Advertisements

Arsenal doing it the hard way again as Orient snatch late equaliser

Leyton Orient 1 Arsenal 1

Téhoué 89; Rosický 53

For the third straight time in this season’s FA Cup, Arsenal struggled against lower-league opposition as substitute Jonathan Téhoué‘s 89th-minute strike cancelled out Tomáš Rosický’s goal to earn Leyton Orient a replay at the Emirates.

Having needed a late penalty equaliser and then a replay to see off Leeds in the third round, and then survived with ten men against Huddersfield, Arsenal again fielded a second-string side for the short trip across London to Brisbane Road. Of the eleven who started the midweek victory over Barcelona, only Alex Song was retained as Arsène Wenger made ten changes, including a first-team debut for 18-year old Spanish defender Ignasi Miquel as Arsenal lined up as follows:

Almunia

Sagna – Squillaci – Miquel – Gibbs

Song – Denilson

Rosický

Bendtner – Chamakh – Arshavin

Although Orient lie just 11th in League One, a look at their record would have told Arsenal that they would be no push-overs. Their last home defeat came on September 11th (against Huddersfield), and they had lost just one of their previous 20 games.

Nothing like Barcelona

Chamakh remains short of both form and confidence (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

A 9,000-plus crowd – Orient’s first sell-out in ten years – endured a first half which was as far removed from Wednesday’s thrilling game with Barcelona as it was possible to get. For 45 minutes, this was as dull and colourless as the grey, overcast sky above.

Stephen Dawson gave the home fans something to cheer about early on, with a first-minute shot from the edge of box which Manuel Almunia needed two attempts to gather up. But after that, it was pretty much one-way traffic as Arsenal dominated possession and created what few chances there were.

Marouane Chamakh, still desperately short of the form which saw him amass ten goals before the end of November, missed the two best chances of the half. First he could only manage a tentative poke from just inside the box which was easily saved by Jamie Jones. Then he wasted an excellent low cross from left back Kieran Gibbs by screwing wide from seven yards.

Miquel had an assured first-team debut (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

Andrey Arshavin, again showing signs of improved form, also had a couple of half-chances. First Jones spilled a low drive from 20 yards and then the Russian, played into the area by Nicklas Bendtner, blasted a right-footed effort wide from an angle.

Other than that, Arsenal created little as they played with all the intensity and urgency of a light training ground knock-about, and all the width of Kate Moss after a crash diet.

Orient struggled to string any coherent passing moves together, looking instead to pump the ball long early. But Arsenal, with backup Sébastien Squillaci and the debutant Miquel in the centre of defence,  generally coped with Orient’s limited threat without undue problems.

A rarity, and then an all too familiar sight

Rosický scored his first Arsenal goal since January 2010 (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

An improvement was required, and Arsenal provided just that eight minutes into the second half, although it came from an unusual source. Bendtner, not having one of his better days, saw a shot from the edge of the area blocked. The ball ricocheted back to him, and he dribbled on into the box before dinking a centre across goal. Rosický met it with a glancing, running header from 15 yards out which nestled into the bottom corner. It was the Czech international’s first Arsenal goal for 13 months.

The goal forced the home side to push forward more, and the game suddenly started to stretch. Russell Slade brought off striker Scott McGleish and replaced him with French forward Téhoué, who Orient had signed from UJA Alfortville, then of the French fourth division, last year.

The change reaped immediate dividends. Shortly after Jones had denied Rosický from close range, Téhoué set off on a powerful run down the right flank and crossed for Alex Revell, who shot just wide. The same pair combined in the 83rd minute, with Revell’s goal-bound shot smashing into Squillaci. The home fans screamed for a penalty, but replays showed the ball had struck the defender squarely in the face.

Arshavin then had a gilt-edged chance to finish the tie, holding off a challenge as he ran through on goal, but his shot across goal struck the outside of the post. 90 seconds later Orient punished that miss. There appeared to be little danger as Téhoué collected the ball 30 yards out, but he burst between Miquel and Gibbs before powering a low shot which squirmed under Almunia’s dive. It was not the Spanish goalkeeper’s finest moment.

In what little time remained, Arsenal were unable to fashion a late winner, meaning Orient had earned a lucrative replay at the Emirates, which will be played on Wednesday March 2nd.

Post-match reaction & analysis

After the game, Arsène Wenger credited Orient’s fighting spirit:

You have to give credit to Leyton Orient because they never gave up and fought very hard. As long as you do not score the second goal, that can happen.

