Cardiff City produced a fine performance against Arsenal to come away with a draw although both sides wasted a number of good chances.
Arsene Wenger would have been extremely disappointed with the performance no matter how well Cardiff played. Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey were partnered in central midfield but in what has been an ineffective area in recent games, was so again.
It was Cardiff who started better and the first fifteen minutes should have seen the Welsh side take the lead. McCormack headed wide and he dragged another past the post. Joe Ledley then proceeded to cut in from the left and shoot over with his right foot. Arsenal were being outplayed; the midfield unable to get hold of the ball and were second to any loose ball. Ramsey failed to control the game, giving possession away countless of times.
The gap between defence and midfield was large as Cardiff played their two striker high up the pitch and looked to play the long ball down channels where the defence was exposed.
Nevertheless Arsenal should have also scored with their chances as they grew stronger in a first half which could have ended 4-4. Nasri was denied by Enckelman when arguably he should have been quicker to shoot, Gibbs hit wide while Bendtner contrived to head over when easier to score.
The young English left back was given a stern test by Burke early on but came out stronger as the game wore on and is now starting make the step up. However Nicklas Bendtner looks short of confidence; his decision making and first touch below par at the moment. He was not the only one; Emmanuel Eboue showed glimpses of what he can offer, making some strong surges and moved around the pitch to support players but like Bendtner failed in crucial areas of the pitch.
The second half saw an improvement as Diaby, on for Ramsey, started to control the game with Song. Now the Gunners were better to the second ball and generally kept possession better however once again there was a lack of cutting edge and creativity to open up the Cardiff defence. Yes the Gunners could have shot more often instead of playing the ball around the box but they really didn’t threaten as much as they should have while dynamism was lacking out wide. Diaby and Song tried to create chances and the signs show they are improving but in the short term more is required from the engine room.
Robin Van Persie was Arsenal’s best player and had two chances from tight angles saved by Enckelman as the Dutchman is becoming more and more relied upon. Adebayor had the best chance but he scuffed a volley which summed up Arsenal’s performance. They had failed to display the step up in quality and the cutting edge was sorely lacking. Arsenal may yet be unbeaten since the end of November but in an unconvincing performance, have the second chance to make amends in the replay.
Arsenal: Fabianski (7), Sagna (6), Toure (6), Djourou (6), Gibbs (7), Nasri (6), Ramsey (5) [Diaby 80(7], Song (6), Eboue (5) [Adebayor 67 (6)], Van Persie (7), Bendtner (5) [Wilshere 88 (5)].
Subs not used: Almunia, Gallas, Vela, Denilson.
Cardiff: Enckelman, McNaughton, Gyepes, Roger Johnson, Kennedy, Rae, Parry, Ledley, Burke (Capaldi 79), Bothroyd (Eddie Johnson 90), McCormack.
Subs not used: Heaton, , Purse, , McPhail, Comminges, Blake.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)