Written by Mean Lean on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 11:56
If ever you wanted to see a fusion of Arsene's attacking flair and George Graham's backs to the wall defending, this was as close as you are likely to get.
I wondered how much influence Steve Bould would have in decision making from the sidelines during his first ever game in charge of the senior side. Would he have been given instructions before hand as to which players to substitute at what minute or would he have a free licence to manage in his image. The double change in injury time to run down the clock and take the sting out of the game is not something that we see often from Arsene Wenger.
The French champions have not started their defence of Ligue 1 very convincingly to date but judging from this display perhaps they were saving the best for their first ever appearance in Europe's elite competition.
Montpellier won an early penalty after Thomas Vermaelen came across the impressive Younès Belhanda. Perhaps I watched with my proud red specs on but I was dubious with the decision. Put it this way, I could see the referee waving that one away had it been Rio Ferdinand making that attempt for the ball at Old Trafford.
The Moroccan playmaker dinked it down the middle with Vito Mannone sprawling away to his right. 1-0 to the hosts.
Previous Arsenal sides may have felt a little sorry for themselves and struggled to impose their game on a team with their tails up but this Arsenal side full of players such as Arteta, Podolski, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Giroud and Cazorla are all experienced fighters who will play with their heads held up. We have a determination that has been absent for a number of years.
1-0 down soon changed to 2-1 up in a matter of minutes. The move for the first was sublime. Diaby striding forward, giving it to Cazorla who opted for Giroud further forward rather than the return to Diaby. Giroud's first time pass to Podolski has been somewhat under valued from what I have read so far. The German who had switched into a center forward position once more, controlled, dummied the keeper to the floor and calmly slotted into the corner.
Steve Bould praised the new signing in the post match interview saying
"I have to say, I’ve not seen many finishers as good as him (Podolski) – ever. In training, right foot, left foot - he goes in at 100mph, which is fabulous. He’s a good trainer, a good boy. He has really added something this year"
Our assistant manager is not the first to comment on the German's ability in front of goal. Lukas Fabianski, Arsene Wenger, Oxlade Chamberlain and now Bould have all spoken about Podolski's clinical talents so far. That was 3 in 3 games for him.
A minute or so later, Gervinho was wriggling past two players on the edge of our box, the ball came out to Jenkinson via a tackle on Giroud I think, and Gooner Jenk's low curving ball was turned in by Gervinho, much in the way he did in FC Koln on his Arsenal debut. 3 in 2 for the Ivorian. Good stuff.
The first half was a good contest between two technical footballing sides and I think we shaded it but the second half was a different story.
It is difficult to know without listening to Bould's instructions whether the players were asked to protect the lead and sit back or if it was a case of the home side forcing us back and not letting us get out of our half.
Supporters of the Arsenal back in the George Graham days will remember similar strategies when a lead had been gained in big matches. Sit back, trust the unit and the individuals within that unit and not let the opposition score against you.
It was very strange for me to see us concede so much space and indeed possession. Opting to sit off our opponents and allow them onto us. I suspect that the game plan was to hit them on the counter attack but our legs looked very heavy and it still surprises me that our squad was not used more especially when you consider the double games for the players at international level not so long ago.
We were not effective enough on the break and struggled to keep the ball like we know we can. Even Santi Cazorla looked human. You know things are not the norm when our number 19 looks like a regular footballer.
Abou Diaby gave us two heart in mouth moments, one where he held onto the ball for too long in his penalty area and was dispossessed by the very impressive Remy Cabella. Instead of shooting across Mannone he blazed high and wide at the near post.
Abou may have given away a last gasp penalty but the referee had waved it away. In fairness, on first glance it looked as if Cabella had gone down too easily, as he had been during several times in the game but perhaps this was a case of the tricky attacker who cried wolf.
The 22 year old also hit the crossbar with a delightful chip that sailed over Mannone's finger tips.
I am not surprised that Diaby didn't have his greatest game in terms of possession. I have spoken about this recently. Break Diaby's momentum of playing consecutive games and he needs a reboot, needs to start again, needs to find that game rhythm once again. This was his first break since pre season and his first game back is often littered with possession dwelling. Games will get him back to the Liverpool type of distribution. Hopefully he will be fixed for Sunday.
Oliver Giroud had a lot of focus on him for this game. He works tirelessly, sometimes perhaps even too much for his own good. One moment in the first half he tracked someone back to inside our own penalty area and won a tackle. For the amount he chases, closes down and holds the ball up, it is little wonder he looks dead on his feet when presented with a chance.
His assist was great for our first and his work for the team can only be lauded but individually he struggled with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa who was excellent last night and it is clear as to why we showed more than a bit of interest this summer.
I thought their attacker Cabella was the player who caused us the most amount of problems on the night and I really like his quick feet in tight spaces. Almost Eden Hazard like if you will. If I somehow woke up as an Arsenal scout then I would be scribbling his name down as one to keep watching.
So an Arsene Wenger first half followed by a George Graham via Steve Bould second half gave us the three points against the French champions away from home, not at all bad. The English champions are next followed by the Champions League winners. *Gasp*
But I feel confident and that is credit to how the team have performed so far this season. Keep the run going boys.
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