If you think this blog is dead, you’re dead wrong.
I came back from Las Vegas not too long ago for a business trip and had been real busy. Many things have happened since my last post, the dreadful loss to City, the comeback win against supposed minnows in the Champions League qualifier and of course the convincing win over Wigan. I only managed to catch the City game before I departed for Vegas. I missed the other 2 games, with me still up in the air during the game.
Right, to the City loss. I thought we actually started well and settled into the game earlier than City. Then we conceded a goal and all hell broke loose. We started to lose possesion in midfield and then Fabregas looked a poor shadow of his impressive start to the season.
The midfield wasn’t at ease, Song fouling more than usual and to be honest, we didn’t look like coming back into the game for quite a long period. The Van Persie goal was a boost, and it was significant as it shows what he can do centrally when a lot of Gooners, myself included, feel Bendtner might do a more effective job there.
Of course, to complete the nightmare, some ingrate had to score and celebrate in front of Gooners. I swear I would have given him a stamp on his face much like the one he gave Van Persie if I were to ever see him. Never has a former Gunner been so hated by Gooners (since Ashley Cole, and I must say he has even overtaken Cole’s place) and he just keep harping on his former club. Leave us be you ingrate. We don’t talk about you anymore because you are past tense so let’s keep it that way. Even our great Heny had blasted him for being disrespectful. And notice I made not one single mention of his name here.
The loss was deflating and it was always interesting to see how the team reacts after a deflating loss. It almost followed with a worse and more embarassing loss but we came through that. I didn’t catch the game so it would not be fair for me to rate the performance. Ditto for the Wigan game.
Let’s put things into perspective now. We have 2 losses, both to Manchester sides, both away games. Out home record is still perfect. Despite the losses, we scored the most goals in the Premier League to-date, and that includes those who had played more than us. Not too shabby. But we must keep up the home form and start beating some bigger teams to instill more confidence.
As for the latest game that was against West Brom, it was always about the youngsters and the best and most prompt match analysis will always be from Young Guns. It was a good win with many youngsters on show. With regards to the little bust-up between Jack Wilshere and Jerome Thomas, who was a product of the Arsenal youth academy, I’m quite peeved about what Di Matteo said about our prodigious talent. He claimed Wilshere said something insulting to Thomas causing him to react. Well, to Di Matteo and to Thomas, I’m going to say to you: Grow up and stop being a sore loser.
There are many times when I was playing Sunday league football when I get kicked a lot (I’m a striker) and sometimes like Wilshere I will refuse a shake of the hand because you can tell if someone is sincere or not. As a Gooner, I’m going to defend Wilshere and think Thomas is too sore knowing he didn’t make it at Arsenal and was always going to be second best to a very young Arsenal side. End of story.
As to the crazy mass media coverage and over-reaction from Cesc’s lack of celebrations following his goal against Wigan, I think it is so NOTHING. There are many times when I score in anger after being kicked one time too many and refuse to celebrate, besides, what better way to take revenge than to score a goal against the same villians? So let’s not get too wild about this and stat believing stories about him wanting to leave.
That’s that for now. Next post, I’ll talk about the Fulham game, a massive game as Fulham is much stronger than the opposition we have defeated to-date.
So we are finally back to Premier League action after more than a week’s internationals. I’m aware I’m writing the preview less than 2 hours before kick-off, as I have been busy the whole day packing for my one-week business trip to Las Vegas.
I’m lucky to be able to catch tonight’s game before my flight early tomorrow morning so let’s get right to it.
1 – Gunners impressive over international week.
Bendtner scored, Eduardo scored, Van Persie scored, Fabregas scored, Arshavin put in an assist and so did Ramsey. THe only bad news to come out of this is Arshavin’s injury. While all Gooners including myself are mystified by the decision to play in Russia’s midweek game against Wales, Hiddink mentioned it was Arshavin’s own decision to play. He will miss the next three games beginning tonight’s big match against City.
As frustrating as his injury may be, for we know he will scored his first hat-trick and create another 3 goals for a comfortable 6-0 win if he played tonight, we can see the other players putting in good performances for their respective nations, so hopefully they will be able to carry their form over to the league. International weeks have been notoriously bad for us in terms of injuries so to get one injury to Arshavin is what must be considered as good news to us.
I was really pleased with Eduardo’s goal, as he has had a really difficult week. Much has been said about his 2-match ban, including my previous post, so let’s hope he continues what he does best for Arsenal, that is scoring, not dving.
