Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bolton succumb to our Valentine's Day charms

Crikey, what a game. I wasn't expecting 120 minutes of, frankly, unmissable action: my prediction for the game had been for Bolton to edge us out in a dour affair.

But we did what we do best: fast, one-touch, incisive football. Gone were the hoards of long-balls pumped up from the back, which were a painful feature of the original tie. Back was Arsene's patented pinball football.

A bold team selection, especially in midfield, paid off. Hleb was utterly superb on his return, tackling, creating, running and passing with the ball almost glued to his feet. He's so instrumental to keeping the team ticking over at the moment that his performance last night highlighted just how much we've missed him of late. There is talk of a re-occurrence of his injury, but we should all hope for the best, because he will be instrumental to any success we have in Europe this season.

On the left, Rosicky was excellent and should have had an assist from a superb cross to Baptista during the first half. Diaby looks a little jaded after having been out for so long, but showed enough touches on the ball to remind us of his promise.

In between these three was the man of the match: Denilson. What a performance from such a young lad, over 120 minutes. He seems to play like Cesc but with a greater physical presence, and he's almost instantly established himself as someone pushing for a starting position in the team.

Other honourable mentions should go to Aliadiere, whose excellent run set up Freddie, Clichy, who is defying my early expectations of him this year, and Adebayor who should have had a hat-trick were it not for his inability to fire the ball into an open net. Adey's running, work-rate, but also incisiveness on and off the ball, have caused many teams problems this season. His finishing is not at the level of van Persie but he's putting himself in a position where it's hard to justify dropping him.

Put simply, the game should never have gone into extra-time. Despite Gilberto's excellent penalties against spuds, questions should be asked as to whether he should be our second choice penalty taker. Rosicky might seem a better option to my mind. Yet Gilbs miss only became an issue due to Baptista's howler of a game. He battled, kept running, and kept putting himself in positions to attempt shots on goal, but his touch and finishing were utterly atrocious last night. Despite his league-cup heroics, the jury is still firmly out.

But, this season, the longer games go on, the better we play it would seem. It was vital for us to score in extra-time because we would have lost the shoot-out. Say what you will of Bolton, but even the most optimistic Gooner would have to say that they would be able to find five penalty takers rather more quickly than us last night.

And thus up stepped Freddie to score a goal which asks as many questions as it solves. Is he back? Was that a last hurrah? Can he somehow return to the Freddie we all knew and love? Time will tell but that goal will have at least guaranteed him a few starts in the coming weeks.

The game ended in farce, Anelka somehow escaping a red-card, Baptista blazing the ball over, and then Adey scoring the simplest goal he'll ever get.

We deserved it. We deserved to finally break this ridiculous hoo-doo that a rather average team of hackers of had over us. And we did it our way, as it were.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good points all along. However, it appears that the issue on Freddie is quite simple.

He was atrocious. The goal aside (brilliantly taken, I admit) he appeared the slowest player to ever done a premiership jersey. He looked clueless and absolutely out of pace and confidence. Then he showed that he still possesses some ability in front of goal with a cool finish, but to me it did not change the fact that Freddie has been way past it for more than two years now.

Very sad as he used to personify Arsenal. Now he is a tragically deteriorating 29-year old. Absolutely nowhere near good enough for even a spot on the bench - partcilarly with the quality of the players he could be keeping out of the line-up (you mentioned Denilson for one. Pure class the kid).

Had Theo been even slightly more stable, we would have seen Freddie playing for some second rate Spanish or Italian team long ago.

While I rate Feddie the man, Freddie the player has become a comically inept imbarrasement to himself and to the team.

Notice how he the other players had no confidence in him and avoided looking for him even when he was the most likely passing option.

I hope he finds his form with another team (closer to his current level), but his Arsenal days are numbered.

Gus J.

Anonymous said...

erm i think that to call freddie atrocious after that goal i a little silly! i mean you can't say that he was rubbish excluding the goal as that was his key contribution! and he made some good challenges to! i think you're a bit of a fool frankly. he has been injured for two months and as he revealed after the game has only trained twice in the last eight months i'd like to see anyone, even henry, come on after such a lay-off and fit into such a high-paced game. stop being so reactionary and give the winning goal scorer a chance!!

on the article i think you hit the nail on the head about Denilson! a friend asked me what kind of midfield player he was before the game and i said "like cesc but stronger!"

clichy was exceptional again, he is such a good player (and better that cunt-face cole!!)

hleb and aliadiere were immensely influentional! and i feel sorry for baptista cos he got better towars the end. i think he just needs to calm down a bit, but i would choose him over Reyes anyday - thay whiny bitch can stay in spain thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

erm i think that to call freddie atrocious after that goal i a little silly! i mean you can't say that he was rubbish excluding the goal as that was his key contribution! and he made some good challenges to! i think you're a bit of a fool frankly. he has been injured for two months and as he revealed after the game has only trained twice in the last eight months i'd like to see anyone, even henry, come on after such a lay-off and fit into such a high-paced game. stop being so reactionary and give the winning goal scorer a chance!!

on the article i think you hit the nail on the head about Denilson! a friend asked me what kind of midfield player he was before the game and i said "like cesc but stronger!"

clichy was exceptional again, he is such a good player (and better that cunt-face cole!!)

hleb and aliadiere were immensely influentional! and i feel sorry for baptista cos he got better towars the end. i think he just needs to calm down a bit, but i would choose him over Reyes anyday - thay whiny bitch can stay in spain thank you very much.

Tim said...

A little harsh on Freddie! The boy is getting older, but he still lends that veteran presence along with his trademark run – which produced a goal when some of our younger lads couldn't even put the ball into an open net.

His veteran presence is welcome, and needed, for the rest of this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go somewhere else this summer, but I'm glad he's still with us now.

legrandesaucisse said...

It may seem harsh but I don't think its a knee-jerk reaction by people. Don't get me wrong, I agree Tim that its good to have him till the summer but he isn't going to start matches any more.

He scored an awesome goal last night but his goalscoring was his main contribution to the team. How many has he scored in the last 3 seasons?

Maybe he will regain fitness and match sharpness but I think if we were to bring on a player to change things in last 20 mins of a game it would have to be Theo or Ali.

legrandesaucisse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gazzap said...

the jury is NOT out on Baptista. Wenger has already said that he knows whether he will stay at Arsenal or not but he wont be making it public until the summer. personally I hope wenger has decided that he stays.

legrandesaucisse said...

Do you think that Real are still keen on Reyes an how do you think that would impact on us?

Its a strange one with the Beast, his touch can appear leaden, despite his size he can be manouvered off the ball but he is showing flashes of his ability. You can't fluke 2 high-scoring seasons in Spain. He did have a poor game yesterday though - poor finishing and woeful passing

Anonymous said...

I will take any time a player who play like shit ("atrocious")for 89 mins and then score a goal in the 90th over one who plays beautifully but couldn't find the net.

legrandesaucisse said...

The point is - how often does Freddy do that anymore? Not often thats for sure. There's no way i'd have him in the team over Rosicky or Hleb both of whom are now vital players creatively. They don't score enough thats for sure but they do much more than that.

Dong Zhou said...

I suspect Anelka stayed on the pitch as the otherwise excellent Foy felt sorry for Bolton or didn't want a riot on his hands.

Freddie is a solid wide player who adds depth to the squad but last night showed what he hasn't been doing, making that run and leaving the keeper with no chance. Last season, he wasn't even making that run, before it just seemed to be the shooting that had gone missing.