Sunday, December 10, 2006

Arsenal earn a point, and prove several, over at the Bridge.

A great result today on the back of a great performance. Indeed, had it not been for, surely, a contender for goal of the season, and a hideous foul before hand, we could be celebrating one of the best wins in the club's recent history.

I had been nervous before the game. I felt we were on to a hiding without the experience and ability of Kolo, Henry, Rosicky and Gallas. But a lot of young players stood up today and were counted, and that can only bode well for the future. It seems that our current youngsters are good enough to win the title, especially if we can keep them together and continue their progression together, but it may not be this year, or even next.

My main concern after the Porto game was that we would play too deep and invite Chelsea pressure onto us. That, and the fact that Chelsea would have too much power in their midfield for us to deal with. To get the result we did entailed a towering performance from Gilberto, who looked every inch Club Captain today - not just in his performance, but in his general conduct, notably trying to calm down several inflamed situations. He does a, at times, simple job, but he did it exceptionally today; his ability to break up and redistribute play was key to our midfield bearing a near onslaught at times.

Flamini took his goal well, but was largely anonymous otherwise. For me, this is a good thing - it showed he was sticking to a simpler task of assisting Gilberto, rather than attempting the more grandiose manoeuvres that he can struggle with. I'm still unsure as to whether he can step up and become a really integral player to the team, but if he keeps on scoring vital goals, and making vital deflections, he can surely only press his claim more compellingly.

The rest of the midfield was also excellent. Hleb caused Chelsea all sorts of problems, even if he did blaze over a glorious opportunity to win the game; Fabregas's continued gravitas and maturity is nothing short of stunning; van Persie has increasingly impressed me of late with his all round contribution to our performances, especially when being asked to play out of position on the left. Adebayor led the line very well, yet could have done with a little more assistance. I think he looks far more convincing as the 1 in a 4-5-1 than Henry, and he seems to be more of a threat to defences than he was even at the start of the season.

The defence also did well. Djourou continues to impress, and Clichy also had a very decent game. Eboue had a fairly decent game, but was caught out ball-watching on occasion, allowing the ball to float over his head to a player he hadn't noticed. It was encouraging to see Phil take on Drogba and not be overawed, but his lack of pace, and general edginess was a concern at times. Djourou has to start in front of him if there's a choice between the two.

And as for Jens... a superb save from Robben was counterbalanced by an awful flap at a corner, and a near fatal error in the 94th minute. The skin of Mathieu Flamini's studs saved him on the second occasion. Jens needs to eradicate these little niggling errors that he seems to be making at the moment. And as for the Drogba incident...I was glad to see the referee only book the two of them for their outrageous 'handbags at five paces' moment.

The game was a fascinating encounter, the first half going to Chelsea, the second a clear-cut score-draw. After we'd managed to stem the tide from the first half - and survived Lampard's numerous attempts to find the deflections that seemingly only he can find - I always fancied us to push on and take something from the game. And when we scored, I honestly thought we would win. I'm more than happy with the point as it is, as I think it proves a lot about the bottle and potential of our fledgling side.

As for Ashley, do we really need to talk about him? He pouted, fouled, and played reasonably, if, it must be said, without ever looking considerably better than Clichy. It was a bit like seeing an ex with a new boyfriend, when he strode out against us: it was a bit odd, it hurt a little, but the reasons for the separation were so compelling that ultimately it didn't bother me too much. His fevered ego seems to have found its El Dorado in West London and I'm happy to leave it at that. We miss him a player, maybe, but certainly not as a person, and if Clichy can continue his progression, we hopefully won't miss him as a player for too much longer.

Chel$ea's general conduct probably won them no new friends: Drogba's hideous diving, the swarms of Chel$ea players around the referee when he dared book Ashley for an awful foul on Hleb. Indeed, its games like today when you realise that money can buy you success, but not respect or class. And I'd like to think that a team with an average age of 23 won a lot more of that today than their opponents, and, in doing so, again emphasised the extremely bright future that our club is hopefully heading towards.


tunadog said...

Excellent article.There was something about todays performance that was more traditional Arsenal than the beautiful flowing football we have seen in the past few years.This was the Arsenal of old ,fighting over every blade of grass,the players giving their all & then coming back for more. Getting anything & everything in the way to stop the opposition. Mathieu Flamini may not be Arsenals best player nor my favourite but he always gives everything for the cause & today he bled red & white.Today this was the Arsenal of old no pouting ,moaning & arm waving but honest to god hard work & effort.The Arsenal of Tony Adams & Martin Keown & i for one was delighted to see it.

Unknown said...

The goal was beautiful. Obviously not a rare bit of skill like Essien's, but great teamwork and thoughtful passing leading to an easy opportunity, which I vastly prefer.