Ramsey also impressed me greatly playing for Wales. I thought he had a really good game and he seemed to be thriving on confidence at the moment. We need him to stand up and be counted if we were to have a good season.
2 – Man City will return with 2 ex-Gunners, led out by one of them.
To be honest, I didn’t think Toure would get the nod ahead of Gareth Barry for the skipper’s role at City. Even when Toure led out Arsenal during his time here in the absence of our official skipper, he didn’t really impressed as a leader. The reasoning to put him as skipper is understandable though, for he is an experienced player in the top flight.
City has won 3 straight games and already the media are making them out to be big contenders for the league. I think that is really premature analysis. Looking at the opponents they have met in the league so far, it is not that impressive to record 3 wins. Besides, they have only scored a grand total of 4 goal so far, with Moneybayor scoring 3 of them. They have kept 3 clean sheets, but the opponents they have met are not exactly known for their offensive prowess.
To put it bluntly, for all their spending and big names in every position, they have not impressed me yet.
3 – Putting my neck out for my beloved Arsenal
Therefore, I firmly believe we will get back to winning ways against Manchester City with a good win. I’m not sue if we can prevent them from scoring but I believe it will be a win for Arsenal at the end. A shut-out for Moneybayor would be perfect even if we cannot keep a clean sheet.
Moneybayor has not played competitively against Vermaelen and I have a feeling we will see a good kicking from our latest signing to our former player.
P.S. I hope to be able to write a review article when I’m in the States. If not, see you all in 2 weeks’ time!
Haven’t posted the whole of last week, so I want to make up for lost time. Let’s get through some of the biggest things that happened since the United game.
1 – Eduardo banned for diving against Celtic
This is the most ridiculous decision that UEFA had made and that is certainly saying a lot, what with UEFA trying their utmost to make the game better by making it worse.
How they can wait for a total of three years since the inception of the law that deception of the referee means a ban, and to make an example out of Arsenal and Eduardo brings about the following questions: – Why make an example of a dive that resulted in a goal that isn’t necessary in deciding a game? Arsenal did win 5-1 on aggregate, not 1-0 for goodness’ sake. – Why were other bigger names in football not be made an example of? Especially those dives that did decide the results of games? Aka Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney (who said “I never intentionally dive”, proving once and for all he never did well in school in his mother tongue), Didier Drogba and many others whom managed to win penalties against Arsenal? – Are UEFA and FIFA prepared to look into every foul, every dive, every goal and assess every notable incident of every game? If they are, then they need to increase their headcount drastically. If not, then they have no right to ban Eduardo and to make us feel like we owe them something. – When John Terry came out and said “English lads never dive” that is a whole load of bull. How many times have we seen Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Steven Taylor, Joe Cole all resort to first class acting? Why are none of them being made an example of?
I am not condoning Eduardo’s “dive” but I really see why he might have done so. If he has a reputation of diving, then this would not have been the first time he has been accused. This is the first “dive” since his recovery from his broken ankle. I genuinely believe he was trying to get out of the way out of instinct. If the referee gave a penalty for it, then who would refuse? Do not give me the example of Robbie Fowler who dived against Arsenal and then waved to the referee that he wasn’t fouled. That is of no importance because at the end of the day, he DID step up and scored that undeserved penalty. If he is a real sortsman that everyone is making him out to be then he would have missed on purpose. But no sane person is going to do that.
This is an absolute disgrace and I feel if this cannot be overturned then Arsenal should turn every wrong decision to UEFA and report it. Drain all of their energy and ban all evil-doers against Arsenal. If they refuse to do anything then it would be clear to the rest of the world that UEFA is a biased organisation. In fact, Arsenal should start a brand new department in picking out wrong decisions against us in every game, compile a report and send it to UEFA and demand a reply within a week. I won’t even mind doing it for free.
2 – No additional signings on top of Vermaelen
Moving along, it wasn’t a big surprise that we didn’t sign anymore players by the end of the transfer window. Senderos is still with the club and if you have read my earlier entries, you would know that I have always advocated for his stay. He is still very young for a defender, who peaks well into their 30s. But I have also mentioned that if one of Vermaelen, Gallas or Djourou were to be injured long term, we would be very light in the defensive department. This has already come true with Djourou set to miss the next 6 months of the season. I must say our first choice back four is of top quality, but we cannot expect them to last an entire season without missing a single game. What if that single game happens to be a title-decider? Or a cup final?
