Sunday, October 21, 2007

Beauty against the beast and another three points.

Firstly, apologies for my absence. I suppose that's what happens when you move, change job and, er, socialise too much. For the record, I now have a 6 hour journey, each way, to see the mighty Arse, so cut me some slack.

Anyway, onto the match.

There's a reason why Bolton's enclosure was half-empty yesterday, and it's not just because they're bottom of the league. They play a strange mutation of football, one which seeks to glorify its worst elements to near ridiculous heights. Fouling and long-balls: that's all Bolton have. And that's not football. People pay to watch football. They travel hundreds of miles to watch teams pass the ball, to score, to create and entertain. They do not want to see a bunch of thugs kick and batter each other. There are plenty of other sports for people if they seek this form of entertainment. Boxing perhaps; dare I say it, rugby as well.

So it was good to get one over Bolton yesterday, and not just because I want Arsenal to win every game they play; it resembled some form of triumph for the beauty of sport over its darker side.

But we made hard work of it, and perhaps should have been down to 10 men early in the first half. Cesc, who can be rattled, was wound up by a particularly disagreeable challenge from McCann, and after receiving a yellow card, proceeded to hack down Campo. Another referee might have sent him off, and it was one of the few sensible decisions Riley took all afternoon to recognise what had happened did not warrant ruining the game.

The profligacy of Ade almost cost us as well. He's a bizarre player to watch at times. He can pull a first touch out that can make you weep with joy, and follow it with a finish that comes straight from the Steven Gerrard in Moscow training manual. He has the talent, but will his need for so many chances cost us in bigger games? I hope not.

The real stars of the show yesterday were Alex Hleb and Theo. Hleb had a wonderfully creative performance, that merited at least an assist. Indeed, it was his ball to Theo that led to our second goal.

Theo himself was a joy to behold, running with pace and verve at a baffled Bolton defence. It summed up Ade's afternoon that he possibly, accidentally, blocked a shot from Theo that might have crept in. Theo's lack of goals doesn't bother me at the moment; they will come in time. The same can be said about Eduardo, who had a far better performance than has been suggested in some of the papers this morning.

It was also good to have Rosicky back. With both him and Hleb in the team, we look far more threatening. I just hope he can stop getting these little niggles which seem to plague him. He will be crucial in our upcoming games against United and Liverpool.

One player who was pretty dire yesterday was Eboue. His passing was poor, he doesn't seem to know what he's doing on the wing, he dives and he blasted a chance over. It might just be rustiness after a prolonged absence, but the diving is nothing new and he's got to cut it out. Remember what shirt you're wearing.

All in all, so far so good. We're currently pretty unstoppable, and whilst we've benefited from an absence of top-four opposition, and a plethora of home games, we've done the business and you can only beat the team in front of you.

A season defining week awakes. How we perform against Liverpool and United will say a lot about how we're going to do this year.

ps - a note to Gunnersaurus.

Overall, I think you're a lovely mascot. In fact, I'd go as far to say that you rule. However I've been asked to request that you either get a new t-shirt firing gun, or that you take better aim. I've seen one t-shirt reach the upper tier this season. That type of finishing just isn't good enough.


Anonymous said...

How we perform against Liverpool and ManU wont define our season. It is a marathon over 38 hurdles! However I dont mind 6 points in the next two games!

Anonymous said...

I don't accept the view that the upcoming games against Liverpool & Man Utd are seasoning defining, or that, following those games, a proper assessment can be made of how serious our title challenge is going to be.

I think our season defining games are the ones that we play week in, week out, against the so called lesser teams in the premier league, i.e. those teams not considered to be the "big four".

When all is said and done, we can only win a maximum of 3 points per game if we beat Liverpool and Man Utd...we don't suddenly get to play our joker and double our points if we beat those sides!

Based on how we've performed against the lesser sides in the last two seasons, it's the games against those clubs where the majority of our points over this season are going to be won or lost.

So let's keep things in perspective and not over react if we win against Liverpool and Man Utd, nor over react if we lose either.

Anonymous said...

We have played one of the top 4 - Man City. Beat them 1-0. I forget, how did ManU do against them?

Anonymous said...

Nice article, but I agree with others that the upcoming games will not be season defining. Remember...Man U lost 2 to the Gunners and tied Chelsea twice last season and were the champions. Those games did not define their season.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece overall.

I have just been reading a load of negative crap on inside Arsenal, so it is nice to see someone with a sense of perspective.

Anonymous said...

Don't think these games will be defining, remember United lost home and away to us, they still won the title with ease!

Anonymous said...

I understand the logic of the majority of comments above: the next 2 PL games do not equal the whole season however they are pivotal for a few reasons:

1. Being against title contenders, 3 points to us means 3 points the opposition doesn't win; it is effectively like a double points game.

2. The confidence of these young guns is growing and growing and it is that momentum which I think is getting us through some of these games - belief. It is now to be tested. If we win the next two (or at least perform well) then the team (and supporters) know that this team is of Premiership quality & the confidence continues to grow. If we lose then it is how we bounce back which may define the team's season.

3. Individual question marks posed by supporters and critics about certain aspects of the team - e.g. missed opportunities up front, the Gallas/Toure combination, our best formation without RVP, Eboue in midfield, Walcott stepping up, defending set pieces etc. will be shown for what they really are (or aren't) against better quality teams.

The Premiership will not be decided in the next 2 games. There are bigger challenges in the new year, when weather, heavy pitches, tougher game scheduling and increased niggly injuries meet us, but I think we will learn a lot about our team in the next 2 weeks.