Monday, November 13, 2006

Moving moments at the Grove: Arsenal 3 Liverpool 0

An excellent win yesterday. I thought Liverpool came out well in the first half, and caused us a few problems with their movement, but by the second half - and the important second goal - it was one of those blissful games where you could relax and enjoy the team comprehensively outplay one of the 'big four'.

And there was, for me, several genuinely moving moments in the game, which I thought I'd try and base this post around - at least one of which came from the opposing fans.

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, the game kicked off with a minute's silence, given it was rememberance day, an act flawlessly observed by both sets of fans. Seeing 60,000 people all in silence, over an issue that actually warrants a silence is always rather moving, and it did put the importance of the game - and football - into context.

I have to admit to being worried when I saw Almunia and the Flamster in the tunnel, but both acquitted themselves: Almunia solidly, and Flamini excellently. Indeed, Flamini's presence in the midfield brought some much needed simplicity to our passing. In some respects, having three players of such technical ability as Hleb, Rosicky, and Fabregas, perhaps lends the team to over-playing a bit, and Flamini was excellent as a solid, and sometimes spectacular midfield presence, a stepping stone between Gilberto and Hleb/Fab. Perhaps there is a role in midfield for Flamini and also, perhaps, the old debate about not being able to play Pires and Ljunberg together will resurface with Hleb and Rosicky.

Flamini's gutsy goal rounded off an excellent move, sparked by Hleb's constant incisiveness and ingenuity on the ball. The passion of Flamini's celebration was great to see, and one can only hope the FA ends the farce of booking players for celebrating their goals. When you consider Carragher got off with a warning after scything down Van Persie, booking players for petty offences has to stop.

Hleb was, again, outstanding yesterday. Every time he picked up the ball he seemed to beat a player, if not two. His final ball was at times a little astray, but he caused the Liverpool defence and midfield no end of trouble. I would say he is now clearly one of most creative and dangerous players, and has been for some time. Especially when he's got Eboue behind/in front of him. It was a joy to see Eboue back, and it emphasised how much we'd missed him. I almost felt embarrassed for Gonzalez, such was Eboue's dominance, and he was superb getting forward as well.

In fact the whole back four played well. Clichy looked excellent getting forward and at the back, and Gallas's energy and general classiness kept Liverpool quiet going forward. His goal has to go down as one of the most shocking examples of marking I've seen from a top-level English team though. And it was Gallas who provided a great moment at the end, coming to the corner of the North and west stands and clapping the fans who'd stayed til the end. The, surely soon to be legendary, fist pump was brought out again, and it meant a lot to see the players give the fans some credit. I thought the atmosphere was better yesterday, despite a rather quiet first half.

But my MOTM has to be 'king' Kolo Toure who was outstanding. He never stopped running for the 90 minutes, making superb defensive challenges, and a goal that smacked of Adams in '98. Thierry also had a good, if interesting, game. Van Persie seemed to want to play in the areas Thierry has traditionally occupied on the left, so Henry took to just running about like a mad-man, contributing anywhere he could. There was one point when he sprinted back to tackle Kuyt or Crouch, and his credentials as Captain were emphasised. He does need a goal though. And finally, RvP, who also played well, showing his un-selfish side with a fine pass to Kolo for the second goal. I do worry, however, how he and Thierry can both play together in the long-run, without one of them making significant sacrifices to the type of game they want to play, such are the similarities in the positions they tend to take during attacks.

We shouldn't get too carried away. It was very much a game yesterday, as with all our home games this season, in which the first goal was crucial to the rest of the match. If Liverpool had scored it, they would have undoubtedly put 11 behind the ball. Especially because they looked poor yesterday. I don't know what Zenden is doing in their squad, and they seemed to have stocked up on rather average players - Crouch, Pennant, Bellamy, Gonazalez. They also missed Sissoko, badly, and Gerrard had a bit of a sulky game. Beating them is an excellent result, but the contentions of many that Liverpool would challenge for the title looks to have been a pipe-dream. It was 3-0 yesterday, but it should have been more, and Liverpool were also lucky to finish the game with 11 players.

