Arsenal beat Celtic 2-0 at Celtic Park, all but assuring their qualification for the Champions League group stages, with two away goals. It was not the presiding effort of their 6-1 away win at Everton, but the two deflected goals – from Gallas and Gary Caldwell’s foot – fulfilled the requirement in what was arguably the most important match of the season.
Celtic obviously came into match with an inferior squad. The Scottish Premier League nowhere near equates the English one. Celtic’s biggest signing was £4m Scott Brown. As was mentioned in the telecast, new Celtic manager Tony Mowbray did have experience against Arsene Wenger from his time at West Brom. Unfortunately, said experience was losing to Arsenal with an inferior squad.
The tactics came as no shock. Celtic pressed early to disrupt Arsenal’s passing, with moderate success. When the club tired, they kicked Cesc Fabregas constantly, resulting in two yellow cards and accomplishing nothing but placing him at risk for injury. Fabregas is too savvy to be addled by wanton lunges. Even if the tactic had hampered his effectiveness, Arsenal have four or five players who can create adequately with the increased space from diminished attention.
Wenger again opted for the 4-3-3, using the exact lineup that played against Everton. This time, however, players shifted positions more frequently and both Gallas and Vermaelen attempted runs from the back. This suggests we may be seeing some true total football at the Emirates this year.
Arsenal’s back four, fronted by Song were solid again. Though, they benefitted from Arsenal breaking up plays high up the pitch in both matches. The trio of Alumnia, Vermaelen and Gallas appear confident now. Will this change when they face a team that can down the wings and challenge aerially with crosses?
The weak point for Arsenal was Nicklas Bendtner. He shone with the ball at times against Everton, but against Celtic he was woeful. Whether playing down the right or in the middle, his poor off the ball positioning placed him consistently two steps behind his proper place. He has the technical ability, but does he have the football intelligence?
Theo Walcott should take Bendtner’s place when he returns from injury. Though, if Bendtner remains the fall back plan for the slender shouldered one, that should influence Wenger’s to buy. Could Wenger take Rafael Van Der Vaart off their hands for £6m?
For those tracking other transfers as we approach the deadline, Emmanuel Eboue was not in Arsenal’s squad, leaving that reported £9m move to Fiorentina an option.