STANDARD LIEGE 2-3 ARSENAL
After all my questioning of the team's character, it might seem a bit churlish to criticise them after they salvaged a win from two goals down, but I'm gonna do it anyway.
As with all fundamentally flawed sides, Arsenal's problems are not far from the surface even in victory. Standard Liege are a fairly limited team who were missing a couple of important players of their own, so the fact that they were 2-0 up after four minutes set those familiar alarm bells ringing again. And in what is becoming the theme of the season, THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO DO ANYTHING!!!
First, we gave away a soft corner, from which the clearance reached Eduardo on the edge of the box. He could and should have vollyed the dropping ball away, instead played an extravagant flick that missed its intended target, and the recipient Mangala fired one inside debutant Mannone's near post. Dire stuff. At real, professional clubs, players don't do what Eduardo did in matches because if they tried it in training, they'd get an almighty bollocking. But at Arsenal, it seems, bollockings are off the agenda.
My smirk turned into laughter a minute later when Gallas gave away a soft penalty as one of their players ran into the box (straight towards Alex Song). I think we can now forget this idea that Gallas' decline was all down to the non-partnership with Toure, and that he'd now be consistent. He's been great at times, shit at others. The story of his Arsenal career.
Arsenal faffed about for the remainder of the first half, never really threatening until Bendtner scored from a tight angle right on half-time. Diaby's assist was impressive, I suppose. He continues to be merely a YouTube footballer, at best.
After that you always got the sense that we'd win it. Liege looked like they didn't know what the hell to do in the position they found themselves in, almost by default. They sat back deep, didn't really press, but then we never really managed to open them up. Rosicky was again probably our best player in the attacking third, til his substitution. It's good to have him back.
The equaliser was an almighty fluke, possibly offside, definitely a handball by Song, before Vermaelan tapped it in. He was impressive again but he must be wondering what kind of braindead planks he's surrounded by in this team.
Up to that point we hadn't looked much like scoring, but after it the winner seemed inevitable. Inevitable too perhaps that Eduardo would score it after his ban was revoked and indeed after his error early in the game. He scored a fine poacher's goal, deliberately deflecting Fabregas' corner into the net with his knee.
So, conclusions.. It was another poor performance. Obviously the beginning of the game was shambolic, inept. We STILL look so vulnerable every time the opposition has the ball. After a promising start, the formation change seems only to be making us more toothless upfront while doing little to alter our defensive frailty.
To come back and win from a start like that always seems impressive but I don't know that we really deserved it. It was more a case of Standard not making the most of the further damage they could have done us, sitting back and allowing us back in. Even then it took two late, jammy goals to seal it. I guess we shouldn't complain; in truth it was exactly the kind of winning performance we're often accused of being incapable of. The feeling remains that if we were up against a better side we would have had to do much, much more to turn that deficit around. Against a better side we may have lost heavily.
Our problems when the other side attack need to be remedied and fast. Why didn't it happen in the summer though? The formation change suggets that it's been on Wenger's mind. So maybe it's more a question of personnel- in which case I ask again, for the 34,759th time, why have Mathieu Flamini, Lassana Diarra and Gilberto Silva gone unreplaced??????????????????????
I'm not gonna talk about the rest of the European games, as we all know that the group stages have become a pointless, predictable prelude to the real business of the knockout rounds.