But, a word of praise for some of the Liverpool fans. By even the 70th minute, it was clear that their team weren't going to take anything from the game, and many starting packing up and going home: their European cup banner had been taken down a long time before Gallas's goal. But, in the 9oth minute, when their team were 3-0 down and hopelessly out of the game, I saw the remaining couple of hundred Liverpool fans - in what was by then a very empty stand - raise their scarves and sing 'You'll never walk alone'. I was, I have to admit, rather moved by that exhibition of pride and almost irrational support for their club, and those fans that stayed and sung deserved far better than the crap their team had churned out. I also thought we could have perhaps let them sing it once without the, admittedly amusing, 'sign on, sign on...' riposte. Heh.

So a good win, and one we should build on next week against Newcastle. We have the acid test of Bolton away after that though, before we get too ahead of ourselves.


Anonymous said...

I think Van Persie is only occupying the left because that is his position. When he plays up front, he drifts to the right and cuts inside. I think he will make it at Arsenal, but, as with any 22 year old, it is never guarunteed.

The Muso said...

A very good view of what for me was an evening of relief more than anything. We do get carried away with our criticisms sometimes and it was great to see the lads putting in one of those performances that make you remember why these are good times to be a gunner.

A couple of observations:

I think RvP enjoyed being allowed to play further up the pitch. I've always thought him to be too static to play out wide.

Robin upfront and Flamini's tendency to drift more centrally allowed Clichy more space than he's had since he's come back. This and the confidence he's getting from a run of games meant that he had his best game for a while.

Flamini proved to us last night that while he will never be cesc, he's got the attitude, the determination and the engine to contribute substantially. I also like the fact that his defensive-mindedness frees up cesc a little in that department - maybe a good away day tactic? I've always liked Flam's guts and think he's gotten a rough time especially since he's played the majority of recent games at left back (he's a right-footed central mid for chrissakes, I'd like to see scholes or lampard do that) You could see how much that goal meant to him.

gazzap said...

I have said before that you can only have 2 of Hleb, Fab or Rosicky play in any game. all 3 and yes we over play. there is no mixture of styles whereas a different kind of player like Flam or Diaby, balances out the midfield.
As you point out, where RVP plays he is really getting in Henry's way. Henry wants to drift left but cant. that could be solved by playing Hleb on the left and RVP right, then Henry might become potent again. he really does not like playing centre forward.

Robin Van Persie's Mother said...

RvP plays on the left because he has been told to play there. If you watch carefully he spends a lot of time playing defensively protecting his left back and left midfield and providing passing options, particularly important during our sustained difficulty with the left back position. This gives TH the opportunity to play a free role. TH likes to attack from the left so he naturally gravitates to that area of the pitch and he is not a natural centre forward so he is often not in the centre to receive crosses. Often as the game progresses RvP switches to the right where he is particularly effective and there have been some good cameo interpalys with Theo Walcott (something for the future perhaps). His natural position though is Inside Right and he has the skill and passing ability to become another DB type player..there is of course only one DB but there are numerous ways to play that slighter deeper position if you have the skill, and he seems to have it, notice his assists are increasing by the game (two more yesterday). Marco Van Basten recognises that and has built a national team around him. Wenger thinks so too. To get this working properly takes time and TH and RvP are not great partners, but then no-one can play with TH. You just have to let him get on with it. The good news is that we seem to be developing the ability to score from all over the pitch, and as Clichy gets back to fitness I think we will see more of RvP in the middle and to the right, where he is most effective at providing assists and scoring himself.

Anonymous said...

I know that this is slightly outside the topic of this article, but it has to be said.

The response and unquestionable support of the fans is clearly an admirable trait (as displayed by the Liverpool fans). But in todays world where football is business first, entertainement second and finally a sport, it is also something which the boards of many clubs abuse.

The point is that the fans should also demand something for their support. They should demand that their ambitions and love for the team is met by the people that run the club. We are quick off the blocks to critiscise the players, referees and managers, but rarely do we focus our attention to the real problem.

