Son of a Gun!

Musings on Arsenal Football Club by a Singaporean Gooner (Gooner since 1988)

Champions League Qualifier: Celtic 0 – 2 Arsenal August 19, 2009

Filed under: Champions League,Season 2009/2010 — Son of a Gunner @ 8:52 pm

Celtic 0 – 2 Arsenal

As I mentioned in yesterday’ preview, I would have been very surprised if we couldn’t nick a goal or two away at Parkhead and so it proved that we did in fact become the first English side since Nottingham Forest in 1983 to nick a win at Celtic.

But in the end, it took a couple of fortunate deflections to seal the win, but as the guy from East Lower said, those were lucky goals but the win is by no means lucky as we made our own luck by dominating proceedings especially in the second half.

It turned out all the injury doubts that was Denilson, Sagna and Fabregas were unfounded and they all started to make the lineup unchanged from the one that demolished Everton on Saturday.

Celtic sprang a surprise in their lineup by putting their winger Aiden McGeady up front in the centre with Georgios Samaras. I suppose this was Tony Mowbray’s “cunning plan”, to maximise their attacking threat at home by fielding their best technical player up front where he can do the most damage.

Let’s dissect the game in points, as always:

1 – Arsenal is looking more and more solid defensively.
Vermaelen is doing all the right things at the moment. Together with Gallas, whom Vermaelen said is the main reason why he is adapting so well to the Arsenal team, they make a really solid looking pair. I don’t remember seeing a stronger defensive partnership since the Sol Campbell-Kolo Toure days and that is really something. Although it is still early days but we have faced two not-too-shabby opponents so far and both away games and they have impressed. This is encouraging and again shows why Arsene Wenger always know best, even when he came under fire for letting Toure go. Even Wenger is surprised at the impressive form Vermaelen is showing.

2 – Alex Song impressed again.
Alex Song has shown positional maturity on top of his tough physicality, which was missing from his game last year. He has made Celtic’s midfield look inferior and Massimo Donati was made to look so bad he had t be substituted before the hour is up. Song’s form and tactical development is a big reason why the team is looking stronger defensively as well.

3 – Arsenal scored 8 in two games, but none from the strikers (bar Eduardo in 17 minutes of action)
Our attacking trio of Arshavin, Van Persie and Bendtner has yet to deliver goal-wise, although all three have played a part in the goals we have scored. The names of Arshavin and Van Persie would have made a lot of defences nervous and rightly so, the two being world-class technical players. It is pretty clear from the two games we have played that Arshavin was tightly marked given his impact inthe second half of last season. However, I still feel 4-3-3 is the way to go and Arshavin is a mobile player who will make this work for himself and his attacking colleagues. They have also given the midfield more chances to score and that can only be a good thing as one of the major reasons why we suffered in certain attacking players’ absence last season was the fact we couldn’t get enough goals from midfield. Remember we still have Vela and Walcott to return who will freshen up the attacking 3 even more.

4 – Diaby came on for Arshavin as an attacker.
I had included Diaby as one of the midfielders for the season ahead andI have also said how his own game, which is more focused on offense but at the same time in a central role but his experience on the flanks also meant that he can suit the current 4-3-3 system as part of the midfield trio. During the game, Diaby (looking weird with hair) came on for Arshavin and was immediately thrust into offensive action. I can see his technical game being used in attack but I feel he would be more effective in midfield and can add more strength in the centre of the park as well. We will see where he will feature more as the season progress but whatever the case, thanks to the new 4-3-3 formation, we won’t have to see Diaby being put on the flanks again.

5 – Eduardo pulled out and Jack Wilshere took over his place on the bench.
It is a worry that Eduardo had to pull out of the squad at the last minute, it could be a pre-caution given his history of injuries, or it could be something worse. Whatever the case, let’s hope he returns quickly. It is worth remembering he is the only Arsenal striker who have scored in the new season so far. We have yet to see Jack Wilshere in action in the new season but it is still very early days. I have no doubt we will see more of him as the season progresses, especially when we enter packed fixtures.

