Celtic (0) – (2) Arsenal
Gallas (43′), Caldwell OG (71′)
Celtic Park, Scotland
Not the free flowing football from Saturday, but an impressive, frustrating and fortunate game tonight. And it’s very rare to have all of those contrasting components in a football match!
The impressive was our defensive unit.
I’ve said for a long time that while we would have a good defence on paper, the fact was we couldn’t defend as a team. Too many times we would be exposed, and we saw what happened – nights like the one we had against Spurs in that 4-4 draw. Too many times we’d get caught out.
But tonight, we were excellent.
Vermaelen is sensational. I can’t speak highly enough of this guy. I’m almost speechless.
Nevermind that he’s only playing his second game with Arsenal, he is a godsend. He was stunningly good tonight and for me, the Man of the Match. He is great in the air, his tackling is breathtaking and the number of interceptions he made was mind-boggling.
F*ck me Wenger has done it again.
He did it with Sagna, and now he’s done it with Vermaelen.
But with him, Gallas, Clichy and Sagna all had excellent games. Gallas looks totally different alongside the Belgian and the fullbacks had very solid games as well.
And very encouragingly, Denilson and Song look to have come on leaps and bounds.
They were fantastic as well. They both played the best I have ever seen them play in an Arsenal shirt.
Their tackling (along with Fabregas’) has improved ten fold. Tonight, Song didn’t put a foot wrong. He was quick, solid and his passing was accurate and not sloppy in the slightest (which it has been over recent seasons). Denilson was almost equally as good, although there were a few stray passes now and then.
And we know Fabregas is quality.
The captain was roughed up quite a bit, but still managed to get hugely involved with the play and he covered the most ground from all the players on the pitch tonight.
Now on to the frustrating.
We had a decent amount of the ball but were very wasteful in front of goal, and in particular in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
We kept swarming forward with the ball but the end product was severely lacking. Bendtner, Van Persie and Arshavin all had decent opportunities to test the keeper but most of the shots were dragged wide. If they had been on top form, we could have really had something similar to the Everton game.
But it was the same problem as the weekend. Eduardo (who was injured tonight) was the only forward who actually scored against Everton and tonight the strikers drew blanks again. Of course it’s a good thing that the midfield and defence are chipping in with goals but sooner or later the strikers need to get the ball into the net. But after winning tonight I suppose I’m just nit-picking.
It’s just that with such a brilliant performance from the defence and midfield, the icing on the cake would have been if the strikers could show that killer instinct in front of goal. We had a lot of shots towards goal but the Celtic goalkeeper only had one save of note to make, and that was from a Fabregas shot in the second half.
And the fortunate?
Well all the Arsenal critics (like the ones from the weekend) will say that Arsenal were lucky again tonight.
The fact is though that you make you own luck in football. Arsenal deserved their goals on the balance of play, and while it’s fair to say Celtic didn’t do much wrong in conceding those goals they rarely tested Almunia in all honesty.
The first goal was deflected freekick off William Gallas. He’s our top scorer at the moment alongside Cesc.
And the second was after good work from Clichy on the left, whose cross was put into his own net by Celtic captain Caldwell. Bendtner was lurking behind anyway so would have scored if the defender missed it.
Overall, a fantastic result and impressive team display without the killer instinct. But they say a sign of a quality team is one that still win without completely playing well, so I’ll take more of these kind of wins alongside the pretty ones.
I do have to mention that it seems like Arsenal have changed their approach and game this season. Along with the ‘new’ formation, it’s clear that they play the ball around with much more purpose and play a smoother one-touch passing game. It is strange (but also refreshing) that players like Song and Denilson are so comfortable with one-touch play, as you are used to them controlling the ball before playing it. The only player that still takes 2, 3 and even 4 touches (in the entire team) is Nicklas Bendtner.
Manuel Almunia: 7/10
Didn’t have anything to do really.
Bacary Sagna: 8/10
Up and down the right side again and solid at the back.
William Gallas: 9/10
Excellent. Made tackle after tackle and always looked in control. Made a fantastic interception from a cross in the second half when the game was carefully poised at 1-0. A mistake there could have changed the game, and it was a decisive moment. Looks much more comfortable alongside Vermaelen.
Thomas Vermaelen: 10/10
As I’ve already mentioned he was the Man of the Match for me. How many times have we seen Arsenal not quite click up top and then pay for it by conceding sloppy goals? In times gone by that could of happened but this guy is rock solid. I can’t really describe how good he was tonight. He was everywhere, and on top of being a brilliant defender he can pass the ball too. Take a bow son.
Gael Clichy: 8/10
Solid, and like Sagna full of running. There were one or two moments where you questioned his decision-making but overall had a good game and he made the second goal which could prove to be hugely important.
Alex Song: 9/10
I’ve been one of his harshest critics but he was right up there with Vermaelen for me tonight. He did not put a foot wrong, and if performances like this are what he’s capable of this season then we should be very excited. Looks like a different player – quicker, more intelligent and much better with his tackling.
He looks to have stepped up his game as well. His passing has improved, his positioning has improved and it looks like his fitness and pace have too. Still prone to a sloppy ball now and then (Fabregas and Arshavin won’t be thanking him for a couple of suicide balls) but I’m sure he will improve on that as well.
Cesc Fabregas (Captain): 8/10
The hub of the team yet again, and pretty much dictated the game. Slightly wasteful on occasion but probably fatigue from the weekend.
Andrei Arshavin: 6/10
Not really in the game, and seemed to struggle. I expected him to explode tonight but it never happened, and you wonder if he’s struggling with the new system. Was on the periphery of the game in the first half and disappeared in the second. His passing and shooting just seemed off tonight as well.
Nicklas Bendtner: 7/10
Full of running and held the ball up well at times. You sensed that he’s getting used to his new position on the right, as well as being a regular starter for Arsenal. As the season goes on you know he’ll improve.
Robin Van Persie: 7/10
Always wanted to be involved but just lacked that little bit of quality (which he has in abundance) at the vital time, whether it was a final ball or shooting opportunity. On his day, he would have scored a brace tonight.