Sometimes supporting the team is best done by making it clear that we love the team (its history, mentality and aura), not some product designed to sell shirts and scarves.

Did someone say Doug Ellis?

I know that I have said it before, but the team belongs to the supporters. Not Abramovich (hence there is no Chelsea), not Kia Joorabchian or any other business man bored with life in Monaco and looking to see whether we will let them mess with our culturem identity and history.

Let's not let them get away with it.

Or I will just have to start supporting Scunthorpe!

To all a great week.

Gus J.

Anonymous said...

I am a Liverpool fan but I live and work (yes I have a job) in London. Some of my mates are Gooners so they offered me one of their spare tickets. I must say the new ground is simply excellent - you should be proud as it is top class. As for the game I think Liverpool were ok first half without really hurting you. Then when you showed that extra incision we needed, we simply caved in - no stomach for the fight. Was surprised to see so many of your fans leaving early - well done to those who stayed. All in all you deserved the win and having sat in amongst your fans I must say they are top quality and a credit to the club, even if the sign on sign on song is more than a little tiresome. Did like the Ashley song though. I bet he gets a better reception than Pennant did - not! Good luck for the rest of the season I'd prefer to see you do well than Manure and Chavski.

Will 2000 said...

I watched the Barca Zaragosa game when I got back. The similarities between Hleb and Messi were uncanny at times. I think Hleb can become as good (and is close already) as Messi, who is meant to be one of the best at his position in the World.

It would be difficult for me to move him to the left when he has such a great (and still developing) understanding with Eboue though.

Ash said...

Henry and Van Persie will be fine when Henry finds his game. They both played well yesterday. Agree about Rosicky-Hleb-Cesc pass pass routine. I noticed Hleb playing more wide instead of coming inside and playing those triangle passes with Cesc and Rosicky. We need more urgency and I'd like to see Baptista playing in Flamini's role when he comes back

Anonymous said...

Chelsea is still miles ahead...ManU is catching up...Arsenal is 3rd best. That's a fact.

Anonymous said...

Chelsea is still miles ahead...ManU is catching up...Arsenal is 3rd best. That's a fact.

Anonymous said...

Chelsea is still miles ahead...ManU is catching up...Arsenal is 3rd best. That's a fact.

Anonymous said...

anonymous who post three times why is man utd cacthing up. i not like they brought in just that some of their old heads are doing well.but they just need two/three injuries to key players,particularly in midfield and attack and they will surely suffer. just look at their midfield it is very poor. frankly i think they are overachieving right now and could suffer during the christmas period. scholes/giggs/neville are not exactly young now.

madame wenger said...

As a modern jazz enthusiast I was perplexed by your reference to John Coltrane.
You compare our football to a free form jazz artist in one article but in another you are seeking a Plan B. Do you think this kind of music or football relies on plans?

Anonymous said...

Don't get too excited. Liverpool has been horrid on the road this year. I was curious to see who would win out, Arsenal's poor home form or Liverpool's poor away form. I guess theirs was worse than yours.

Goonerboy said...

Madame Wenger, I would say music is infinitely more complex than football. When Arsenal are on song, as it were, I feel the rapid passing and moving is reminiscent of free-jazz. Although I would agree that Coltrane didn't have a plan b, really.

And Arsene has many, many plans.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where you're going with that comment Gus J. The Liverpool fans were showing support of their team. And one could I suppose say a mindless tradition. What good has booing one's team ever done? When they're playing crap, they know it without having their fans tell them. Do you think it's going to change how they play? If they're upset with Rafa or their board, then direct criticism at them. Same goes for us.

gazzap said...

I agree that man u are 2 key injuries away from meltdown, but they are still ahead of chelsea. the table never lies! our squad is as strong as chelsea's depsite only costing a fraction of the price. admittedly, something is not quite clicking yet but its not to do with a lack of quality from the players. I think once the system is sorted, we will be better than chelsea and man u. maybe next season we will be unbeatable again?

lase said...

comical gazzap!