Despite bemoaning having to play an additional match in an already crowded fixture schedule, he did not begrudge Orient their lucrative replay:

It will make their budget for the season, if not more, and to scrap that off would be a blow to all the smaller clubs in England. They suffer already, so you would not have a lot of supporters to do that [scrap replays].

In terms of tactical analysis, there is not much to say that hasn’t already been said after the Leeds and Huddersfield games, or after the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Ipswich. Switching to his second XI for this game was an understandable move by Wenger ahead of key games in the next seven days against Stoke (in the league) and Birmingham in the (Carling Cup final).

There was, as ever, a notable dip in both quality (understandably) and cohesion (equally understandably). But it remains disappointing that so many members of the second XI continue to make such a feeble case for more regular first-team action.

However, poor as Arsenal were for much of the game, credit should be given to Orient for battling hard throughout. Téhoué was a menace after coming on, and the equaliser came as a result of patient probing and passing by the home side, rather than solely lumping long balls into the box.

Up front, Chamakh had poor service but is a shadow of the player who started his first Premier League season so well. Arshavin had a decent game, but Bendtner continues to frustrate with his tendency to have at least two bad games for every good one he plays. Too often, however, the pair – nominally the team’s ‘wide’ attackers – drifted inside, compressing space and removing the option of flighting balls into the box for Chamakh.

Defensively, the less said about Almunia’s effort on the equaliser the better. His confidence is shot; his days at the club surely numbered. Miquel had a good debut, dealing with Orient’s ground and aerial threats with assurance.

Midfield was where Arsenal were most deficient. Song looked weary. His goal aside, Rosický’s influence on the game was fitful at best. And Denilson, despite attempting more passes than any other Arsenal player, repeatedly blunted too many passages of play by his insistence on passing sideways or backwards, rather than attempting a more ambitious forward pass. The incisive delivery and quick thinking of a Cesc Fàbregas or a Jack Wilshere were sorely lacking as the pace of too many attacks was slowed, allowing Orient to organise their defences behind the ball.

None of this is new. And yet this set of players seems unable to address the all too obvious problems.

The draw means an extra – and unwanted – replay in the midst of one of Arsenal’s busiest periods of the season. Wenger will undoubtedly maintain his use of the second XI in ten days’ time, keeping his first team fresh for the Premier League and Carling Cup final. It will be up to a very similar line-up to ensure that they complete the job which they were just two minutes away from finishing here. The reward for victory will be a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

All that is in the future, however. Wenger will field his strongest possible team at home to Stoke on Wednesday, where Arsenal call ill afford another draw.

Advertisements

About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

3 Responses to Arsenal doing it the hard way again as Orient snatch late equaliser

  1. kay says:

    Nice piece, I noticed quite clearly the difference btw the pairing of cesc/wilshere and Denilson/ rosicky today. The former are always incisive and they always pass the ball forward while the latter will rather go for lateral or sideways passes. I was also dissappointed with Sagna game going forward. I could count the no of crosses he made(very few) in a game with Chamakh and Bendtner. Chamakh was very poor today,what happened to his confidence? He is now afraid of shooting, of defenders, of attacking the ball, of forward play. God help us if anything happens to the guys in first 11 becos this second string are not the real deal. May God keep van persie for us becos our attack is blunt without him.

    • Tim says:

      In ones and twos, I think individuals in the second XI work very well within the first team. In particular Arshavin, now that he is over his slump, always provides a few moments of genuine quality.

      But Denilson, having done quite well as a sub early in the season, seems to have gone backwards again. There’s nothing wrong with making predominantly simple passes – Makelele did this to great effect – but Denilson, who in his early years was a fairly progressive passer, now simply does not even attempt the penetrating pass even when it is there (or when it is needed). He takes too much pace out of our game, and his tackling is atrocious, as is his tracking back.

      Chamakh will come good again, but for some reason his form and confidence have gone completely. But we know he can do better than this, and he will do so again.

      Bendtner has spark, but is too inconsistent. Gibbs has as many poor days as bad ones, and is nowhere near Clichy based on both their current form. Squillaci is a backup. Rosicky is past his best. And it’s time for Almunia to go, for his own sake as well as ours.

      It has to be remembered that it is difficult for a second XI to come in and play well just like that – just look at United on Saturday, for instance. But too many of them are failing to grasp their opportunities. In Denilson’s case in particular, I think he is running out of chances to prove himself. Wenger has beene xtremely patient with him, but I don’t think he will ever cut it as anything more than a squad player.

  2. Pingback: B-52 bombs Orient as Bendtner hat-trick sends Arsenal to Old Trafford « The armchair sports fan

%d bloggers like this: