Sunday, December 23, 2007

Almunia and Bendtner the heroes in a game we should have lost.

It took a while, almost 46 minutes, to get going, but the game yesterday provided us with yet another memorable, borderline hilarious, victory over our North London rivals.

We won without playing very well at all. A few choice moves aside, the performance was not very good, no where near the quality of last week's deserved victory over Chelsea. One could make a strong argument for Spuds deserving a point, and they came very close to snatching all three.

But at critical moments, match-winners and match-losers step up. Robbie Keane, despite his talent, is not a top-four team match winner. he showed that with his penalty and by smashing the ball onto the bar.

And in contrast, on our side, two match-winners did step up: Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia.

Almunia was the more surprising, but in an extremely pleasant way. There are three type of goalkeepers: ones that lose you matches, ones that make the saves they should do, but no more, and those that make the saves they shouldn't make and win you games. Almunia is finally, having extricated himself from the first category last week, now beginning to look like a match-winning keeper. I say beginning; questions could still be asked about how he let in Berbatov's opener.

But his penalty save won the game as much as Bendtner's goal. If Spuds had scored again, it would have been a struggle to even get a point from the match. As it was, the initiative passed into our hands.

Bendtner, even from pre-season, has impressed me. He passes the ball with great thought and care, and his power in the air is undeniable. As a partnership of Ade and Nik seems unlikely, the battle between the two of them for a starting place will be interesting to see. I favour Bendtner, but only if he has the patience to make the position his.

It makes it two weeks in a row that we've scored headers from corners; we haven't been able to say that too often under Arsene.

Overall then, only a few players shone. We didn't pass the ball particularly well, we were second to almost every 50-50 ball, and we overcomplicated our attacks. But, we won; we showed the determination, more than anything else, to win despite some of our technical ability betraying us. To win playing badly is as important, if not more important, than to win playing well.

And, despite Man U also taking three points, we're still top of the league at Christmas. The last time that happened we won the league. Whether we will do so again is unclear; what is clear, is that this young team won't go down with a fight.

ps On channel 5 at the moment, Milan are playing Inter. A full scouting report is coming up in the weeks to come, but, for now, I shall simply say that it's a massive game, but it's a game we can win.


Anonymous said...

What a great blog - and I agrre we could, and maybe should have lost yesterday, but thankfully didnt.

Berby goal reminded a little of Giggs in the FA Cup - both keepers seemed to go down a little early, but hey, thats me being very very critical as both were blasted at great speed....

In comparison, Almunia stood tall as the great Spunky did so many times and stopped a penalty (ok not the best of penalties) but he saved and I for one was over the moon.

Saint Nick - what can you say, Smithy has re-appeared, but in a Danish way ( I do hate comparisions) but what a header!

Hleb to Barca - No way

Jens to leave - Yep I think so

Flaminni - well he needs to be careful, last year he threatened to leave, this year he plays with freedom and each game - he wont get that anywhere else!!

So heres to 2008 - Diaby will be a King amongst many and they will al be crowned come May......

Jeff said...

Anon - Quite a shout for Diaby. I was bullish on him to start the season, but he hasn't forced his way into the team. Now with Wenger's policy of maintaining the "continuity of the side," I don't think Diaby is going to get enough chances to become King.

Anonymous said...

I don't get this, isn't this supposed to be an Arsenal blog? I don't see too many Utd or Chelsea fans upset when they win yet another game they don't deserve to. That is what champions do. How many games did we lose last year that we 'deserved' to win? You win games by scoring more goals than the opposition. We scored more than them ergo we deserved to win. Get over it!

Anonymous said...

Saint Nick or Van Persie will never replace Ade. Ade has the strength and the work rate that Arsene needs to keep the defense of the other team on their heels. Most people forget he is only 23 years old and will be the star at 25. How many years did Drogba not frustrate the Chelsea fans? What most forget is that most African players don't have quite the technical aspect to their game when they move to a big club, but they are physically ready. Ade has two years to acquire that technical part of his game and he will be a legend at Arsenal. Arsene Knows