Arsenal 2-1 Athletico Madrid; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match report, match video

For those of you who are new, this is how we do a post-match breakdown around here; I spare you the drudgery of yet another match report and instead highlight three things about the match (sometimes more) that I thought were Good, Bad, or Ugly.

The Good

You’d have to be dead, blind, or stupid to have missed the impact that Jack Wilshere made when he came on in the second half. Wenger’s post-match press conference was almost entirely on Jackie with the boss highlighting Wilshere’s improvement over the summer:

He has matured and you see, compared to one year ago, he has more power to take people on. That, of course, he’s only 17 years old shows you that there’s a big potential there. He’s gained a fraction more power and once players are able to pass people in the final 20 yards, you can always say that there’s something special there.

He then talked at length about Wilshere’s power and how Wilshere and Cesc are different in that Jackie needs power to take people on whereas Cesc at 17 was more of a passer. Power, he says over and over.


When asked if he thinks that Wilshere can feature for the Arsenal this season, he responded that Wilshere will get some games this season but will have to fight for his place.  No surprises there.

The fact that all the reporters asked about the kid and the fact that the boss spoke at such length about his development is indicative of the shock that I think we all felt seeing this 17 year old kid rip apart older, stronger, and more experienced players than he.

For me, I was impressed with two things; firstly how the ball seems stuck to his feet when he’s dribbling. Yes, these are continental footballers and yes it will be different when Tiny Taylor gives him a studs up, knee high, two-footed lunge, but the point is that without any fancy dribbling he is able to beat opponents with great close control. It’s as if the ball loves him.

The other thing I was impressed with is how he used his body. It’s not natural for small fellas to use their low center of gravity to their advantage, most small guys shy away from physical contact but Jack seems to have a body awareness that even well developed athletes strive for. I don’t want to be too quick to usher him in as the real deal, it was just one game, just one pre-season game, but he really showed us some physical talents that 17 year olds are not supposed to have.  I suspect he’ll get another run out today and we’ll get a chance to see how much power he has gained.


And how about Andrei Arshavin? I’m still trying to get my head around this player. Yesterday he was kind of lazy (hey, it’s pre-season!) and some times he didn’t seem to be picking up the game and where he was supposed to be on the pitch (hey, it’s pre-season!). But then there he was, when it counted, all he did was simply score two goals of the highest quality.

And the second goal… well, that’s the kind of goal that ancient cultures wrote mythic legends about. All he did was somehow warp space to create room at the end of the pitch where there shouldn’t have been room, and then warp space again to make the ball slice into the net from an impossible angle.

Answering a question about whether Arshavin can be Arsenal’s “Ronaldo” Arsene Wenger didn’t want to put too much pressure on the Russian, but I think it’s pretty clear that this cat is very, very special and we can expect big things from him if he stays healthy all season.

That signing, more than any other, really puts to bed this notion that Arsenal don’t have any ambition as a bitter sounding Kolo Toure basically said yesterday.

The Bad

If there was a dark spot (it’s a win, in a pre-season friendly, FFS) it would be the defensive communication, or more specifically the lack thereof. Earlier in the week one of the Arsenal folks were talking about making sure that Djourou doesn’t play so flat at the back and working on his positioning so he doesn’t get caught out.

Well, he or Gallas, depending on how you look at it, got caught out. And you know what? Shit happens. I think we all need to take a step back for a second and get behind these players rather than start with the hand wringing already. Djourou made several great tackles and overall I think he had a great game and I’m not going to allow something like body positioning get me into a lather about buying a new player.

Perry Groves talks about the amount of work it took for the Arsenal famous back four to become a cohesive unit. This is not something that happens over night. Arsenal are bringing in a new defender, they are saying goodbye to one, and possibly two center backs, and we can’t forget that Djourou is 22 years old and has really only played in a handful of matches. And I would be remiss if I didn’t add in that he’s playing in possibly the most demanding position in the Arsenal system.

Sure, you’re free to call for replacements and purchases, but which is the more satisfying position; the guy who started moaning during pre-season or the guy who had faith and watched as Arsenal built a long term back four that will dominate the Premier League?

I like Djourou and I think the back four of Clichy, Djourou, Vermaelen, and Sagna is going to be a defensive line of the highest quality for many years to come, but only if we lend them our support and give them the chance to gel.

The Ugly

Unlike Djourou who is mere inches from being ready, Vitto Mannone was not and was clearly distressed by long range shots. Of course, he is the third string keeper and like 12 years old or something, so I’m not going to rip him.

