Thursday, March 09, 2006

Are you starting to believe?

Apologies for the late posting, but we have a very tired/worse for wear Goonerboy today, for obvious reasons. Given the plethora of info/opinions about last night's game, I'm sure you made do.

Well - are you beginning to believe? Is this our season? Finally I'm seeing things I've never seen in Arsenal CL performances before: luck, players raising their game, and tactical flexibility. It was great to put one over Robinhio, Baptista, and Guti - all of whom had written off Arsenal in their decisions to stay at/join Madrid. Imagine: Arsenal winning the CL, and moving into Ashburton. We would go from medium-big European club, into the top 5 (?) in Europe.

Of course, much will depend on the draw tomorrow. In a way, I'd prefer a big team to the supposedly 'easy' ones. I think if we get, say, Barcelona, the entire team will raise their game perhaps more than if we got Villareal/Lyon/Benfica, who might catch us napping through over confidence. Whoever we get, the most important thing is we have a team who our truly hungry for the CL this year. The difference between our almost rabid enthuasiasm to win, and Chelsea's sterile submission was striking. Whoever we play will be tough but we are capable of winning this trophy, which I only ever thought before in the unbeaten season. There's something about the team this years that favours continental football and we need to make the most of it.

As for the game itself: the most exciting 0-0 ever? Quite possibly. The game immediately flew into 5th gear and the pace did not relent - which I think favoured us. None of our usual problems in the premiership of teams sitting back and waiting for us to make mistakes. Playing 5 in the middle, allowed Gilbs to cover the defence more effectively than usual, letting Fab, Freddie, and Hleb run the midfield. Reyes had a good game, but he wasn't as sizzling as he was in the 1st leg. He probably should have scored when he hit the bar, but, to be fair to him, Henry slighlty over-delayed his pass. If he'd played it a moment earier, Jose could have hit it first time and would have scored. After the unfair, and almost ridiculous, stick Hleb has been receiving, it was great to see him put in a performance which shows he is a world class player. Hleb has had to recover from a nasty injury this season, which retarded his progress in getting used to the Premiership. I think he will be good this season and great next year. He certainly should be starting ahead of Bobby. If Hleb could, perhaps, just learn to take a shot more often, he'd be the complete midfield playmaker. As it was, he was awesome last night. And Cesc - what can you say: stay with us for ever?! Please!

Everyone was superb. Phil seems to be getting a ridiculous amount of criticism for one sliced kick: he was immense apart from that and I don't see why Sol should replace him when he's fit. The Toure-Senderos partnership is one we should build on - with Djourou - as the core of our future defence. Flamini beggered belief. I'm not convinced that he'll become an automatic starter, but what a utility player to have! Becks only exposed him once all night, and his general energy and determination more than made up for his difficulties in an unfamiliar position. Eboue has been so good since the ACoN that I really don't know who 1st choice RB is now. I'm a fan of Ralph, but i think Gilbert looked really promising also: we have 3 RBs who can all hold their own in the 1st team. A pleasing selection dilemma.

Henry also had a great game, rubbishing his critics who say he doesn't turn up for big games. He had the Madrid defence in the palm of his hands for most of the match.

However, my man of the match has to be Jens, or 'Safe Hans' as some hack has dubbed him. The difference between a good/solid keeper and a great one is whether they make saves they should not make. Jens save to prevent Raul scoring was the greatest save I've ever seen by an Arsenal keeper [1991-present that is]. Perhaps the Seaman penalty saves in the CWC runs were good, and his save against Sheff utd was certainly brilliant - but given the moment and given the game, Jens save almost brought a tear to my eye. That save was as important to the victory as T's goal in the first leg. That save was the equivalent of Henry jinking past 4 players in the Bearnabeu. He was a rock throughout, and is certainly my player of the season thusfar.

The style of the match was almost like an adult schoolyard game - players flying from one end to another in desperate sorties, neither being able to break the deadlock. Both teams had their chances, and Casillas had to pull off a great save to tip a shot by T round the post. Still, we held on, with Pires almost scoring from inside his half at the death. Little bit more power next time Bobby!

At the end, after my pulse rate had risen to a clearly unhealthy BPM, the ref's whistle first brought relief, then pure, unadulterated joy.

This season is all about belief. Even if we finish 5th or don't win the CL, we have to keep believing. We have turned a corner and we are on the up. We have to keep this team together because it will be capable of great things. For now we have to believe that we can win this damn trophy at last; even if we don't, last night showed why we should always keep the faith.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations for your blog

I think you r totally right in ur rankings. Hleb was my man of the match together with Jens.
But Henry was also very good i think.

PS: I am sorry for my bad english but i am Swiss

Goonerboy said...

Thanks - tell all your friends about it! Newsnow don't seem to want to let me subscribe, so i haven't had many hits, even tho I update it daily.

Your English seems fine mate.

Anonymous said...

Maybye a site like arseblog could add u to their links.

Your Swiss Gooner