Monday, September 18, 2006

Shades of Madrid in Manchester.

In more ways than one. As regular readers will know, I hadn't been overly optimistic about this match; yet I remember in early February feeling a touch of dread about our match in Spain, and, well, you know what happened then.

Quite simply, we played United off the park. It was a dazzling performance, all the more so for it being on the back of Liverpool Chelsea's dirty, attritional bore-fest.

4-5-1 or not 4-5-1? is that the question? With 4-5-1 Hleb, Fab, Rosicky, Gilbs, Freddie and Adey all clicked together and knew what they were doing. It was glorious, 'pinball' football, with the ball being zipped around the poor Scholes and O'Shea before they could work out what was going on.

It's really hard to fault any of the players when they play that well. Rosicky played like a more brutal Pires, combining Bobby's old elegance with a higher tackling rate, more bottle, and with a shot that's so hard he could market it to the US army. He was just about my M.O.M. due to his phenomenal work-rate. Hleb looked far more comfortable in a five man midfield as he could drift into the centre, yet also not have to worry about shooting. If you take away any expectations of Hleb regularly scoring you realise what a fantastic player he is. It was his pass that set up the penalty. He can take the ball past players through his dribbling and cut defences in two. He also tackled magnificently yesterday. If he has runners in front of him, he should push for the highest assists in the PL.

Gilberto despite, or perhaps because, of his missed penalty, did his job superbly. There were a few misplaced passes but he helped break up any linkage between United's midfield and attack, and anchored our midfield admirably. Freddie still doesn't look like scoring but he did look like a threat yesterday, and showed he still has the ability to play high quality football. Cesc also pulled out a huge performance. He, perhaps, did not reach the dizzy heights of his destruction of Juve, but he wasn't far off, and, most importantly, he pushed himself until the last moments of the game. Any player that can find the strength to win the ball, take it past two players and then set up a winning goal in the 86th minute is no featherweight.

Adebayor's performance was perhaps the most pleasing in many ways. Up until his goal he'd looked, to me, a great leader of the front line, who could hold the ball up and create space. However, with his rather tame miss when almost clean through in the second half, I wondered whether he was actually a goalscoring forward. It was great, therefore, to see him get a goal to complete the restoration of my early faith in him. I had started to waiver of late, but I'm now convinced he is a very decent player, and one who brings more to the team than RvP. If Rvp isn't scoring he doesn't really do a lot else; Adey does, and he could grow into a far mor complete player.

The only player I have any real criticism for is Eboue. His positional play at times was poor, and he has painful lapses of concentration that will cost us if not resolved. Yet he does seem to be learning, and he gets forward a lot better than Lauren. The other four in defence were awesome. Gallas looks like he's been a Gooner for years, not weeks, already. It was great to see him celebrate as he did at the end. Maybe he's beginning to realise what it's like to play for a team that actually try and play football. Djourou and Toure were superb, almost faultless, and I'm struggling to see how Phil can come back in for Djourou when he's fit again.

And Jens. He stood up, stared down Ronaldo and let him smash the ball into his face. Then he gets up and tells O'Shea not to come anywhere near him at a corner again or they'll be trouble. Then he pulls of a save from Solksjaer which equals his save - which i already consider the best I've seen - at Highbury against Madrid. Hero, legend, my favourite goalie ever...

On a more general note, several things were clear.

Firstly, we showed a tremendous team spirit which makes a mockery of Ash's book. For instance - Kolo, in the 89th/90th minute stretching out to make a tackle and pulling something in his hip. Instead of going off for treatment, and leaving us with only 10 men, he stays on and battles through. Jens and the aforementioned ball in face. Gilberto remarking how after he missed the penalty, the rest of the team rallied round him, which spurred him on.

Secondly, we can win the league. I think Chelsea are dangerously close to a Galactico state of affairs - as seen through their midfield of four central midfielders. They were average yesterday and we can beat them. The early hype surrounding United was destroyed yesterday. They couldn't live with us - indeed, I think any team that actually trys to play us [and not 'park the bus'] we can beat. Of more immediate concern - it'd be lovely for Arsenal to win next weekend, at the Emirates...

Thirdly, Henry's absence. This season, we've won four games. In each Thierry hasn't started. To me this says two possible things. Firstly, and most plausibly, he hasn't been fully fit. If not, Arsene needs to have more faith in his available players, and not exacerbate the problem by playing Tel. Secondly, the other players take more repsonsibility when he's not about; if so, they need to keep this and take it into games where he does play.

There's something almost uncomparibly sweet about beating United at Old Trafford, and I hope this victory goes some way to exorcising the ghosts of the buffet.What I do really feel, is that in the space of time between Madrid and Manchester, a new Arsenal side has been built. One that is capable of making a serious challenge for any honour in European and domestic football.


Anonymous said...

Re Eboue. What about playing him at right wing when Lauren gets back? He has often been our most attacking player this season, especially at home, offering the width and pace required on the big pitch.

Anonymous said...

A team that challenges for the top honours. That's nothing to take for granted. I feel lucky today. Might not win anything again this year, but it's great to be competitive.

Borehamwood Gooner said...

great article, the best I have read today.

Henry can be rested for a whole game or taken off after 60 mins if we are winning. He is a good player but he needs to be on form, fully fit as he needs to use his pace to get the final 5%.

I am thinking that Gallas may end up playing left back for Arsenal full time, with Clichy covering.

The only concern I have is width and wide players and who can play there for the whole of the season to create and score goals.

Goonerboy said...