Wenger has taken a risk again by not signing another defensive player and I’m very sure he is aware of that fact. How that may be a factor in our success this season, we will see and can only judge come the end of the season. The season never seem to have really begun without a long term injury to a Gunner, and so Djourou’s bad news really signals the start of our season. On a more serious note, I genuinely hope out injury worries would not be as troublesome as last season. We should really relook at the training schedule and methods and find out if any of it has got to do with training. This cannot go on forever.
3 – More youngsters extend stay at Arsenal
Better news: Nicklas Bendtner and Denilson has both renewed their contracts one day after the close of the transfer window. This is how Wenger has decided to use the money, to keep his best young players. I know there are still many Gooners who are unconvinced by both players but I think we need to put things into perspective. Denilson looked jaded towards the end of last season as he played more games than any other Arsenal player last season. He was only 20, to have done what he did was incredible itself. With a proper pre-season and one year’s regular playing time under his belt, he is looking fresher this season and has done well in the games he has played so far. Remember he is still only 21.
Bendtner too is 21. He has scored only 1 less goal than Adebayor last season although the latter has started more games. To suggest Bendtner is ‘useless’ as some sites say is unfairly harsh on a young player who is always willing to try. He was never let down by the jeering, instead he ran more, worked harder, and delivered. Adebayor on the other hand, grumbled about how the fans jeered him and is still harping on it right now even though he is at City. Pathetic.
I digress. What I’m trying to say is, Bendtner will become a pivotal player for us, and this may be his big season. One thing I wonder is, why didn’t Wenger put him as our focal point in attack instead of Van Persie? His direct style and huge physique as well as his target man experience up front for Denmark makes him a prime candidate to fill that role. Van Persie, who is more technical, should be playing where Bendtner is playing at present, on the right hand side of the 3 man attack, a position he has mastered while playing for the Oranje. See him in that role for Holland, and he even scored over the weekend. It is something worth relooking at, we can be more effective up front.
4 – More transfer rumours?
Other transfer news has former great Ljungberg being linked to us but I am pretty sure that it is all fabrication. Ljungberg is long past his best and during his last season at Arsenal, one can already tell he was no longer the same player. I loved the Swede a great deal, often citing him as the epitome of an Arsenal player, skill with tenacity. But he will not be able to make a positive contribution to Arsenal on the pitch.
Onto today’s poll. Eduardo’s ban, as I mentioned above is disgraceful on UEFA’s part. It is not about the 2-match ban anymore, it is about the principle of being punished for an incident that worse perpetrators were never punished for. It is about Arsenal and Eduardo’s own image and pride.
If UEFA refuses to recognise the can of worms they have opened by insisting on the ban, then we shall bother them no end till the end of time with complaints following every UEFA sanctioned game. Good luck, Plantini. I can see you in white curly locks in no time.
I’m writing this as soon as I woke up with the memories of the match still fresh in my head. It wasn’t a good night’s rest I can assure you.
Let’s get straight into to the game review:
1 – Arsenal were the better team and led at half-time.
After a brief midfield tussle at the start of the game where both teams began cautiously but at a very high pace, trying to get a grip in midfield possession, Arsenal settled faster than the home side and dominated proceedings as the game wore on.
2 – Cesc’s absence was not really felt.
The midfield trio of Denilson, Song and Diaby covered the absence of Cesc well that none of the Football Channel pundits nor the commentators mentioned about his absence during the course of the game. I thought Song and Denilson worked really hard in the centre allowing the more offensive-minded Diaby to lend more physical support up front to our target man Van Persie.
This midfield trio is a bit different from our previous games when Cesc was around when all three midfielders were more positionally disciplined and the workload was shared between the three of them. In this game, Diaby was thrust a bit more forward with the attacking flankmen Arshavin and Eboue returning to the flanks to create a 4-4-1-1 whenever we lost possession. This is working well as we have 4 midfielders instead of 3 whenever we are in defensive mode and we soon made United lose their possession easily. This allowed the quick counter-attacking, passing style of Arsenal to thrive. Everything in the first half worked except for 2 things. We didn’t finish well enough, and it soon became clear we were playing against 12 men.
3 – United’s 12th man and most influential man-of-the-match is Mike Dean.
