Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fringe players don't pass the first-team test

In reality, Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat on Tuesday night was just the Capital One Cup. It doesn’t affect being top of the league and it was against a good team. However that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying or painful to see Chelsea coming to the Emirates and winning.
After going ahead following a defensive error from Carl Jenkinson, Chelsea displayed typical Mourinho tactics by shutting off the game and being clinical when given the chance to score a second goal. They time wasted, sat deep and closed the game out. It was painfully professional if not exciting.
After only playing two days prior to the match, Chelsea did make changes, but the depth of their pockets and the strength of their squad meant that they were still able to call on big money players like Willian, David Luiz and Juan Mata. Arsenal did make changes, but not as many as expected with some of the youngsters that might have been given a chance, such as Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfeld, missing through injury. Almost through necessity rather than choice, Arsene Wenger fielded a team that included Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky.
The Gunners also included Nicklas Bendtner up front, with Olivier Giroud needing a rest before the big week that includes Liverpool, Dortmund and Manchester United. Given that it’s only the end of October, I don’t really want to be thinking about the January transfer window, but it’s difficult to not have it pass my mind after seeing Bendtner’s performance on Tuesday night.
It wasn’t without effort, but Bendtner struggled to link up play, hold the ball up for the Gunners to relieve any pressure or be in the box as a target man for crosses. In fairness to him, especially after Chelsea scored, the Blues’ defensive mindset made it difficult for him to impose himself on the game, but he still struggled against Luiz and Cahill. The game was just proof that Bendtner has to just be a stop-gap striker until a better option is brought to the club in January.
This season, Olivier Giroud is the player Bendtner could have been if he’d not let his ego get in the way and he’d really put his head down and worked hard. The Dane might be an option from the bench against lesser opposition, but when facing teams like Chelsea, Giroud has to stay fit, otherwise Arsenal will miss having a proper focal point up front in the team.
The other fringe player who had a night to forget was Carl Jenkinson. He’s never a player that can be doubted for his effort and commitment to the team, but his performance on Tuesday should be a hint to the club to get Bacary Sagna’s contract sorted before for beyond the end of this season.
Chelsea’s opening goal came from Jenkinson’s painfully short header back towards Lukasz Fabianski in the Arsenal goal, allowing Cesar Azpilicueta to score. He also misplaced too many passes, didn’t look calm in possession and showed a rawness that had been growing out of his game. He will improve and could eventually be Arsenal’s first choice right-back, but he’s not ready yet, meaning Sagna has to offered a good deal to make him stay and help guide Jenkinson in his development.
After the defeat to Dortmund, the Chelsea game was another reminder to this Arsenal team to be ready for the next three huge games. If they come out of the three coming games with good results, no-one will care about a Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea. If Arsenal don’t, the old questions about the ability to beat the big teams will reappear despite the good start to the season.