Monday, October 29, 2007

A point won, but it should have been more.

Going to Anfield is never easy. In some of our other league winning campaigns under Wenger we've won there, but I also seem to remember Liverpool turning us over twice in 1998. And much of the team that played yesterday would have had the 4-1 hammering from last season lodged firmly in the back of their minds.

So, I'll take a point, especially after the way we played. But it could, and really should, have been three.

The last thing you ever want to do in a big match is go behind early, and so it was with a degree of trepidation that I saw Gerrard set up the free kick on the edge of our box during the opening exchanges. Questions should be asked as to how and why the ball got through the wall. That's two games now, at Anfield and White Hart Lane, where we've conceded soft goals from free-kicks that have put us on the back foot early on. Walls are there to block shots and protect the goal, not to dissolve as soon as a ball is hit towards them.

We seemed extremely nervous early on. We tried to keep at our normal passing game, but we also seemed intent on playing it at around 100mph, which played into Liverpool's hands. Much of this was due to Liverpool's pressing and harrying of our midfield, and Cesc in particular was not allowed to settle on the ball in the opening exchanges.

But we kept plugging away, and it soon became abunduntly clear that we had the capacity to score. After a wonderful pass from Cesc, Ade really should have done better in a one on one with Reina. This was followed by a woeful volley across goal from Eboue, who, when confronted with a free striking opportunity inside the box, yet again failed to deliver.

Indeed, Eboue was the weak link in the side, again. His passing was poor, his dribbling not always up to standard, and his gamesmanship was yet again over the top. Carragher, who has plummeted even further in my estimation after his constant fouling (including a clear penalty), certainly did make some form of contact with an arm midway through the first half, but not nearly enough to warrant the embarrasing, drawn-out reaction from Eboue. Maybe the African nations cup can't come soon enough.

Wenger's team selection did seem to play into Liverpool's hands. Adebayor, not as sharp as he has been at times this season, led the line admirably, as he always does, but didn't really look like scoring. Having Theo tucked in behind him from an earlier stage might have been a better option. I certainly would have sacrificed Eboue for Walcott from the off.

As it was, we first took control of the game, and then completely dominated it. Time and time again we patiently built our attacks, either to see them saved, or, more often than not, Liverpool hoofing the ball back down the field. The standard of Liverpool's passing was so atrocious, and so unambitious, that as time went on I grew more and more angry that we were the team behind, yet also slightly worried that it could be one of those days were the better team goes home empty handed. How Benitez can justify a long-ball policy with players of the calibre of Gerrard, Alonso and Mascherano is beyond me.

But cometh the hour, cometh the Cesc. Despite having missed an open goal earlier in the game, he kept plugging away, and the goal was a thing of beauty, mainly due to a sensational, Bergkamp-esque pass from Hleb. The finish was that most schoolboy of things, the toe-poke, but it was what we deserved.

A few minutes later we should have won the match when Cesc slammed the ball against the post and Bendtner screwed the ball over the bar. By my count, that was two efforts against the post, and two open goals missed; it should have been more than one goal.

A few players deserve individual praise.

Manuel Almunia has won me over. Questions might be asked about the goal, but it would be extremely harsh to do so. What was more evident was a series of superb saves, and a general steadiness at the back. Jens isn't going to play for Arsenal again if Manu keeps up this form, and I'm delighted to have been proved wrong.

I would praise Kolo, but he was simply awesome as ever. What was more heartening, was seeing William Gallas finally pull out a captain's performance for the team. His block near the end on Gerrard was particularly sensational.

Cesc was superb, as ever, yet it was Alex Hleb who was probably our man of the match. Liverpool simply could not take the ball from his feet, and the Cesc-Hleb combination is really pushing us forward in games at the moment, such is their understanding of each others games, and the breadth of their combined creativity.

Overall then, two points dropped, as much as one point won. But prior to the game, a point at Anfield would have been acceptable. Moreover, it's the first major test we've had this season, and we've come through it with flying colours. We've shown that against the big boys, we can still play our game, not give up, and not be muscled out. But we still need to see what happens next weekend before we get too carried away.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

+1.. spot on analysis. I am getting tired of Eboue too.

Anonymous said...

More on Hleb.

I honestly can't get enough of him right now.

I'd say he's 90% of the way to winning me over entirely.

Everything's coming together for him and I have to say, he really is some player!

Anonymous said...

neat and pretty accurate analysis. eboue, as tired as i am of his constant antics, i think he's doing all right on the right side and was quite unlucky not to score. admitted he should've done better with the volley but so should have cesc and bendtner with their much easier opportunities. oh and remember when you say you cant wait for the african cup of nations that kolo will be on his way too. somehow that tips the balance a lot.

Goonerboy said...

Kolo should not be allowed to leave the country.

Adam said...

To be fair to Cesc and Bendtner, I hadn't even registered that the rebounds off the post had been hit until after the ball was already on its way, so that really shows how fast the balls came back to them, and I think they did well to connect to the ball at all.

Anonymous said...

very good report.
perhaps with those 2 chances that came off the post, Bendtner saw Cesc attempt it first time without taking a touch and maybe thought he could do better. what I am saying is maybe the first one influenced the second one to happen.
Its like missing a penalty. If you have another penalty in a game where you have missed a penalty, it often happens that the second player also misses. its like some kind of psycological permission to do exactly what your team mate has done and so in some way makes it alright.

Anonymous said...

As a liverpool fan at yesterdays game I have to compliment Arsenal on some fantastic passing and movement off the ball.. at times it was dizzying to watch. That said I still feel that you guys could come up short at the end of the season because you don't have enough shots on goal and even though you hit the post twice and missed to open goals I didnt think you gave Reina enough to do. We were very poor on the ball and sent to much long to Torres who was clearly not fit. I cannot stand Eboue though.. he is a horrible player, think I dislike him more than Drogba! Its early days but you guys have definitely put down a good marker.

Anonymous said...

anon, I dont think you'll find many arsenal fans that like Eboue as a man either. always diving and cheating and moaning. he isn't even that great a winger! he should learn from his team mate Toure about how to behave.

Anonymous said...

gazzap speak for yourself, some Arsenal fans have minds of their own.

Rubén Uría said...

Hola a todos! Os comunico que ya está disponible el habitual ránking de blogs de fútbol. Os rogaría que, en caso de no tener vuestra URL o dirección, me la enviarais para poder testear vuestro blog. Os dejo la última entrega del RANKING BLOGS FUTBOL – OCTUBRE 2007. Un saludo.