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!

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