Let’s be objective here. United committed 22 fouls and received 2 bookings. Arsenal committed 16 fouls and received 6 bookings. That tells you who is the Man Utd star man of the game.
When Arshavin pulled the ball back in the box and Darren Fletcher slided in forcefully, he did not get the ball at all, the only part of his body which touched the ball were his arms. Double foul, if there is such a thing. What did Dean do? Wave play on.
At the other end, Antonio Valencia upended Clichy several times during a game in which he was obviously exposed to be not good enough to replace Ronaldo, he was not even called up for a single foul.
Then Van Persie won the ball in forceful style outside of the penalty box, Dean booked him and gave a free-kick. Please be objective and look at all the above incidents in replay and you will see I did not make any of it up. Freaking ludicrous!
The only correct decision I remember him making was the penalty given to United when Aumnia DID commit the foul. He wasn’t the last man as Gallas was on the same line as him when the tackle was made so the booking and penalty was an accurate one.
But throughout the game, and with every 50-50 decision going the home side’s way. There is no doubt Arsenal must do something really special to bring the points home. Am I blaming the referee squarely on his shoulders for this defeat? No, but one cannot argue that he did play an influential part.
In big games like this, a good mentally-strong referee who is not influenced by the home crowd is needed. Dean is definitely not such a referee.
4 – Almunia could have done better with the second goal.
Although it is hard to determine if it was better if Almunia stood his ground when Rooney came charging in having beaten Gallas for speed when he gave away the penalty, I felt Alumnia could and should have done better with the Diaby own goal.
It remains unclear as to what Diaby was thinking when he chose to thrust his head towards our goal instead of towards the opposite side (maybe he thought he had put in enough power to head the ball above the bar), you can see from the slow-motion replays that Almunia wasn’t looking at the ball when it was floated in as soon as players begun to jump for the ball. He had taken it for granted that it would be cleared since it looks clear that an Arsenal player was going to win it.
Given his agility and quick reflexes (which again was shown late in the ball when he denied Nani with a stupendous save), I believe it is well within his own ability to push that away and save Diaby some embarrasment. We need our ‘keeper to b 100% focused even if we look like we’re controlling the game and Alumnia was good for that in the first games of the season but here, his switch-off for a mere 2 seconds was all it needed to consign us to defeat. I still trust him of course, we make mistakes all the time but this is yet another reason why we shouldn’t have lost.
5 – Arsenal defended well despite the scoreline.
Let’s not take the defensive performance of our back 4 away from them as I thought they were absolutely outstanding yesterday. Vermaelen showed really good anticipation to nip a dangerous looking United counter with just one foot. Gallas was lively throughout, looking as good as when he was a Chelsea player. Sagna and Clichy worked really hard yesterday as well.
Both goals cannot be attributed to them as it was a really good pass that put Rooney through for the first, and it was an unfortunate own goal for the second. Diaby was distraught and although in the past I had been continually frsutrated by Diaby’s play, I thought he did well in this game. To put the blame on him for our defeat would be unfairly harsh. After his own goal, Van Persie who was captain for the night, was the first to console him and gave him encouragement. Diaby then nearly redeemed himself by beating 3 United defenders before slotting wide. Van Persie is proving to be quite the captain material as I’m sure everyone remembers he was the only player who consoled Gibbs following that horrible slip against the same opponents in the Champions League last year.
6 – Van Persie the captain.
Following the absence of Cesc, Van Persie stepped in as captain and I think he did really well to lead by example. He could easily have gotten the second goal for Arsenal when first Arshavin did really well down the left flank and sqauring the ball to a sliding Van Persie and I thought he had scored if not for a quick reaction save from Ben Foster, his best of the game. If he had scored that one, we would have been 2-0 ahead and it would have turned out to be a completely different game.
Van Persie then smashed a freekick against the crossbar having beaten their weak 2-man wall. If he had scored that one, we would have been 2-1 ahead and that would have sunk United hearts.
Then he finished well late into the game before it was ruled out correctly for an offside on Gallas, who nodded the ball which became loose until Van Persie slided the ball past a well-beaten Foster.
With much critism leveled at our attackers for not scoring enough, Eduardo had scored in midweek against Celtic and Arshavin had scored with a cracker in this game and Van Persie could have scored his first goal of the campaign in this game. This shows the signs are good and that our attackers are slowly getting into goal-scoring positions themselves instead of just creating chances.
