Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Finally the Real Arsenal turn up

Well...

The Real players had really been talking it up this week.

They were on a roll. Robinho was finally scoring; Woodgate was making the clean sheets; even Becks was putting substance behind the style. Gravesen summed it up when he said Arsenal were going to play a different Real to the one they'd been drawn against.

But tonight, in the Santiago Bernabeau, Arsenal outplayed and outclassed Real Madrid. The final scoreline flattered Real: they could, maybe should, have been three nil done within the opening 10 minutes. I was amazed at how poor Real were. Especially considering that they were given a free-kick every time our players made a challenge involving physical contact.

Arsene more or less picked the team I hoped: Pires on the bench - at least two of Reyes, Hleb and Diaby starting. I was a bit dissapointed Diaby didn't start, but our midfield played so well, you have to respect Arsene's choice.

Reyes made Cincinho look average, and forced him to increasingly resort to cheating to shackle him: fouls, hystironics, etc. I thought the behaviour of Real when Reyes was injured was abhorrent: in the premiership the ball would have been out. No playing on, no keeper pushing our player off the pitch.

Hleb was superb. Even more than Diaby I hoped he'd get picked tonight. His close control was awesome, and while his final ball was lacking sometimes he showed enough to make me think he will become a great Arsenal player. His passes will begin to connect, and when they do he'll become Henry's favourite player. My only concern is that means we have another midfielder who struggles to score.

Gilberto was fantastic as the 'invisible wall'; Freddie not only gave 100% but actually looked a threat when going forward; Fabregas was incredible, visionary passing and full blooded tackling. If our midfield could just add another 10-15 goals to our current tally, even if only over the season, we'd be easily in champions league qualification places.

In fact it's hard to pick out individual players for praise because what really gave me heart was the team nature of the performance. Flamini perhaps struggled at times, which is fair enough when you consider how out of position he was. but Toure and Senderos, time and again, helped him out. Eboue seems to be have transformed by the ACoN. His tackling was brilliant and he's so good going forward - it's great to see that we now, when fit, have three right backs who I feel are all good enough for the first team: Ralph, Gilbert, and Eboue. Lehman produced his, now almost standard, superb performance. His save from an offside Beckham was top class - a goal then could have knocked us off kilter and gifted Real a game they ill deserved. I really feel he should be Germany's 1st choice keeper in the WC. Except when England play: stick Kahn in then.

Indeed, perhaps the revelation of the night was Henry tackling back. Finally! I think that summed up a team effort. We may have won due to a superb individual goal, but the team played as a unit, for eachother, and were at it from the first whistle. I haven't seen that combination of graft and skil for a long time. Same again in two weeks please.

1 comment:

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