Hey, I have an idea, let’s have the whole team work on some shots from outside! The keepers need experience dealing with them and the outfield players (except Rosicky) need experience taking them. It’s a win-win.

Today’s Match

Today’s match is on GolTV again, and again the locals are gathering at Doyle’s for the viewing. Kickoff is 8:15am and afterward several of us are gathering at Optimist park for a kickaround. As I always say, come to Optimist park, it’s the only park with Tim in it.

See you tomorrow, after Arsenal have secured their first trophy of the season!


  1. Tim, totally agree about your observation on Arshavin. How many players in Arsenal history have scored so many great goals in abt 1/2 of a season?

    Ditto on supporting Djourou. Give this kid some time. For me, Athletico’s goal was more an issue with Denilson giving up the ball.

  2. I’m all for giving the kids time, and in time, I think Djourou could be good. But I have to side with some of the disgruntled out there that don’t want this season to be another learning experience for the youngsters. That was last season. As a member of the big 4, there’s no reason our centre backs shouldn’t be rock solid. Can’t afford the shakiness again. No excuses given the money we have sitting there.

    Again, cautiously optimistic entering the season. Great things from Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky and AA yesterday. Still, if Djourou can’t hack it immediately this season, we can’t afford a baptism by fire for him back there. Off to the pub….

  3. Jackie and Dudu. Fucking clinical. Holy hell I am starting to get excited.

    Come on, Arsene, just sign one CB and one DM, and we will win the league.

  4. Eddie shoulda had a double!!! I can’t believe he didn’t just volley that over the top touch from Cesc at the end of the first half.

  5. Us 3 them nil. Wilshere man of the match again, showing-off other talents like scoring goals. Everyone looked quicker today. Back line still worries me, but guess that isn’t the first choice, Traore looked quick, very quick. and Sanchez Watt looks useful. Not only that but we got our first silverware.

    We can only get better, the the future is red and white!


  6. Dudu could have been in for two or three today.

    We have a shitload of attacking talent that no one in the league seems to be acknowledging, and a Wilshere to spare. Awesome.

  7. wilshere will be amazing in 3 years if he isnt already amazing now.

    but dont you think merida also slotted in the midfield well.he and cesc look like they are good friends and have a good relationship on the field(no surprise they are both spanish) he has everything technically but just needs to get a few more games and he will be great.

    the future

    g.hoyte vermaelen i.miquel gibbs/traore
    walcott f.merida ramsey wilshere
    c.vela n.bendtner

  8. Folks, That’s what I call fantastic display of football. Even ‘St Augustine Oblong’ (Silvestre) surprisingly defended magnificently today.

    Bring it on!

    1. @LRV,

      Slight correction, fantastic display of “OFFENSIVE” football. We forgot about defense on quite a few occasions.

  9. Preseason. There I said it. Did McCulloch know this was a preseason ‘friendly’. Obviously not. A**hole from the ‘commitment’ school of British football.

    Remember when I wrote that Wilshere showed more offensive nous than Ramsey in the Hannover 96 game. Today was Wilshere’s coming out party. In a word, Wilshere was “Messi” like today. Please do not let the “birthers” at Wilshere to prove that he is A)really a British born player at Arsenal, B) really 17yo.

    No Senderos this week end confirms for me that he is probably gone.

    Where was Vermaelen today?

    Eduardo is just a joy to watch. In the dictionary definition of clinical finish is a picture of Eduardo.

    Aguero just faked Alan Wiley into giving an undeserved red card to Albert Banning. Criminal. Wiley is in mid-season form.

    Sanchez Watt, not bad today.

    I will be extremely pissed if Birmingham City get Traore on loan. Anywhere but BC, Mr. Wenger. McLeish is an a**hole IMO after his role and comments after the Taylor tackle.

    There is a role for Rangers and Celtic in the EPL, in the bottom half of the table.

    We do not need Vieira to slow down our game.

    Rosicky still needs work. Feel good time is over.

    Aston Villa-Juventus should be interesting. I remember a CL game where Carew with Lyon played Real Madrid and Cannavaro and he simply destroyed their back line.

    Toure just couldn’t leave gracefully could he? Now comes the ‘spin’.

    Nice to see Reyes smiling as we got our trophy today.

    Gol TV announcers were very good and were up on all their Arsenal team bits and pieces.

