Monday, October 01, 2007

Arsenal show new depth and grit in a bruising encounter.

It's never easy to go to Upton Park; we found that out last season, where a last minute winner ended a match we should have won. Indeed, it had been seven years since our last win at the Boleyn.

A combination of factors ensured that Saturday's match ended in a more positive manner.

Firstly, a degree of luck. You get the feeling that the offside decision that denied Freddie a goal may not have been given last year, while Dean Ashton rarely heads straight at the goalkeeper when virtually unmarked. The feeling on West Ham boards is that they were owed a penalty as well, from a Senderos shove on Ashton.

Secondly, grit. It would be harsh to characterise West Ham as no more than a team of bruisers, but they clearly have a few players who do like to stick the boot in. Ironically, it was one of their less thuggish players who put an appalling tackle in on Alex Hleb before half-time. How Noble remained on the pitch is a mystery: accident or not, that was a leg-breaker of a tackle and we should be thankful that Alex - who Curbishley praised highly after the game - escaped with only heavy bruising.

Last year, in the face of such tackles, we may have folded. Thierry would have probably put his arm round Noble in an effort to broker the peace. This season, we have Matthieu 'don't fuck with my team' Flamini, who promptly clobbered Parker shortly afterwards. Even Cesc notably went after Noble.

I'm never one for condemning violent play, but there's a time and place to show that you'll stand up for your team-mates, and won't let yourself be bullied. With Flamini and Sagna, we finally seem to have some 'enforcers' in the side, who prevent the more physical teams from pushing us around.

Thirdly, we're scoring a variety of goals. RvP scored a great header to win the game, and were it not for the inspired Rob Green - who always seems to have a blinder against us - he would have had more. Green made fine saves from long-distance efforts from Flamini and Clichy, and also made a smart save to deny Adebayor.

Adebayor is undoubtedly one of the key figures in the team at the moment, but he needs to score with his first or second chances more often. Due to the type of team we are, he normally gets enough chances to score, but in top-level games, we might be punished for a lack of clincal finishing.

Overall, it was a real scrap. The value of these victories cannot be underestimated: we're starting to win ugly in physical matches, the real mark of a team with championship winning credentials.

The importance of the win was hammered home as United also ground out another 1-0 win. One of the most frustrating things of late has been watching United come away with points after very average performances. They've kept themselves within touching distance and are undoubtedly waiting for us to drop a few points ourselves.

The season seems to be boiling down to the following key questions already. Will Benitez tinker himself out of a title? Do United have the firepower to challenge? Can we maintain our heady start to proceedings? And, hilariously, will Chelsea finish in the top four?


Anonymous said...

1. Will Benitez tinker himself out of a title? YES!!!

2. Do United have the firepower to challenge? ABSOLUTELY NO!!!

3. Can we maintain our heady start to proceedings? OF COURSE.

4. And, hilariously, will Chelsea finish in the top four? HAHAHA! THAT'S A GOOD JOKE! :D

spike said...

I think a battle between Arsenal and United for the title will be great for the league. The two teams that play the best football, to the end. Though Reading and Fulham have been playing plenty of exciting, if not quality matches so far this year.

Oh, and I've read some analyses that say the "Benitez tinkering" storyline is overblown. I'm inclined to believe them.

Anonymous said...

[i]Last year, in the face of such tackles, we may have folded. Thierry would have probably put his arm round Noble in an effort to broker the peace. This season, we have Matthieu 'don't fuck with my team' Flamini, who promptly clobbered Parker shortly afterwards. Even Cesc notably went after Noble.[i/]
I'm turning gay and falling in love with that mentality :D
That's the spirit to kill'em all!

Anonymous said...

Both Adebayor and Diaby wasted potential goal scoring opportunities against West Ham by refusing to shoot when the ball was played onto their left side, requiring them to use their left foot to have an attempt at goal.

Instead, they both brought the ball back onto their right foot, and played the ball inside, thereby slowing down the momentum of the particular attacks and wasting the scoring opportunity as well.