And it's hard to say enough about how classless Chelsea are, you're absolutely right. So privileged and entitled, they turn my stomach. Even if Man U win this year, as long as Chelsea don't, I'm happy.

Anonymous said...

How, can a left footed player be out of position on the left hand side? Chelsea played better than us and we were lucky to get a point. That said...we played very well!!

Anonymous said...

What a claptrap article. I'm a Chelsea fan and you lot were lucky you did'nt lose 3-1. Your defence is too brittle even with Gallas and Toure back. You said your fans would get on Cole's back but just like your support - it was a damp squib! As for class...your reaction to Charlie Cooke's introduction was pathetic...Arsenal have always and will always be classless!

Goonerboy said...

RvP is left footed, but prefers to play on the right so he can cut in and shoot. That's where he plays for Holland. If we actually had a left winger then we would play RvP just in front of Hleb on the right, with Thierry on the left.

Anonymous said...

Arsenal will always be classless? Compare what we did for Charlie Geroge when he was in a bit of trouble compared to what you did for Alan Hudson and you tell me who is classless. Oh, I forgot. You probably dont even know who Hudson is because he played before Abramovich came along

Anonymous said...

Haha @ anon11.02

Whether we were lucky or not so what, you didn't win 3-1 which means you dropped two points. And as for a Chav saying we are classless, I seem to recall at lot of chaps in blue shouting at the ref and falling over and such like. Real classy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.02. arsenal have and always will be classless? you basing that on your length of time supporting chelscum? all of 2 and a bit season i would reckon. You have no history, and no class, and never will do. You're a sham. and fuck cole - scum for scum.

YTSL said...

Excellent piece. You wrote a lot of what I wanted to say (and had been thinking of writing on my own blog!)!

The only additions I would make are the following:

1) Re Eboue: He wasn't only caught ball-watching. When he had the ball, he sometimes dallied too much on it, as though he was trying to do something more expansive with it, only to be caught in possession and often in dangerous positions. Also, clearly, his concentration lapsed all the more after his argy-bargy with Lampard. In short: His temperament needs to be sorted out. Otherwise, once Ralph is 100% fit again, Eboue must be relegated to second choice. And maybe even third choice when Gilbert returns from his loan spell.

2) Re Adebayor: As the commentator on TV (Martin Tyler?) said, it looked like he had been told something at half-time because he worked harder and better in the second half than the first. But I'd say that, all in all, we don't have a forward who seems all that happy when asked to play as a lone striker.

3) Re Gilberto: He was immense against Chelsea. Captaincy clearly suits him, and brings out the best in him. If Henry (and Arsene) had some humility, etc., he (they) would be able to recognize that and hand over the captaincy permanently to him. But I doubt that this will happen, so can only hope that Henry can watch and learn from Gilberto in this regard.

4) Overall: Prior to the game, I would have been very happy to settle for a point from Stamford Bridge. But for a few minutes there, Arsenal made me truly believe that we were going to emerge with all three points. What a pity that that feeling only lasted for a few minutes. Still what's apparent is that this present side is capable of allowing us to dream. For they have the makings of champions, only I wish that there were/had been less of a uniform youthfulness about them, since it means that like you wrote, we will have to await a while to see them at their best (or even "just" able to seriously compete for the Premiership crown).

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 11:29 about the result, Chelsea were the better side, hit the post three times, had an effort cleared of the line and Drogba miskicking with an open net.

We defended well and in fits and spurts we managed to get forward but we were outplayed. Adebayor had good and bad moments, sometimes holding the ball up, sometimes losing the ball with a bad first touch, it typified our attacking performance.

Jens was surprisingly poor, a save from Robben aside, he was beaten many times and spilled two crosses, it made me wonder if he has lost form recently. I feel you are too harsh on Drogba, I did not see him dive and he was the best player on the pitch for me, felt sorry when he got injured.

Anonymous said...

"the defence also did well" !!!!!
very suspicious analysis.
I suspect that Eboue didn't know Robben had come on. And Senderos's performance made Djourou look like Maldini.

Anonymous said...

dong zhou didnt see DogBra dive?
omg!! What do people see fgs?

Anonymous said...

We were a bit lucky to get the draw, but its about time we had some luck go our way. (CSKA Moscow and hitting the post 3 times at Bolton springs to mind.)
Still the lads played with a lot of spirit, and considering the average age, the injuries, and the mid week games it can be seen as a positive performance and result overall.
Chelsea, right now are a powerfull, experienced and dirty side. It makes them strong but it must suck to support them.

Anonymous said...

Fgs? Drogba may have gone down too easily once against Senderos but that more a AJ "make most of it" rather then a Ronaldo dive