Sevilla inflicted Arsenal’s first defeat of the season in a dominant performance at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last night.
Although Arsenal grabbed an early lead through Eduardo da Silva’s clever goal the Spanish side fought back and eventually grabbed a 3-1 win through first-half goals from Seydou Keita and Luis Fabiano before Frederic Kanoute added a late third from the penalty spot. Sevilla were good value for the win, controlling most of the possession and making the Arsenal defence look very ordinary at times during the 90 minutes.
The Arsenal lineup against Sevilla was, as expected, much changed from the one that took care of Wigan last weekend. Manuel Almunia retained his place in goals but Justin Hoyte, Philippe Senderos and Armand Traore joined Kolo Toure in a new-look defence. Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Gilberto Silva, Denilson and Eduardo lined up in a five-man midfield, providing support for Nicklas Bendtner who started as a lone striker.
There’s nothing much more to say about the game other than that it was a poor performance from Arsenal and a superb one from Sevilla. Arsenal started well and deservedly went ahead after a lovely touch from Eboue, a perfect cross from Bendtner and an excellent piece of control and finish from Eduardo. From then on in though, it was all Sevilla as the Arsenal defence crumbled.
In very simple terms, Senderos was woeful, Gilberto was well-below par and Hoyte and Traore did nothing to show they are ready to challenge for a first-team position. I could harp on all day about Senderos’ errors, indeed a number of other Arsenal blogs already have, but I was very surprised with the sluggish performance of Gilberto and Hoyte and Traore’s sheer inability to accurately pass the ball when the pressure turned on. It was obvious that after Sevilla got back into the game through Keita’s blasted finish that they deliberately put pressure on the two yong fullbacks, and it definitely told as the game went on. Admirably, Hoyte and Traore continued to attempt to play the ball out of defence but with the attacks coming thick and fast it sometimes would have been better to just give it a long hoof up field to relieve the pressure.
Can Senderos learn?
Senderos, unlike Hoyte and Traore who should at least learn from their errors, looks like a lost cause. Every time he enters the pitch the Arsenal defence look shakier and I really do believe it is time for Wenger to consider selling the Swiss international. It has been a LONG time since he has had a really strong game and with Johan Djourou returning from Birmingham and Alex Song looking a good long-term prospect I’m very skeptical about Senderos’ future at Arsenal. I’ve always defended the young defender and pointed to the future but the problems with him are numerous; a lack of pace, a penchant for mistakes and perhaps most tellingly, given the size of the man, an inability to win the ball in air. Wenger is a patient man, but how many more poor performances can Senderos put in before his place in the first-team squad will come under fierce scrutiny? Not many more, in my eyes.
There were some positives to take out of the game. Bendtner showed again what a useful player he is, and it’s just a shame that he is yet to start a match with an out-and-out strike partner beside him. Eduardo was my man of the match and the only player on the Arsenal team who got the better of his direct opponent and Eboue was a livewire on the right.
At the end of the day, this was not a game that Arsenal needed to win and as such, a loss is not the end of the world. Qualifying as group leaders is not as important as it is often made out to be and with the club’s passage to the Round of 16 already safe after the draw in Prague, Wenger was right to rest the likes of William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor. The most important thing for Arsenal is that the likes of Hoyte and Traore learn from this performance and ensure it does not happen again. As for Senderos, I’m not sure he can learn.
What do you think?
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