Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Slavia Prague vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Arsenal qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League today, despite a disappointingly boring show against Slavia Prague in the Czech capitol.

An undermanned Arsenal squad failed to hit the heights of their 7-0 drubbing of Slavia Prague two weeks ago at the Emirates in what proved to be by far the least entertaining of Arsenal's games this season. It was also the first goalless match played by the as yet undefeated Gunners - but the rest of their displays this season were in a completely different league than today's.

Slavia Prague: Michal Vorel; Erich Brabec, Frantisek Drizdal, David Hubacek, Marek Suchy, Matej Krajcik; Daniel Pudil, Vladimir Smicer, Michal Svec, Mikael Tavares; Zdenek Senkerik

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Lassana Diarra, William Gallas, Alex Song, Gael Clichy; Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Gilberto, Denilson, Eduardo; Bendtner

As you can see, Arsene Wenger opted to play what was essentially a Carling Cup side, with Manuel Almunia, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy the only players who remained from the weekend's 2-2 draw with English giants Manchester United.

The Arsenal manager also chose an unorthodox 4-5-1, despite the fact that neither of Arsenal's top two strikers were playing. Eduardo and Theo Walcott, who both regularly play as strikers, were played on the left and right wing respectively, where both failed to have much of an impact.
This was the gaffer's 100th Champions League game at Arsenal, but the play was far from the usual flowing football Arsenal fans have been spoiled by during the Frenchman's tenure at the head of the club.

The first chance of the night fell to the home side after 15 minutes, when Mickael Tavares met a corner in the box, but failed to steer the ball on target. It would foreshadow the rest of the night - a night during which the Arsenal and Slavia goalies were forced into action only once and twice, respectively.

After 36 minutes the hosts got their second chance of the match, and their first shot on target as Zdenek Senkerik forced Almunia to tip his shot acrobatically over the bar.

The rain was pouring down in Prague as the teams went into the tunnel after a disappointing half and neither the downpour nor the low level of play changed for the better after the break.

Slavia had a penalty appeal in the 50th minute when Lassana Diarra hauled down Senkerik in the box, but the diminutive Frenchman got away with what TV replays showed to be a clear penalty.

The Czech team once again had the next chance, as a pass from substitute David Kalivoda appeared to catch the entire Arsenal defense wrong-footed. Almunia rushed out of his goal to make another crucial save though, denying Slavia a win at home.

Arsene Wenger brought on Emmanuel Adebayor and Emmanuel Eboue in the 77th and 81st minutes but it was too little, too late. Adebayor latched onto a corner soon after his introduction, but his tame header was easily saved by Michal Vorel as Arsenal undeservedly extended their undefeated streak to 26 games.