Written by Carlito 11
A result to put a smile back on our faces, a Nasri inspired Arsenal waltzed past a doggedly determined Leeds side to halt the slide against Championship opposition.
The game kicked off with some tough challenges signalling a hard fought encounter but we soon got our passing game going, Arshavin and Chamakh combining nicely before the latter dummied the return of a one/two letting a besnooded Nasri slip through the centre of defence and bury the ball in the 5th minute. The deafening noise from the home support receded and the game was going according to plan.
Chamakh had a couple of efforts thereafter- a great powerful header needing a good save from Kapser Schmeichel and a powder puff shot from the edge of the area. It is no wonder his first touch is so fantastic when a shot aimed on target has all the power of volleyed hacky sack. Where MC’s first touch is a thing of beauty, NB52’s has all the cushioning of a ping pong shot, one of which fortuitously ricocheted off Andy O’Brien to Sagna who took a touch and smashed it from the right hand side of the area- clean off the laces- to make it 2-0 and Arsenal were cruising at 2 nil. A superb goal from our Mr Reliable.
Nasri and Song were running the show at this stage but despite a good work rate from all three forwards, Nik Chamshavin was not producing much up front with some poor decision making from AA , poor touches from Nik and poor shooting from MC leading to the odd groan. But the defence was relatively untroubled and the team was playing for each other when Arshavin was fouled allowing Leeds to continue a build up around our box in the 37th minute. The ball found its way to Johnson who scored what must be the goal of his career, busting the net from 25 yards out. It was an unstoppable shot that Szczesny could do nothing about despite leaping valiantly in the right direction. The renewed fervour of their support did little to alter the fact that we were still much the better team and despite the best attempts of ITVs commentary team to convince us otherwise, there was no Arsenal wobble this time.
The second half started with a great move and a Song shot on target. Schmeichel was busy throughout and pulled off some good saves. Leeds countered and closed us down and tried to boss the game and if Song had not been there like a rock against the tide they may have done better against an otherwise lightweight Arsenal midfield. Arshavin had the look of a man desperately trying to play himself back into form but it was not to be and he and Chamakh were replaced by RvP and Fabregas .
We immediately shifted from 3rd to 4th gear and within minutes Bendtner had the ball down the right wing and flighted the perfect cross. Van Persie leapt and hung in the air before nodding emphatically through the outstretched grasp of Schmeichel. After that it was showtime with flicks and kicks- our away supporters singing the Rocastle, Henry and Wright songs loudly enough to be heard on TV.
Smiles all round at the final whistle- Huddersfield at home in the next round!
Arsenal verdict: Good performance with even those off form grafting hard.
Leeds verdict: They’ve got better players than I had given them credit for and play a fair tough tackling game. They deserve to do well this season based on this performance.
Support verdict: Leeds started at a tremendous volume but after initially being hushed by the first goal they kept it up well until the end. Our support could be heard well too 🙂
Man of the match: Nasri, Song and Sagna all deserve a special mention.
Moan of the match: Why do other teams’ fans always sing “same old, always cheating” when their players have committed the heaviest or clumsiest fouls?
Szcenzny 7 Didn’t have much to do. Was a solid calming presence when required and couldn’t do anything about Johnson’s screamer.
Sagna 9 Reliable as ever and a gem of a strike for our second.
Djourou 8 Solid tidy play winning everything in the air.
Koscielny 8 Did nothing wrong and showed he is a ball-playing centre back!
Gibbs 8 Some good runs to link defence and attack. Untroubled by and large.
Song 9 Immense presence – at times winning out against 3 Leeds players. Had too much to do at times but managed very well.
Denilson 6 Just doesn’t have the presence to mix it even at this level. Left Song to do most of the breaking up and most of the link play.
Nasri (Captain) 9 Another gluefooted display of glide and finesse. A joy to watch and a great goal to get the game plan going.
Bendtner 7 Frustrating as he can be, his cross for the 3rd was top drawer and he put in a shift. Can he develop a better first touch at this stage?
Chamakh 6 Some excellent link play and a good header in the first half. Faded in the second. Can he develop a better shot?
Arshavin 6 Really tried, but it’s not coming off for him at the moment and his passing and decision making are suffering as a result.
If you don’t agree with Carlito’s player ratings have a look at London’s ………………….
Szczesny: noticeably different from his recent performances: much calmer body language, a sign I read to be growing maturity. Kicking was much better, although, he obviously needs to keep practicing that part of his game. 8
Sagna: it is obvious to say that footballers play better after a rest but never is it truer than with Sagna, watch and notice the difference the next time this happens which will probably be after the Barcelona game, oops I almost forgot to mention, he scored a lucky goal, only joking. Dammed if he was going to try and roll another ball across the box for Bendtner to miss again. Pick that beauty out of the net Shmeichel. 8
Djourou: back to his calm, laid back, reassured, Swiss self; he has come a long way this season, not the finished article so we shouldn’t be too hard on him when he slips up and slip up he will but that is for the future; tonight, I felt very comfortable with him there. 7.5
Koscielny: top drawer performance, some superb long range passes, I know that Leeds are not Prem opposition but if he carries on improving at the rate he is we are going to be very happy bunnies. 8
Gibbs: got caught out of position far too many times for my liking; although, he improved as the game went on. I still don’t understand how people can rate him higher than Clichy? 6
Song: I have run out of superlatives for the best player of that position in the EPL, would you still take Essien over our Alex? I wouldn’t. 8
Denilson: tut, tut thinking that the English press won’t pick up on interviews given in Brazil is a bit naïve. A functional performance but nothing special; the only positive I can think of is that with Song being so obviously being first choice DM at least we have someone who is prepared to spend most of his time on the bench acting as back up in emergencies, conclusion, hurry back Frimpong. 7
Nasri: I wrote a post the other day on my perception of how certain players like playing with certain others, Nasri and Chamakh are obviously bezzy North African mates living in London and loving playing their football together. Tonight he was given a chance to practice for his inevitable, soon to be central midfield role; he is not quite ready yet as the fact that his performance tailed off towards the end demonstrated but it is now when and not if. I almost forgot his goal as well, class, pure class. 8.5
Bendtner: the first thing I would say is that there is no doubt in my mind that he is getting better with every game, that said with every game I get more confused as to what we are going to do with him, great cross for the goal though. 7
Chamakh: lots more defensive work going on tonight, lots more chasing down and chasing back. I like it; he needs a goal now to fully regain his confidence. 7
Arshavin: BR put forward the idea that it is not right to accuse a player of not trying as how could we know if he is or not (forgive me if I misunderstood). I judge a player on whether he is trying or not by the effort he puts in to regain the ball once it is lost and within that criteria I don’t think Arshavin can be criticised in the slightest tonight; he was unlucky, I thought, that the extravagant things he tried didn’t come off. 7
Fabregas: we’ve got Cesc Fabregas, we’ve got Cesc Fabregas. 8.5
Van Persie: biased moi (said in a Miss Piggy voice). 10