By Karl M. Tinsley
MY 3 STARS
#1. SAMIR NASRI : As usual Nasri was looking dangerous all match. Dominated the Left Flank all match, calling for the ball, running at defenders, or drawing defenders to him and then dishing off to open players. Also showed some nice defensive chops this match, as he tracked back hard to help support Kieran Gibbs on numerous occasions. Had a quality strike on net, showing that patience and good technique again.
#2. ROBIN VAN PERSIE: Was working hard all day both on and off the ball. Took on the Cardiff defenders and battled hard on the ground and in the air. Displayed a real generous aspect to his game as he was repeatedly delivering lovely passes and one touches to set up his teammates all match. The fact our midfield didn’t give him any sort of through balls or passes into open space to run onto…definitely hampered his offensive game. He still managed to carve out a few good chances and on another day would have found the back of the net and delivered a nasty free-kick and some quality crosses as well.
#3. KIERAN GIBBS: I thought he looked very strong in defence, nice quick feet, good reading of the flow of the match, a real willingness to get “stuck in” and very nice wheels. On the offensive side i detected a really calm presence on the ball and in attack. I was very impressed with him and considering he is just 19…the lad has a very bright future. That said…i still think Armand Traore is a superior LB to Gibbs. Tough luck for Gibbs that LB is probably the hardest position on the club to break into. Gibbs does need to work on his crosses or final ball…did all the hard work but then his last touch was often mediocre at best.
ALEXANDRE SONG: Was his first game back in the starting line-up since Dec 26, 2008 so of course their were the usual signs of rust on his game (some sloppy passing and a few cheap give-aways). But I thought he did a decent job clogging up the middle and tracking back hard to support the back 4. The fact that almost all of Cardiff’s attacks came down our flanks speaks to the good job Song did in the middle with his defence. I would like to see him use his strength and power more when he attacks aerial balls and corner kicks. He should be good for a couple goals off our Corner Kicks.
EMMANUEL EBOUE: Much better performance out of “Da Screwface” after his sub-standard performances in the previous 3-4 matches. I was happy to see his pace back and him making those surging runs of his that proved so problematic for our opponents to deal with in the first 3 months of the season. His nice run into the box from a deep position drew a clear foul from the defender who clipped and turned him, no way was that a yellow card for simulation. His passing was much more controlled and he did a much better job finding his teammates with his passes. Eboue’s first touch let him down today otherwise his performance would have been even better.
Aaron Ramsey: This was a no-brainer. Ramsey easily turned in one of the 3 worst midfield performances of the year. I put it right up their with Denilson against Fulham and Eboue against Wigan. He looked absolutely horrible with his confidence completely shot by the 30th minute and played gun-shy the rest of the way. He was slow to distribute the ball, was extremely careless with the ball and his passing was complete trash. He squandered many of our attacks with his cheap give-aways. Wenger said he was NOT going to be sentimental about his selection for this match. But he lied and inserted Ramsay who really had no business starting and should have been subbed off after 45 minutes. It is safe to say the kid is not ready yet for these types of matches.
Very frustrating match. First off I got to give credit to Cardiff City…they did a great job staying disciplined and organized at the back. They never broke down and always had a defender in the right position to break up our attacks. That said…no worries we’ll handle them in the re-match at the Emirates.
Excluding Nasri and Eboue our midfield was total PANTS today while the team as a whole looked very flat. Seems like they expected Nasri and Van Persie to continue to carry the team again today. That is not acceptable, because with our injuries we need 11 guys working their butts off and contributing every match.
The central midfielders (whoever they are) must deliver better service to our strikers and push the ball quicker. I am getting sick of the team popping the handbrake 30 yards from goal and then aimlessly stroking 5 yard passes across the pitch to each other. That is useless and just gives teams time to track back and marshal their defences. Nasri and Eboue are the only midfielders giving us cut and thrust runs…so I was surprised to see Eboue sacraficed for Diaby instead of Bendtner who was basically a passenger in the second half. Anyways, the good news is that we live to fight another day and Aston Villa also have to replay their match with Doncaster so they gain no advantage over us.
GUNS IN GUNS OUT