Arsene talked about there being room for improvement after the game...I believe he was talking about the team being more efficient, or ruthless, in front of goal, but he could also have been talking about predominantly right footed players not being afraid to use their left foot when the situation calls for it.

I hope this is sorted out and addressed on the training ground pronto!

Anonymous said...

I dont think using one foot is a problem at all. If you look at Thierry, Im sure at least 150 of his goals were rightfooted from the left.

Anonymous said...

Thierry Henry was a preening ballerina and the team mirrored the captain.

We were fighters under Adams, fighters under Vieira and now we're fighters under Gallas (even when Gallas isn't in the team.)

Our players each taking more responsibility for themselves and the team.

I still love Henry and I know it's still too early to say this but it seems are better off without the mercurial Frenchman.

433 (total newbie) said...

It's great to be in the title race. I pretty much just watch the Arsenal games (my wife's exasperated sighing would go into overdrive if I watched any more than that, and I can't stand the exasperated sighing), but this Arsenal squad is so good, without having seem much of the other "Big 4," I have to think Arsenal's chances are as good or better than any of them. By my reckoning, Arsenal have the talent to win the league and champions league double - they just need to keep up the good form and have a little luck.

What a season Cesc is having. And Sagna's a fantastic signing. Kolo's a rock as usual, and Clichy's been great. Senderos is not at his best, and I thought Flamini, who's having a great season, was erratic against West Ham, but reading the blogs, I got that one all wrong. I like the four forwards; well I'm not sure how much I like Bendtner, but he hasn't been given many chances yet, so we'll see. Rosicky and Hleb have convinced me as wide men. If those two are healthy, and if Gallas can get healthy, and if Diarra can fulfill his potential and win a spot in central midfield, and if Almunia can prove a steady hand, then this 11 would be just about irresistible:

Adebayor RVP
Rosicky Diarra Cesc Hleb
Clichy Gallas Kolo Sagna

with Walcott, Eduardo, and Diaby as the impact subs.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

interesting questions to close...

before i attempt to answer, I do want to acknowledge the scintillating start to the season made by Arsenal once again demonstrated last night by yet another solid performance where victory was ground out in a climate and atmosphere that could neever be described as warm and welcoming.

I would urge caution amongst Arsenal fans however. We have only just reached October and there is still much to play for. In the past Arsenal notoriously struggle up North when the temperature drops... Not that I'd ever question the talent and temperament of the team but when the gloves come out and the pitches churn up it will be interesting to see if that 'grit' you are so proud of remains.

So firstly - Benitez. I think Liverpool have the strongest squad in the premier league by some distance. The problem for Benitez will be maintaining form and morale amongst such a heterogenous mix of nationalities and talents. Again the climate will also prove a factor and I still only believe that they have one truly natural goalscorer. There will be a number of players aiming to break the legs of Mr Torres and, as Mark Noble demonstrated, this could just as feasibly occur by accident. Liverpool are for me the team to beat and will be there or thereabouts around Xmas when the race truly kicks off...

Now for United - they have played poorly all season. Whilst I would like to think that they are all set to click, I think that last season was a fluke and one in which momentum had a large part to play in United's ultimate success. Let's face it, against the good teams (Liverpool, Arsenal, AC and Chelski) United limped towards the final whistle and, in the rare victories, never entirely dominated. United do however have by far and away the best central defensive partnership in the league (if not Europe) and are unlikely to concede in quite the same way that Arsenal will. If the strikers can begin to gel (and if old bolsa wood man can keep fit) I think they will also be there or thereabouts.

Arsenal will encounter a blip. That is an inevitability. What most fascinates me is how they respond to the dip in form that invariably awaits.

And finally, hopefully not. I think their bubble has burst and will only be reformed with another strong manager and a restructure of the club. Preferably starting with Kenyon...

Timmy P said...

I think you have it down perfectly 433, we have a great side apart from Almunia who will cost us points!