Monday, September 03, 2007

A team is born, but there's a long way to go yet.

An absolutely fantastic performance on the weekend, one that made me proud to be a gooner (tm pending) and also believe that this team has the ability to win trophies this year. However, I also remember writing this article in October last year after the 4-0 destruction of Reading, so I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself.

At half-time yesterday, it seemed the game was all but won An early penalty by Adebayor and a wonderfully scrappy goal by Fabregas - from a corner, a corner! - had helped put us in the driving seat to such an extent that the second half almost seemed to be a formality. Pompey's defence was shocking. They failed to put a man on the post that would have prevented Cesc's goal, and further japes continued in the second half.

Yet football matches have a knack of changing very quickly, and when Senderos was, very harshly, sent off for pulling Kanu down with his little finger, the game immediately came alive. How the referee instantly judged this to be a professional foul, whilst letting James stay on the field is a trifle baffling, I must say. I certainly don't think that we benefit from the 'Old Trafford' effect that certain other clubs get when referees turn up there.

But we dug in and scored next, thanks to quick thinking from Cesc and Rosicky, and some comically awful Pompey defending. Adams, who again kept a low profile on the Pompey bench, must have been rubbing his eyes in disbelief.

We then conceded after what I thought was a moment of utter brilliance from Kanu, but which turned out to be one of the flukier goals you'll see this year.

That we didn't concede further was partially due to luck but also thanks to some titanic defending at the back. Kolo and Gilbs were, to put it simply, utterly heroic. Clichy was magnificent on the left, and Flamini continued to show that full-back should be his position of choice.

In midfield Rosicky had his best game for a long, long time, Hleb did well before tiring (undoubtedly due to the illness which almost ruled him out of the game), Denilson made a few sloppy passes but otherwise did well, and Robin played well for the team without threatening as much as he would have probably liked.

Almunia made a number of saves, but his distribution remains absolutely rotten. At times it was the same as the CL final: he kept on punting the ball back to Pompey time and time again through futile long-balls to Adebayor. He needs to learn how to re-start play more effectively.

Diaby and Adebayor remain enigmatic. Diaby displayed some lovely close-control to carve out openings, but was let down by a poor final ball and, to put it mildly, some sloppy finishing. A work in progress, undoubtedly, but what will the final work look like? As for Adebayor, he's clearly giving his all at the moment, yet his shooting, decision making and crossing were all poor. I'd still like to see Bendtner given a bit more of a chance.

Fabregas almost flotated on air during the game. He is the heartbeat of the team; the fulcrum around which everything revolves. My main criticism last year was his lack of goals, which now no longer seems to be an issue. The main problem will be keeping hold of him.

Overall, it was a wonderful performance, full of fight and spirit but also blinding technique and passing. At one moment a man near me stood up and let out a heartfelt cheer due to a piece of sublime passing. That's how good we can be.

A team is clearly also being formed and its for this reason I can say that I genuinely haven't missed Thierry yet. We now have eleven men who play as a unit and play for each other, in a way that simply wasn't present during Thierry's tenure as captain. Teams win trophies - that's an important point to remember and why I'm increasingly optimistic about this season.

Whether we can keep it up is the big question. It's been a tremendous start to the season, but the first real acid test is coming up in two weeks time: White Hart Lane. A win there and this season could prove very interesting.


Goonerboy was quoted in the Financial Times on Saturday. Whilst I am obviously proud of this, I was also blissfully unaware until I was told by a fellow blogger. So, if you see me quoted anywhere again, unlikely as this may be, do drop me a line via the comments or the contact form, as I may not actually be aware...


The Muso said...

Although Kanu went down easily, PS raised his hands and definitely made contact. He was also denying a definite goalscoring opp, which was not necessarily the case with RvP who was going away from goal. Halsey would have been pilloried if he hadn't shown red and he made the right choice for me.

As Goodplaya points out, 3 reds in 9 for Senderos (all for similar offences) is quite worrying. Great performance overall though.

hot man said...

damnit second gun

Anonymous said...

I would also like to see Bendtner given more games, and not just ten minute from the end of time either.

Arsene has said that he's not ready to start games, but I don't believe that he's being kept on the bench for that reason...probably more to do with the fact that he's the "junior" striker amongst the four that we currently have.

Bendtner is 19 and built like Daley Thompson (former British Olympic star for those of you not old enough to remember)...he has plenty of confidence in his own ability and I really think he has a big present and future in the game.

Let's give the guy a run in the team and see what happens.

Frichie said...

I would really like to Bendtner and Eduardo play together, I think they can be a good partnership. Unfortunately I think they gonna have to wait for January and the African Nations Cup before they get a chance.

Diaby really needs to get more playing time, he doesnt lack confidence, but he does look a bit rusty. Each time he has come on off the bench he has shown promise, but trying to get into a game with 10 minutes to go is never gonna be easy. Dont worry soon he will be dancing through midfield AND getting his final ball right. Should have scored that Header tho!

SwedishGoon said...

I dont consider Almunias "distribution" that bad and as ugly as the man is he is making great saves, saves I dont think mad Jens would make right now. Almunia for #1.

Anonymous said...

I made the same observation about Almunia on Sunday. His general goalkeeping is very good (I think much better than Jens for the majority of the time) but that desire to keep punting the ball up to the keeper at the other end drives me nuts. It seems to be the first option he looks for. Get that right and he could be a great keeper for us.

Frichie said...

I noticed several times, Almunia wincing as he hoofed the ball up, he knew full well that he wasnt kicking properly. I must say I was surprised that I didnt see him once distribute quickly with a throw. Well i think we might still see him in goal for a couple more games, If Lehman is still throwing a strop

Anonymous said...

Almunia distributed the ball several times by throwing..and one of his kicks down the right side to Denilson was long and incredibly accurate. His kicks are ceratinly no worse than Jens'.

Magic Hat said...

Almunia seemed to suffer a blip after we were down to ten men, made a hash of the freekick, never looked like commanding the box and got a little worried as shots flew in, made for it in the end.

Great win, nearly perfect for most of it, when down to ten he worked our socks off and defended well mostly (Clichy's lapses aside), I was very pleased.

Anonymous said...

Almunia did the bread and butter job very well. Handled backpasses extremely well. Made some good saves (including from the free kick). I think we all remeber the Manuel of old but my confidence in him is growing rapidly.