AZ make their point with late equaliser

A late goal from David Mendes Da Silva earned AZ Alkmaar the share of the spoils as Arsenal relinquished two points they could have done without dropping.

AZ Alkmaar entered the game promising to expose the Arsenal weaknesses they had amassed from watching the Gunners’ 6-2 thrashing of Blackburn Rovers but it took until the 93rd minute for the Dutch Champions to finally retreat from their shells and revealed a chink in Arsenal’s armour of which everybody already knew. A free-kick played deep towards Pelle akin to how Blackburn scored their first in that game was headed back to the unmarked Mendes da Silva to smash home. “They have thrown everything forward and felt they could only score on a set-piece, and that is what happened,” said Arsene Wenger. “We were largely in control, but as long as you are not two goals in front, that is the problem. We feel frustrated because we felt we were superior to this team.”

AZ was indeed cautious and on the whole tried to remain calculated because as the game against Rovers showed; if you give Arsenal space you’ll be punished. As it was, a mistake from the centre back Niklas Moisander gifted Arsenal the opener as the Finn mis-controlled a pass from one of AZ’s less successful attempts to bore Arsenal to death with their patient game. Arshavin seized upon it, played in van Persie and the Dutchman unselfishly passed across goal to Cesc Fabregas to shoot into an empty net.

Arsenal was in control but not quite themselves. Maybe it was the way AZ matched Arsenal in closing down space in a slightly different 4-3-3 formation. Australian Holman was detailed to get close to lone striker El-Hamdaoui when in possession and when not, could make a three in the centre. Ronald Koeman’s side were supremely disciplined but not that all ambitious, choosing to stroke the ball about impotently in the first period. Dembele on the right flank gave Clichy a tough test and if the winger continues playing as impressively will surely be plying his trade at a bigger club should AZ’s financially troubles deepen.

Robin van Persie was Arsenal’s best player but found chances to play men in limited. Staying up was also a problem on the greasy pitch as Arsenal time and again were off target in their passes in the final third while others failed to time their runs. A second-half change saw a brief cameo from Vela and the forward was involved in a strong penalty shout which on another day would have been given. Andrey Arshavin then assumed the main forward role for the last ten minutes and had a couple of opportunities to run at the defence. But in the end it was Arsenal’s eagerness to kill the game off that contributed to the surrendering of the three points as an offside decision gave AZ the last minute free-kick to steal an unlikely draw.

Alkmaar (4-4-2): S Romero, K Jaliens, N Moisander (sub: P Wernbloom, 84min), H Moreno, S Poulsen — B Holman (sub: G Pellè, 73), D Mendes da Silva, S Schaars, M Martens (sub: J Lens, 69) — M El Hamdaoui, M Dembélé.

Substitutes not used: J Didulica, R Klavan, N van der Velden, G Swerts.
Booked: Lens.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Mannone (6), Sagna (6), Vermaelen (6),Gallas (6) Clichy (6) —Song (6), Fàbregas (6), Diaby (6)— Eboué (6) (sub: A Ramsey, 83), van Persie (7) (sub: C Vela, 75), A Arshavin (6).

Substitutes not used: M Almunia, M Silvestre, J Wilshere, K Gibbs, F Merida.
Booked: Van Persie, Clichy, Vela.

Referee: M Hansson (Sweden).

AZ Alkmaar Team Statistics Arsenal
1 Goals 1
0 1st Half Goals 1
1 Shots on Target 7
3 Shots off Target 3
2 Blocked Shots 3
3 Corners 4
18 Fouls 9
4 Offsides 3
1 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
81.5 Passing Success 77.5
21 Tackles 18
81 Tackles Success 72.2
53.1 Possession 46.9
45.4 Territorial Advantage 54.6

10 thoughts on “AZ make their point with late equaliser

  1. i didn’t get to see the match, but watching the highlights, it’s unfortunate that diaby’s caught in a bad situation again.
    he was covering the header that came down before the goal and he didnt even challenge. it seemed like a lazy goal to concede – one in which we just “took our foot off the pedal” and allowed ourselves to crash again.
    it’s just ironic that diaby was the one who said that. he is soo tall – but noone talks about him when you think of good headers of the ball. i immediately think of the centerbacks.
    he has soo much physical potential, and he has an imposing stature, but the mental motivation is just not there it seems. that was a terrible mental mistake. again.
    is our team mentally strong? are they passionate? about the game? about arsenal even? about winning? i hope so.

  2. regardless, i hope abou diaby makes all his mistakes in the games that aren’t crucial, like against AZ.
    most of all, i hope diaby learns.
    wish him luck this year everyone! he needs our support.

    1. A good point there. As you say they tried to retain possession and were quite successful at it. The stats indicate that they enjoyed more possession although we had the territorial advantage. Pressing Fabregas is the way to beat us. But we are not as one dimensional as we were last season.

  3. There have been 5 instances already where the team has slept, so the equaliser never came as a surprise to me. The team needs to stop leaking cheap goals, even if you are 6-0 up, letting in a goal should not be accepted. Bad habits will become the norm, something the team doesn’t need.

    1. New Gooner, why not do a write up on the 3 man defense in your blog?
      Just asking because you seem to be following serie a closely and I am interested to learn more about new tactics.

  4. Wenger was challenged today at AGM about the amount of goals we are conceding and why so many.

    His response was predictable saying wait til end of season, we will concede less than last year.

    I personally do not think so. We will ship a goal a game easily this year. We do not defend collectively well enough.

  5. Strangely i think this game is not about defense but attack. For the last 30 minutes of the game, we didn’t have a chance of note, except for a couple of Arshavin’s solo efforts.

    When you play sticky away games as this one, not creating chances and not scoring a second goal is more of a concern than leaking goals. In fact, you’re bound to letting goals in if you cannot kill the game as the other team will continuously come searching for something positive.

    So yes I think we lost 2 naive points but, like the Birmingham game, the goal did not reflect defensive frailty. For that one you have to look into the City and Blackburn games.

  6. I think this formation was 4-4-2 and not 4-3-3, due to the inclusion of Eboue.

    Wenger said back in August that he would mostly use this new 4-3-3 formation but that in some games they could switch to 4-4-2. I think the Alkmaar game was evidence of this.

    Eboue started on the right of midfield, shifting Cesc, Song and Diaby across the pitch. Van Persie was the reference with Arshavin as second striker (nine-and-a-half) moving all across the line.

    I simply can’t conceive of Wenger using a full-back (no matter how attacking) as a winger, and when I say ‘winger’ I mean in the classical sense, i.e. ‘outside-forward’. They are completely unrelated positions and functions. Even if you were to put a full/wing-back up front in a wide position his inclination would lead him to drift back as he would not be comfortable having to press right up against the opposing left-back with only a free metres of space to accelerate ahead of him (hence the importance of dribbling and immaculate close control).

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