    1. @ctpa,

      As you might remember, I have been praising Wilshire for at least a year now. Barring injury or conceit, he will be world class in 1-2 years. That’s how talented he is, and please Mr. Wenger, he needs more game time just like Vela.

      There are some players that you need to watch just once and you can tell they are ordained to be great. We have 2 of those in Vela and Wilshire.

      Watt acquitted himself well and Merida looked like he belonged on the field, as he did also did yesterday. In fact, he looks better than Ramsey and is unafraid to pull the trigger. The conundrum as usual is that he is another Cesc, just like Nasri, and we all know Arsene’s illegitimate son, Denilson, will get the majority of playing time. HHHHHMMMMMMMM

      Traore has looked better than Clichy on both days, but Clichy may just be a little rusty after his long layoff. Another conundrum, what do we do with 4 LB’s in Traore, Gibbs, Silvestre and Clichey? Speaking of Silvestre, when can I drive him to the airport, or is he Arsene’s secret son in law?

      Please Mr. Wenger, do not sell Eboue, the fans need someone to boo now that Ade has departed. Just kidding, Eboue is too valuable as a squad player to be sold. We truly need him, his diving and most of all, his versatility.

      To all the NB lovers: Who needs a tall, slow, non-clinical, play making forward who can’t lead the line, when we have Arshavin, RVP, Rosicky (never thought I would be able to say that)and Vela.

      Hi Theo, this is an official notice that your short reign as a super sub may be over now that we have found a gem in Wilshire, who while not possessing your speed, totally out performs you in terms of technical ability and football intelligence. Please Theo, try to improve your finishing skills in order to compete with Vela and the host of forwards we now have. Then again, that might be a big problem too.

      Still think we need a Huntelaar type who can lead the front when required. Still think we need another bruising CB and DM, because Song needs help and Denilson can’t provide the steel.

  10. Forgot to mention our formation du jour: 4-3-3. Definitely a ‘Barcelona’ 4-3-3 and not a ‘Chelsea’ 4-3-3.

    Dutch, French and Spanish football styles rolled into Arsenal. I just love those diagonal passes from Cesc that cut out the LB. Also effective dummies.

  11. Wilshire is absolute class, and will be better than Cesc, although please don’t think that I dont rate Cesc as one of the best in the world. Lovely finish by Dudu that adebayor certainly could not finish! Whilst Rangers are not the best team, certainly a good result and gets me excited for the new season! Come on you Gooners!

  12. How I wish I were in Seattle area to hang out. Just watched today’s Rangers, and Wilshere was again fantastic. If anybody knows that there are enough people in Minneapolis Area to start Arsenal gathering, please let me know.
    Sorry Tim to ask through your blog as I can’t find anywhere else to ask this.

    1. You can also check thru to see if they have a branch or meeting place in your area.

  13. Emirates Cup 2007-win, EPL-3rd
    Emirates Cup 2008-lost, EPL-4th
    Emirates Cup 2009-win, EPL-?

    Winning the trophy is nice but it’s not a barometer 🙁

    1. @ctpa,
      Common ctpa, do you really have to put a downer on things? At least let’s enjoy it until the Valencia game.

      The doom & gloomers would have believe that we would be steam-rolled by all and sundry. Well boo to them.

      I konw that we still have to improve in areas, yes. But I am not afraid. Oh yes, heaven knows that we will get there.

  14. At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I want Wilshere starting. Even without today’s performance, he looks and plays beyond his years. Make Theo a supersub and keep Mighty Jack on the right.

  15. With Wilshere’s performance this weekend, Arsene will be forced to treat him as he did the younger Cesc: find time to provide him minutes in every match.

    As we now are in August, we have the same major question confronting the team as last year – holding midfield.

    Will this upcoming week provide the missing pieces for our fall?

  16. If you are in the SPL, you’re saying to yourself after today WTF just happened. We got taken to the wood shed by a bunch of kids. Remember this is the team that knocked Roma out w/ PKs. This is old hat though and we now need to move on.

    Wenger still looking for his starting XI after today.

    I haven’t seen a response from Pierce to Wenger’s criticism of his stupid decision to use Walcott.

    As has been mentioned we never looked this good w/ Adebayor.

    We have 19 games until January 1. We face ManU (A), Chelsea (H) and Liverpool(A). If we are to be for real, I’d like to see us around 17-0-2 after the break 🙂 We need to handle Fulham, Aston Villa, Stoke and Man City to show we now have the killer instinct we lacked last fall.

Related articles