One more thing: during the match yesterday, I wore, for good luck, my 97/98 away shirt - the yellow one with blue stripes across it that we wore when won the league in 98.

The question is: Do i now wear this for every game?

Anonymous said...

A nice summary of the match -- your comments always make good sense to me. I like Adebayour as well, although it can be frustrating at times.

One point about the game though, is the immediate reaction of the players to Gilberto's penalty strike. On MotD last night there appeared to be 4 Man U players rushing in to clear, but *no* Arsenal players following up for any loose ball. I would have thought that with the pace our players have we'd be favourites to get to ti. I've noticed this before, so I don't think it's a one-off. Fabregas appeared to pull out of his run as the ball was struck.


gazzap said...

I had also thought about Eboue at right wing, but he is not as comfortable on the ball in terms of the intricate triangles that wenger loves so much, as say Hleb. sure if injuries force it then Eboue at right wing would be no bad thing. I think Lauren is a better defender while Eboue has pace to get past people going forward.

goonerboy, have you not noticed that TH has only played in the 3 games where the opposition did park the proverbial bus but missed all 4 of the open games?

Goonerboy said...

Good point Gazzap.

It's going to be really interesting to see how Sheff Utd play next Saturday. Even if they try to park the bus, I think we can break through them. I really hope Tel has a big game soon. He needs one.

Borehamwood Gooner said...

Eboue at right wing, have you seen his final ball?

Anonymous said...

You are the best I have read all day. A true gooner with an eye for quality

Anonymous said...

What else can I say other than I agree with just about everything you say, particularly about Hleb who has bossed the last two games. The only thing is I ALWAYS had faith in Ade, not easy on the eye but not easy to play against either. I was at the game yesterday and I have to say big up to the Walcott family, I was sat next to them and credit to them for foregoing executive treatment to come and sit with the fans.

Goonerboy said...

Thanks, LD. Great minds...

I'd always rather watch the game among the fans, and I will get to Old Trafford one day.

Anonymous said...

Agree with most of what you say but did cesc really play that well? love the guy etc, etc. but the assist for goal aside, he's had far better games. Saw a few of the Sunday papers even had him best on ... would have thought Rosicky, Gilberto, Hleb, Ade, Jens and even Djorou played better.
And do we go back to 442 after being reminded of how effective 451 seems to be for us (at least against teams that actually play)? Rosicky looked far better centrally. Maybe RVP could play left.

Anonymous said...

i hope cashley was watching

Anonymous said...

Goonerboy,this is simply the best post I've read on the Man U match. Your analyse are spot on, especially on Adebayor and Cest. Many bloggers made Cest look like the worst player yesterday but forgot that a good player may not necesarilly be the best allround performer on the day (though he's done that many times), but the one that does the most important and vital things when needed. Cest-Fab 85th minute tackle-move-pass which created the goal, to me made up for all the fualty passes he may have made. I'm also glad to know that, unlike other bloggers, you see Adebayor as a player of quality. I thought he played the role well yesternight, being a lone stricker against a team like United with Ferdinand and co on the defence line isn't the easiest thing to do. Please keep up the good work, I have made your site one of my favourites from today.

DB10 said...

Lots of people on lots of blogs have touched on the TH issue and how we seem to be doing OK without him. Here's a question for you though?

Would you keep a fully fit TH from the starting line-up with this team starting to gain some momentum?

At the moment I'd have to say yes ... I think it would give these players a chance to shine outside of his shadow, and I also think that then TH can come back and be an awesome HUNGRY striker & the team would know they can produce without him - hopefully strengthening the belief that we don't need to be reliant on him to do it all.

When we had Vieira, Pires, Bergkamp & Sol in their prime there were players all over the pitch that could & would take on responsibility - in a way, with no disrespect to the man, I think TH inhibits that at the moment simply cos of the awesome player he is.

Don't get me wrong I still think he's the best striker we have, but wenger's building a team not a 1 man army.

Anyway, I would just be interested to hear people's opinion whether he should, effectively, be dropped for a few games to allow the team to develop.

Anonymous said...

After watching the game for a second time I was suprised to see how well Hleb was backtracking. Watching him run down cristano on the left from behind and easily take the ball showed both his speed and determination to play some defense. I think you hit the nail on the head when you point out that other shooting he is contributing in so many ways that I don't think we can sit him.

Anonymous said...

what impressed me about the cesc assist was not even the winning of the ball from cron and the run with it but the fact that earlier on he tried to set up ade (i think) who slipped and the ball was intercepted.

he then ran back and won the ball from cron. that was around the 84th minute and he was still full of determination and running. dod not leave it to the defence.

about henry and our wins when he has not started we were not exactly winning against dinamo at home when he got in and freddie got a header then he gave walcot the ball who passed to flamster.

Anonymous said...

Very erudite comments, and yes, you must wear that shirt every game (in fact, I'm not even sure under the official rules of football superstition, you're even allowed to wash it).

Anyone who criticizes Fab is either (a) a Chelski-supporting c**t like Anti, or (b) a complete d*ckhead.

He makes so much of the ball, keeps moving it around, and keeps our rhythm going, and when you make as many passes as he does, some of them will always go astray.

He's already one of the best midfielders in the world as a playmaker, and he's going to get better, so don't listen to these negative minded little turds who say otherwise - they are talking out of their chelski-loving sphincters.

Anonymous said...

I noted EXACTLY this similarity

in advance of the United match on Sunday... it was PRECISELY Madrid... bar us lacking Henry