Champions League Second Round First Leg Roundup: Arsenal 1 Roma 0

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RVP, when the girl say no...

RVP, when the girl says no...

Summary

Despite a long list of injuries and a lack of goals at home, Arsenal came out in this tie full of confidence. Roma were pinned back in their half for most of this game and struggled to contain the Gunners’ midfield, with Emmanuel Eboue, Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri particularly impressive. Nevertheless, this was Arsenal at their profligate best, with only Robin Van Persie’s deserved penalty managing to ripple Roma goalkeeper Doni’s net. Nicklas Bendtner managed to get himself into good positions but wasted two good chances, thereby incurring the wrath of the Emirati. Eboue was also gifted a chance by a sloppy Roma back-line but his lack of goal-scoring pedigree translated into his shot going wide. After that chance the match slowed down and it was clear it would finish 1-0.

Tactical Analysis

football-tactics-french

Arsenal

Arsene Wenger had to change things up in view of his side’s lack of goals and inability to break down tight defensive formations. By moving Samir Nasri into more of a free role behind the forward line, Robin Van Persie was allowed to play closer to goal and thereby providing Arsenal with more players in Roma’s box. It was perhaps unfortunate that Nicklas Bendtner was on the receiving end of what they created. Eduardo may not have been so wasteful.

Replacing Alexandre Song with Abou Diaby was a productive change, with the young Frenchman providing a driving force in midfield while Denilson played a tidy deeper role. The Gialorossi could not handle the powerful, driving runs by Eboue, Diaby and occasionally Gallas and Toure.

Roma

Luciano Spaletti sits up there with Arsene Wenger as one of the football purists. On Tuesday night however, the baldy Italian was guilty of tactical naivety that had seen his side undone two years ago in Manchester and this season at Chelsea. Surely rule number one of playing against Arsenal at the Emirates is that you cut their supply line down the wings, either by playing attacking wingers high up the pitch, thereby pinning back Clichy and Sagna; alternatively, make sure your full backs have adequate assistance from their midfielders to close down Arsenal attacks. Spaletti chose to do neither and Roma’s flanks were exposed, resulting in Motta and Riise experiencing a torrid time. The ginger Norwegian in particular was unable to handle Sagna and Eboue.

We know Totti is a great player and Baptista is having a good Serie A season but on this occasion both of them were pedestrian, luxury, down-right non-existent. Expectations on them will be high in the Second Leg. Roma’s midfield usually looks packed out but against Arsenal they appeared weak, outnumbered and generally second best in all departments.

Looking Ahead

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Arsenal will go away with confidence that they are a better team than Roma and secure in the knowledge that a goal in the Italian capital will demand three in return from the Italians. However, one goal from the penalty spot seems paltry in relation to the chances and dangerous openings the Gunners created. Arsene Wenger himself hopes his side will not be left to rue the missed opportunities of the first leg come March 11.

De Rossi will be missing for Roma after receiving his third booking in the competition. That is a big blow for the Romans, putting extra pressure on the likes of Perotta. Roma are still in with a good shout, safe in the knowledge that they can conjure up some scintillating performances at the Olimpico. An early goal would completely change the dynamic of the tie.

I think Arsenal will progress, especially if either or both of Adebayor and Eduardo return in two weeks time. They may not create so much in Rome but one goal would be enough.

 

P.

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