All in all, another good away win that will stand us in good stead when we entertain them at the Emirates for the second leg. I think there will still be more goals in this tie, but it would be good for the team’s confidence if we can keep another clean sheet.

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Champions League Qualifier 1st-leg Preview: Celtic August 18, 2009

Filed under: Champions League,Season 2009/2010 — Son of a Gunner @ 11:04 pm

Good news followed by bad news x 4.

Good news: Abou Diaby is back in contention for a place.
Bad news: Theo Walcott is out, Bacary Sagna is doubtful, Denilson is doubtful and Cesc Fabregas is 50-50 toplay in the first leg at Parkhead.

I have a feeling that Cesc will pass the fitness test and will start the game with Diaby taking over Denilson’s place, and Sagna will not be risked and will be replaced by Emmanuel Eboue. The rest of the lineup should be identical to the one that destroyed Everton on Saturday.

The good thing about Arsenal’s new 4-3-3 formation is that we have ample players to fill the roles even though if Denilson and Walcott are both confirmed out, we still have players like Diaby, Ramsey and Wilshere to step into the side. The only concern for me is that we have no real back-up for Alex Song and the sooner we rectify that the better. Good news is Alex Song is fit and raring to go.

Celtic will prove to be a tougher nut to crack as they are relatively experienced in the Champions League with some credible performances over the past few seasons. Despite the fact the they have a strong record against English opposition, it is worth noting that Arsenal will be meeting Celtic for the first time in a competitive fixture and Arsenal has a healthy record of doing things other English sides couldn’t manage to do, like being the first English side to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu (ooooooo Henry!).

Another fact is they have lost Shunsuke Nakamura, who was their most influential player for the past two season and who scored a wonderful goal against Manchester United last season. Although they still have 23 year-old Aiden McGeady, whom Wenger rates highly.

A lot has been made of the loud and hostile atmosphere of Celtic’s homeground and former Cveltic player Alan Thompson even claimed that Arsenal “won’t know what hit them” when our team visit this evening. I’m sorry to disappoint Thompson but Arsenal have experienced more hostile crowds for example the one at Real Madrid which is larger than Celtic Park by 20,000. As Wenger said, “we can deal with the hostile atmosphere“.

If Cesc is really unavailable, Ramsey should be coming in to replace him alongside Diaby and Song and even with that, I am confident we can pull off an away win. I would be really surprised if we didn’t get an away goal at least.

Looking at what Celtic has to offer, we will have a better idea of who we will be dealing with.

Glenn Loovens, who never played for the full national Dutch team, is a key defender for Celtic and news has it that he will be out with an injury. His defensive partner Gary Cladwell is also doubtful but even if he plays, he is still best known for being a former Newcastle defender, and that isn’t saying a lot.

Their right wingback Andreas Hinkel is someone I quite rate and he is one of the reasons why Celtic is best known for their wing play, together with winger Aiden McGeady. Their strikeforce is former Manchester City reject Georgios Samaras and Marc-Antoine Fortune, both of whom are not prolific strikers at the highest level. Even though Celtic’s main threat will come from the flanks, we now have the aerially dominant Thomas Vermaelen to deal with dangerous crosses into the box.

Our own attacking trio of Arshavin, van Persie and Bendtner will also prove to be a real handful for the makeshift Celtic defence. Arshavin, in particular, always shine against European competition, especially one that prides itself on playing th passing game. Wenger tipped him to shine and I also believe he will be the one to watch tonight.

Despite Celtic’s strengths in flank-play and the hostile atmosphere their fans generate, I am still extremely confident we can pull off a result that will stun Celtic and then assure the passage to the ain Champions League draw at the Emirates.

Confidence is sky-high at the moment, and if we play at the same tempo as we did on Saturday, Celtic will have no answer. As I’ve mentioned, I firmly believe we can grab an away goal or two, but te question is, will we be able to keep a clean sheet?

I think so, and at the end of the day, the most important thing is to ensure we win the tie over two-legs. And I’m confident we will.