Ahh, there is nothing like the FA Cup for a bit of spice is there?
Anyone expecting Leeds to just show up and enjoy the experience of the Emirates were having a laugh. I have seen a couple of Leeds’ games this season and they are a more than decent unit (their unbeaten run was only stopped by Cardiff in midweek). The term “unit” is important here, while they played like one, we didn’t. And can we really be surprised? They played with pretty much their first XI, while there was massive changes to our side. These were changes Wenger had to make though and I don’t begrudge any of his selections.
Chesney was an obvious starter in goal. Gibbs was coming back from injury and giving Clichy a breather. There was no choice but to play Eboue with Sagna suspended, and the CB pairing was a no-brainer as well. In midfield, I felt Wenger called it right, starting Denilson and Song with Mozart. Arshavin also got a chance to prove he was deserving of a regular starting berth, as were Bendtner and Chamakh.
The performance itself wasn’t bad. We still got our passing game going and created some half-chances, the problem was we weren’t quick enough or fluid enough. And despite there being two or three very rash challenges (Bruce on Chamakh), I personally felt Leeds played and defended very well. Their CB pairing were excellent throughout and the whole side defended as one. They also have a fine young keeper in Kasper Schmeichel – that save from Denilson in injury time was outstanding. Our own ‘keeper produced a fine save of his own from Beechio’s header.
First of all the bad.
What has happened to Arshavin’s first touch? Too often the ball got away from him and too often he just stood there and didn’t bother to try and win it back. We expect so much more from Arshavin and its no surprise to see him slipping down the pecking order. Hopefully he can get a good game under his belt and get back some confidence. He had some touches during the game (including the volley that was saved in the 1st half) that reminds us that he is a top player.
Next was the penalty, silly by Denilson. It was a lazy leg just left there and was always going to be a penalty. Overall I felt Denilson had a good game and was more influential (defending and going forwards) than a tired Song.
Now for the good.
Theo came off the bench and did brilliantly. He used his speed really well and won us two penalties, even though we were only allowed to take one. Great cameo from Feeeeo. Cesc also did well and tried to get the team going.
But the best part of the whole game (apart from the equaliser) was watching Johan Djourou command the defense. Since his return from injury he has done brilliantly and only reconfirmed how good he is becoming yesterday. Any high balls that came in were usually met with his head and he’s not afraid to put his body on the line. Man of the Match by a clear mile and hopefully we get to see him and Vermaelen team up pretty soon.
So off to Elland Road, a replay is not ideal but its better than being out of the cup.