7 – Arshavin is a big part of our attacking plans.
The pint-sized Russian is fast proving to be a real important component of the Arsenal attacking machine. Although he had a few stray passes early in the game where United were stifling his creativity, he quickly learnt the best way would be to run around those players and be in an open, dangerous position. He could have scored following a corner when he stabbed a loose ball towards the far post and it whizzed so closely past the post. That was world-class technique which deserved a goal, and from nowhere at that.
He then produced a stunning cracker with a small backlift that Foster had a touch to but it was way to powerful for any ‘keeper to stop it from flying into the top corner. It must surely be the goal-of-the-week and a goal-of-the-season contender. It is heartening to know we have him for a full season this time round.
Overall – Yes, we have lost the game due to many factors. We didn’t utilise the chances we had created. Mike Dean. Luck. But we didn’t lose because we are not good enough. That was the case when we played them in the Champions League semi-finals last season when we were really not good enough. It is clear that Adebayor, who was invisible in the tie last season, is outshone by a more willing and more talented Van Persie who is currently in the same role and that can onl be good news for Arsenal.
Three more points to note. We have lost a game but it is still very early in the season and it was an away game. Another point is Chelsea is the only big 4 who hasn’t lost a game. The last point is United won the league last season despite a poor head-to-head record against the big 4.
Yes, it hurts to have lost to a major rival and with such a strong performance we really should have sent a true warning to the rest of the league with a complimenting result. But it is not all bad, and let’s see how well this team will respond to a defeat. City comes next and it would be good to bounce back against them and show the ex-Arsenal duo that we are better off without them.
I had intended to write about the preview of the Celtic game as well as the Celtic match analysis but my internet connectin was down those two days and I must say it’s immensely frustrating.
The biggest topic of that game was the Eduardo dive, which is unfortunate. Let’s face it, Arsenal was always going to win the game regardless of that penalty and the guf between the two sides were evident. Even Celtic manager Tony Mowbray was a big enough man to admit that Arsenal went through on credit. There were a couple of players such as their only goalscorer Donati, who said Eduardo should be banned for 2 games. If that is to be the yardstick, then I reckon Cristiano Ronaldo should retire this very instant for the number of games he would have been banned for should last at least a decade.
I’m not going to condone diving even from Arsenal players. Especially from Arsenal players. I have mentioned in my blog befoe that Eboue’s gamesmanship which includes diving is what made fans turn against him last season as this is not a characteristic of an Arsenal player. But when players, ‘pundits’ (many of whom get big bucks for talking rubbish on tv) and the media begin to attack Eduardo for being a cheat is overboard. When Pires first arrived in English football, he was not a diver. But after he suffered a long term injury from a reckless tackle, he came back a more cautious player and tends to jump out of tackles which made him look like a diver and people just went on about it, ignoring the fact that he was a great player. Eduardo was never known as one. We all know what happened to his ankle last year and I believe he was trying to jump out of the tackle as well. However, we can see if this is true when we next see a tackle on Eduardo. I won’t have complained if Eduardo was cautioned with a card and we didn’t get the penalty. If there is anyone to blame, then put the blame on the referee who gave the penalty in the first place.
Michel Platini has always seem to have an agenda against Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. He has done it again by saying he will back UEFA to look at the video and ban Eduardo. This will not make any sense, as he was not even cautioned during the game. There are instances of referees seeing a violent act and giving a yellow card and as long as they put it in their report, the rules state that it cannot be overturned if the referee saw the incident. So if UEFA were to set a precedent simply because the scutiny is higher in an Arsenal game then I think UEFA really is te kind of dud organisation that they are.
Ok, I have endured it long enough the past couple of days on this one particular incident and now I feel better ranting about it.
Let’s move on to the positives. We are in the Champions League proper and we have a rather ‘kind’ draw with Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar, Greek champions Olympiacos and Belgian side Standard Liege. The trickest opposition would be Olympiakos in my opinion. We will discuss more about that another day.
Moving on to today’s preview on the big game against Manchester United:
1 – Cesc Fabregas will miss today’s game.
This is the worst news to have come out of the Arsenal camp. I had expected yesterday that Cesc would be rushed back for this game just as he played against Cetic in the first-leg when he was also deemed 50-50 to play. The latest news on the official website, however, confirmed his absence today.
