Gibbs and Djourou join the injured! Vela and Botelho off on loan, Song suspended for three games

August 17, 2011

Arsenal played the first leg of the Champions League play off last night and ended up taking a slender lead into the second leg.

In terms of injuries, however, Arsenal are two more players down.

First off, left back, Kieran Gibbs, got off injured. He was having a decent game before he was substituted in the half time break.

Djourou,who came on for Gibbs after the break with Vermaelen going at left back, himself got off injured ten minutes later. Djourou produced one crucial block during his time on the field before he was replaced by Jenkinson.

After the game, official Arsenal site released this statement (later taken down):

“Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou both picked up minor hamstring problems during Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Udinese on Tuesday night. Gibbs was replaced by Djourou at half time and the Swiss defender was in turn replaced by Carl Jenkinson 10 minutes later. Both players could miss Saturday’s game against Liverpool.”

Arsenal official twitter account tweeted this:

INJURY NEWS: Gibbs and Djourou have minor hamstring problems and could miss Saturday’s game against Liverpool

With Traore already injured, during the reserve game against United, we are left with no left backs and only three first team defenders. Jenkinson filled in at left back last night and he wasn’t comfortable back there. The big question now is who are we going to see in defense against Liverpool? Wenger will certainly have to make some tough decisions! I shudder even at the thought of losing one of Vermaelen or Koscielny now.

In transfer news, last night, Arsenal announced that Carlos Vela and Pedro Botelho are going to spend the 2011/2012 season on loan in Spain.

Vela will join Real Socieded, he was unveiled today. Botelho will join Rayo Vallecano.

Although, I would have loved to see Vela play for us this season, I have to admit this loan move is the best option for him to play regular football. He has the talent and in my opinion he hasn’t been given a fair chance at Arsenal to show that. Spanish game will suit him better and will polish his skills further. Maybe, next year he will play for us. The only concern is he might not return as these loan moves usually turn out to be permanent transfers in the end.

Apart from this, Alex Song is going to serve a three match ban, starting from the Liverpool game, after he accepted the FA charge. He was charged with violent conduct after the game against Newcastle United for stamping on Joey Barton.

The FA statement on the official Arsenal site said:

Arsenal’s Alex Song will begin a three-match suspension with immediate effect after he accepted a charge of violent conduct. Song was charged following an incident during Arsenal’s fixture at Newcastle United on Saturday, August 13.

This is further bad news for us because our claim for Gevinho’s red card has already been rejected. And seeing how Song performed yesterday, he is going to be missed dearly in the next three league games. He will, however, be available for the second leg against Udinese.

With players going down left and right for Arsenal through suspension and injuries, it looks to be a tough two weeks for us. With this pace, I am afraid by the end of this month, we won’t have a first team to field. I hope this makes Wenger realise that our squad is not big enough as he is claiming.

 


Arsenal 1 – 0 Udinese: Thoughts and Player Ratings

August 17, 2011

WOW! That was a massive win which is only going to improve the confidence of the team.

This is what happened; We started off positively, got the early goal, looked dangerous, Udinese replied with Di Natale hitting the cross bar, we tried again, were caught on the counter, Szczesny and Song came to the rescue, half ended with Gibbs getting off injured. We started again, Koscielny misplaced a pass, Djourou came to the rescue, got off injured, Jenkinson came on, Udinese were threatening our goal as our team went missing, Walcott missed a chance, we brought on Frimpong, Song rescued us again at the back, stoppage time started, Gervinho released Walcott again, their keeper produced an excellent save. The game ended with us having a goal advantage going into the second leg.

Overall, it was again a performance we can be proud of under the circumstances.  But we don’t have to get carried away. We were good in patches only and not entirely convincing. Our squad is, though, seriously lacking players. A presence of a quality midfielder was also felt as Rosicky and Ramsey are clearly not there yet. We didn’t build on the first goal and slowly went missing allowing Udinese chances to get into the game. It reminded me of the pre season games but thankfully we didn’t end up drawing or losing the game.

The first half was much better than the second for us. The second half rarely saw us having a shot on goal except near the end. Questions will be asked of the defense and midfield as we gave lots of room to Udinese and it won’t be wrong to assume, had the opponent been some better team, the outcome would have been different.

The positives from the game are many. We achieved our objectives which matters the most! We kept another clean sheet. Szczesny, for one, is going to be a great number one for us for years to come. The partnership of Vermaelen and Koscielny is improving every game. Frimpong is going to be a big player. Walcott is gaining his form and confidence back. Song is a beast in the middle.

The only negative from the game are the injuries to Gibbs and Djourou. I hope they recover quickly.

Before I move onto player ratings, I want to categorically add that we do need signings. This team is good, still, not enough to challenge for the title. With the right tools added, this team can be great and we can surprise many. I just hope Wenger gives this team what it deserves!

Coming to player ratings

Szczesny: (7) One word to describe his performance, splendid! Commanded his area with authority and produced great saves whenever called upon, especially the one-on-one in the first half was brilliant. His positioning on the first free kick from De Natale was disappointing but he will learn with time.

Sagna: (7) Defensively was great bar one horrible mistake in the first half that led to Szczesny and Song saving the day.

Koscielny and Vermaelen: (6.5/6.5) As said above, their partnership is improving game by game. They both complement each other. Koscielny really impressed me bar a couple of misplaced passes. The first half hour was where he was contributing all over the pitch. Always kept his man in check and his ability to close down players is very good. Vermaelen did his part and led the team well.

Gibbs: (6) Till the time he was on, did his job well. His defending though still needs lots of improvement, as one of his clearances in the first half was very poor. His injury is what concerns me. I hope he returns soon.

Song: (7.5) He was immense last night and I am afraid, he is going to be missed in the next 3 EPL games. He got us out of at least three goal conceding occasions.

Rosicky: (5.5) He gives his all in the centre but still is not enough. He disappeared again in the second half and was substituted at the right time as he looked tired. We need a creative midfielder ASAP!

Ramsey: (6) He is more comfortable while going forward and last night produced an assist for the first goal. Did give away the ball on a few occasions and he needs to overcome this habit of his. And as I said last time, needs to improve his work rate.

Walcott: (7.5) He was amazing. Got the goal, was a continuous threat and his movement with and without the ball was great. Missed one great chance in the second half though, when he scuffed his chip. Gutted he didn’t get the second goal.

Chamakh: (3.5) At one point in the game, I was furious at him for slowing our passing and game. He is seriously lacking confidence. Did well in defense and linking up play though. We need more in front of goal from him and needs to come out of the shell he has retreated into.

Gervinho: (5.5) Again he showed his pace and movement with the ball. However, still frustrating with his final ball.  Lost the ball on more than a few occasions. Managed to produce a great run in the second half and one great ball for Walcott, who was denied by the keeper.

Subs:

Djourou: (6.5) His partnership with Koscielny didn’t look as strong as Vermaelen/ Koscielny. In the time he was on, produced one vital block to deny Udinese an open goal. It is a shame that he got off injured.

Jenkinson: (6) Didn’t look comfortable on the left but kept things simple and did the job. Was beaten a couple of times but shouldn’t be judged on that.

Frimpong: (6) Did give a couple of free kicks in quick succession when he came on. Once settled, showed his ability. He has pace and isn’t afraid to make a tackle. Made an interesting run down the left using his pace, later in the second half, which got me out of my seat.