could have, perhaps should have, finished the game off with a third and closed the game down, but Schalke have proved to be a very decent team indeed and will be very happy to have taken 4 points out of both home and away ties. A draw was most definitely a fair reflection of the game, with the Huntelaar goal proving the pivotal moment of the game, coming right before the half time interval.
Signs of improvement
Arsenal played well enough, better than we did against Manchester United and in the end a point is probably all we could have asked for. You got the feeling we did well to hang on in the end as Schalke started to overrun our tired midfield. Unlike the Manchester United debacle, there were a few positive signs to take into Saturdays game at home to Fulham. However, brittle confidence on display, the lackadaisical defending, unconvincing midfield play, and lack of ruthlessness in the final third still remain causes for concern.
Whilst we generally passed the ball better than we have in the last few games, a lack of penetration and imagination hurt us once again. It seems that we don’t attack as a cohesive, fluid unit anymore, and if one word could summarise this Arsenal outfit, it would be ‘sideways’. Santi Cazorla has become progressively more overwhelmed with the immense attacking responsibility placed on his shoulders, and it seems opposition teams have realised the over-reliance we have on Cazorla to make things happen.
Mannone Arsenal class?
Vito Mannone had a very good game, leading many people to believe he is of Arsenal class. I don’t think this is entirely true, and in all likeliness I think we’ll see Mannone leave next summer. Which is a shame, because it’s hard to let go of a player has done little wrong but just doesn’t cut it at Arsenal level. To be honest I think Mannone would excel at a middle to lower table club, as seen during an impressive loan spell at Hull City last term. It has become obvious over time that the manager and the players don’t really trust him, as seen in some of his more timid displays, where the defence has taken responsibility for balls that would otherwise be comfortably dealt with by an excellent goalkeeper. Having said that, he sporadically displays the type of confidence and arrogance it takes to be a good goalkeeper – and don’t get me wrong – Mannone is a good goalkeeper, he is just not Arsenal class. Having said that, Arsenal ‘class’ is slipping rapidly, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mannone was still around in a couple of years, when the Champions League has been replaced with the Championship.
Time to start Walcott
Theo Walcott performed admirably on a night where he could have well won the game for us in the final minute – but his shot was rather comfortably saved. He’s done enough now to deserve a starting position in the side – despite his farcical contract situation. Personally I don’t buy the ‘Theo should play up front’ debate – he should learn to perfect his wing play before he is able to handle arguably a much more demanding job, especially for Theo who just doesn’t have the same physical presence and swagger as a truly great striker should have. We’ve been saying it for god knows how long, but maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that Theo Walcott comes of age as a footballer. The signs are positive – we haven’t seen his frustrating amateurish side as of yet, but we’ve still got a long way to go this season, and there’s always room for more frustrating negativity and mediocrity as far as Arsenal is concerned.
Vermaelen form a worry
The goals we conceded against Schalke were both unavoidable, if even a bit unlucky, especially Huntelaar’s, capitalizing on Santi Cazorla’s inability to wear proper studs. Apart from the dubious refereeing and choice of boots, I think we did OK overall, but our left side is becoming a real grey area. If anyone’s seen Thomas Vermaelen around, we need him back, because this guy who vaguely resembles the Belgian has not got the faintest idea of how to defend. I know I’m a bit harsh on Vermaelen sometimes but he is the captain of the club, and I cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong leader. When a leader of men becomes a liability to the team, there is a serious problem. You cannot defend Vermaelen in a situation like this, he has played left back numerous times before for club and country, and with his experience you expect so much more.
Mertesacker and Koscielny looked solid together as always, bar a few uncomfortable moments, and Bacary Sagna has already proved his value to the team in his three games back from injury. I hear Kieran Gibbs is meant to return this weekend against Fulham, which would be an incredible boost, as we have sorely missed the Gibbs – Podolski – Cazorla combination in the last couple of weeks.
That’s about all that’s to be said in all honesty. In the end the fallout to the Schalke game has been a bit of an anti-climax. I feel that we had all wasted our time in preparing scathing post match attacks, as a defeat had looked so likely prior to kick off. I’m afraid that criticism will have to wait til at least after the Fulham game, another big test of Arsenal’s top four credentials. I’ll be back on Friday to preview the game, until then…
You can read Arsenal player ratings from the Schalke draw here
In the unlikely event that you enjoy reading me babble on and on about Arsenal and football and stuff, leave a comment below, I will reply back to you. Feel free to disagree with me on anything – that’s fine, however it would be most appreciated if you could refrain from using any abusive language.
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