There is no doubt that Cesc was on top of his game during the first 3 games of the season. He also seemed to have step up anoter level starting his first full season as captain. His game is also helped by the new formation allowing him space and cover to spray his world-renowned passes and to oil the Arsenal midfield engine. Therefore to lose him for tonight’s game against United is a big blow to us. We do have replacements in the squad, Ramsey is back. Diaby, Denilson and Song looks set to start the game and Rosicky might get a place on the bench. His involvement might be crucal as United would not have prepared for him.
The best news to come out of Cesc’s absence is that he might be able to pull out of the international game for Spain and return 100% against United’s city rivals. We need Cesc to be fit for the long term, as his 4 month absence last season seriously dented our title hopes.
The likely team for today would be Alumnia, Sagna, Clichy, Gallas, Vermaelen, Denilson, Song, Diaby, van Persie, Bendtner, Arshavin.
My ow preference is to put Ramsey in as he would be fresher than Denilson but I think Wenger will opt for the proven.
2 – Manchester United were known to begin the season in sluggish form.
True to form, United has already lost one game and to newly-promoted side Burnley, no less. They also struggled to score against another newly-promoted side Birmingham on opening day despite their dominance in possesstion. Then they took out on their frustrations against Wigan in a 5-0 drubbing.
We certainly started the season in stronger form and against better opposition like Everton. However, form seldom count for anything when the big guns face off against each other.
Antonio Valencia is a very good winger, but he is not Cristiano Ronaldo. Valencia can beat his man, and send pin-point crosses in. He has a notable pace although he isn’t the fastest man in the world. But his direct contribution to goals will not be like Ronaldo’s. That means their strikeforce would have to be heavily relied on to put away the chances they create. That can be dangerous.
Rooney, Berbatov and even Owen, are exceptional world-class strikers any club in the world would be proud to have. But the balance of utilising the three of them to the maximum is not yet found. That could be crucial to today’s result.
3 – Game will be closer than one think.
The media are still trying to write off Arsenal’s chances as this would be their first real test of the season. However, although I won’t dispute that fact, I would like to also point out that the opposite is true. Arsenal is not Burnley, is not Birmingham, and definitely isn’t Wigan. If they think they will have it easy against our new-look defence then they will be in for a real shocker.
Although we do not possess the biggest defence, we now have a real hardman in the middle that is Vermaelen. Besides, our central defence of Gallas and Vermaelen are both taller and bigger than Rooney and Owen. Berbatov is the only exception.
Manchester United is also missing Rio Ferdinand, who to me is of the same magnitute of us losing Cesc. Their possible replacements are certainly not world beaters. Johnny Evans proved to be really useful last season but he is not fully fit. Wes Brown would be a dream-come-true for Arsenal fans as we all know what he is capable of, or incapable of. John O’Shea is not a natural defender but I reckon he will do the best job of the three at present.
I feel there are goals in this game for both sides, and both my head and my heart is telling me that we will be witnessing a real cracker of a game with goals coming from both ends but we will nick a win.
No one gave us a whisker of a chance last season in our first game against United, but we defeated them 2-1. I’m quietly confident.
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!
As I will be leaving for Bangkok tomorrow for my company’s incentive trip, I won’t be able to post until return on Sunday. Therefore, I think it is right for me to preview this Saturday’s game today.
We will finally be playing our very first home game of the season against Portsmouth, who looks weaker than last season.
– Kanu is another year older and is getting less and less effective with every game.
– They no longer have Armand Traore who has returned to Arsenal.
– They lost their opening game at home to Fulham
They still have some very good players like David James, Sylvain Distin and Niko Kranjčar (who is permanently linked to us for some reason).
I think after starting the same lineup for two games, Wenger would be twitching things a bit here and there to keep the players fresh. Ramsey, Diaby, Eboue and Eduardo (If he is fit) should see some action this weekend and I won’t be surprised to see Gibbs and Wilshere play some part as well. Even with a changed side, I feel we have too much quality not to win at the Emirates. However, I think the back four, especially the central defensive partnership, should remain unchanged for them to get more understanding and experience of playing together. Also, as long as we don’t have another solid defensive midfielder other than Song, we should keep playing him. I hope we can get another player in the same mould, better with experience, so that we can rotate a bit as well. This role is energy-sapping and it is important to get another player in there, to give challenge as well as to guide Song to the next level.
Here’s to another win on Saturday. I’ll be watching in Bangkok, where will you be watching?