The first home game of the season went as smoothly as we fans can hope for. Another emphatic win means we have now scored 10 goals in 2 games, more than Chelsea and Spurs who had both played and won one more game than us at this point, and that shows we shouldn’t be worried about our attack.
In my preview of the game, I mentioned that Ramsey, Diaby, Eboue, Eduardo, Gibbs and Wilshere should see some action in this game as we look ahead to two tough fixtures aginst Celtic and Manchester United and I’m almost 100% accurate.
Diaby started alongside Denilson and Cesc with Denilson being deployed in the Alex Song role with Song rested on the bench. It was the right decision as we need Song for out big games and I’m still not convinced using Denilson defensively.
Eboue came in for Sagna, Gibbs came in for Clichy, Ramsey replaced Cesc at halftime and Eduardo started as part of the attackng trio with Bendtner rested. The only player that I mentioned should be playing against Portsmouth but didn’t was Jack Wilshere, with Fran Merida taking his place on the bench and coming on late in the second half.
Let’s talk about the important points of the game and the consequences of the result:
1 – Alex Song was the only “central defender” on the bench.
With Thomas Vermaelen continuing his defensive partnership with Gallas, Alex Song was the only player on the bench who can come on in place of one of the two. He was chosen ahead of Djourou (who is injured), Silvestre and Senderos (whose future is still up in the air, and with Lescott securing his move to Money-chest City, he might still move to Everton). Wenger has always maintained that Song will make a very good centreback, something I still cannot agree with as he has always shown positional immaturity in the centre of defence. However, this is a sign of things that Wenger has faith in Song’s defensive abilities and that Diaby would be used whenever we face a ‘lesser’ opponent.
2 – Cesc Fabregas was taken off at halftime with an injury.
Aaron Ramsey came on for Cesc at halftime after he pulled his hamstring. Wenger is still unsure how long he will be out for but one thing is for certain, he will not be risked for the iweek clash with Celtic. We definitely need him for Manchester United, especially he is now in the best form in more than a year. Aaron Ramsey though, did very well in place of Cesc. I’ve mentioned quite a few times that Ramsey would be the player to watch this season after a brilliant pre-season when he looked stronger physically and better technically. His goal in the closing stages of the game was well-taken, although I had expected his first goal this new season would be from long range as he likes taking pot-shots on goal outside the box – something we need to do more often. He might start the game againt Celtic but I feel Wenger would go for experience and put Song into the team alonside Denilson and Diaby in the absence of Cesc.
3 – Diaby was brilliant with a first-half brace.
Diaby took his first half brace well and his second goal was simply breathtaking. He won the header that began the counter attack and was there at the end to finish it off. Although he now looks funny with some hair, I like him much better than last season, when I was really frustrated with his every move. There wasn’t a doubt about his technical ability but his best role was a mystery the whole of last season and he couldn’t stay fit long enough to sustain any kind of momentum. In the post-match conference, Wenger said this couldbe Diaby’s year. Let’s hope so, if he can stay injury-free then I think Wenger will be spot on. I’ve also mentioned that he will thrive in the new formation due to his playing style and his first start of the season has shown that to be the case. I’m not sure I agree with the comparison by Wenger that he looks exactly like Patrick Vieira on the field when he was deployed more defensively in the second half though. The only thing similar was that he got booked in his first game of the season, and he is the FIRST Arsenal player to be booked this season. I hope that isn’t a trend.
4 – Too much has been made of the 2 goals we have conceded in 2 games.
Critics always have to choose something to comment on and there had been too much said about how our troubles are still there and we are only winning because we played poor teams. I wish to dispute both points. The first goal we conceded was close to the end of the game against Everton, when we were already 6-0 up. The second goal was Portsmouth sneaking a goal following Almunia’s butter fingers slipping the ball from the high ball into the box. Goalkeepers are bound to make a few mistakes over the course of a season, the fewer they made, the more games their teams are due to make. It is frtunatefor us hat it happened durig a game in which we are controlling comfortably. Although it was closer at 2-1, Portsmouth never looked like coming back into the game. It is true we could have defended better for the goal but I’m sure we can clear up those problems when our back four play more pften with each other this season. Do not forget Eboue and Gibbs hasn’t played much this season and they came straight in for our first choice fullbacks and Vermaelen and Gallas are only in their 3rd game together as partners. I thought Vermaelen was solid although he didn’t shine as much as the first two games but that is more due to the dominance we were having in the game rather than any lack of effort or drop of form.
5 – Gallas is our top scorer.
After scoring a nice header from a Cesc’s freekick in the first game, he scored off a deflection from a Cesc shot against Celtic and now he scored a deflection off Vermaelen’s cross to make it 3 in 3. Although many would argue that Gallas has scored fluke goals but the fact is he was there to score them. His defensive duties were also well covered and he is really playing out of his skin so far. This is encouraging to see as so many people thought he was going to leave over the summer. It is true that it would sound strange that our top scorer is a defender and that our strikers have managed one goal between themselves this season, yet we are the top scorers in the league. We had a serious problem last season when we were too reliant on the strikers to get our goals as our midfielders and defenders have stopped scoring. Now our strikers are in the thick of the action as assist-masters for our midfielders and defenders to take advantage and I think that can only be a good thing. The goals will come for the strikers but the way we’re playing now means the opposition can never use marking to keep us out.
6 – Fran Merida played his first game of the season.
Merida came on for Eduardo and showed his excellent passing. He was part of the attacking trio although he seem to drift further back into midfield a few times, due to his playing nature as a midfielder. There is no doubt he is a crafter of goals and an excellent passer of the ball. But the role as an attacker being part of the trio up front doesn’t seem to be the best for him. I hope we can see more of him though.
All in all, a very encouraging start to the new campaign. The next league game against Manchester United would be crucial in keeping our momentum going.
I will be doing a preview on the Celtic game, but I’m really looking forward to the weekend game. I am quietly confident we can stun the defending champions and show them who their successors are!