Sunday, December 16, 2007

A closer game than it should have been, but still, job done.

An interesting game today, which was far closer than it should have been.

Chel$ea were without three of their most important players - Drogba, Essien and Carvahlo - while the players that make our team tick - Fab, Hleb and Flamini - all returned. Also, RvP lurked in the wings.

But it was a slow start to the match, and the returning players were clearly trying to find their feet. Of the three, Hleb was very quiet, shackled by Mikel and others in the Chelsea midfield. Fabregas did better, if his passing was a little off, and should have really scored at the death.

Flamini was absolutely excellent, (my Motm) flying into vital tackles across the pitch. His renaissance, more than perhaps any other player in the team, has been key to out current league position. Not only does he break up and restart play a lot more impressively and quickly than Gilberto, something which Cesc in particular benefits from, he is, for want of a better word, the team's enforcer. The first player into any fracas is Matthieu and he has embodied the new spirit within the team: never say die, and don't try and kick us off the pitch.

This was vital, as Chelsea attempted to do just that. Terry put in a series of poor, and deliberately spiteful, challenges, and the usual suspects also tried to put their foot in. It was no surprise to see Lampard try and rekindle his loving relationship with Cesc either.

I'm not a person who revels in the misfortune of others, but seeing Terry go off injured was blissful. My hope is that Capello will strip him of the England captaincy, but that is probably a dream too far.

His replacement, Ben-Haim, conspired with the usually infallible Cech to gift Billy G the easiest of goals. Gallas was immense today. He scored, defended well and was a true leader. Again, who now really thinks that not making Gilberto captain was an error?

The game started to open up in the second half and we should have finished them off. Seeing RvP return was blissful; suddenly, we began to have far more shots on goal and a real cutting-edge to our attack. He should have scored and had a goal disallowed. Not bad. Adebayor's goal could also have been given, if Ben-Haim hadn't fallen so easily.

Yet, in some ways it was a bit like last season. We didn't finish the game off when we could have, and Chelsea almost squirmed back into it. We fully deserved the three points and to have lost out to a last-minute equaliser would have been a travesty. Almunia helped us out on a number of occasions, but I'm still a little unsure about him.

Overall, if we couldn't beat them today, when they were missing almost all of their key players, it would seem unlikely that we would ever beat them in the foreseeable future. That we have shows just how serious we are as title contenders this year. It's looking increasingly likely, given Liverpool's crazy form, and Chelsea's odd year, that this is going to be a two-horse race between us and United. Whether we have the reserves to really edge them out will be thrilling to see; the game at Old Trafford will be absolutely huge, I'll say that already.

So, a good week all in all. Back on track, key players are back in the fold, and England finally have a world-class manager. After our recent travails on the road, all is again well.

ps, wasn't it a nice tackle by Cesc at the end?


library2.0 said...

win saturday we are 4points ahead......lovely xmas present

Anonymous said...

Chelsea had some important players out but they had Wiley back for that match so it wasn't all bad for them.

Anonymous said...

Hleb "very quiet"?!!!! Must have been watching a different match.

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that Cesc hates the players the fans do, Sheringham, Cunt, Lampard etc but today, I thought he was ineffective because he was too passionate. He was so full of anger during the game and didnt concentrate on just playing. However, we forget that he is still so young, and Im sure he will turn in 'cooler' performances and be calm and collected even in the heat of battle

Anonymous said...

great performances from all the usual suspects, but i am so glad to have RVP back. just seeing the offense he created in the few minutes he was on is awe inspiring. Adebayor is great at causing defences trouble, but he lacks the bite in front of goal that RVP provides.

ps. Diarra can leave for all I care.

Anonymous said...

Great win for us today dispite the often dirty tackles by Chelski players, heaven was watching Terry being helped off after a clash with Eboue.

Why we had that waste of space Gilberto on the bench and not Diaby is very strange and as for Diarra, he's not and Arsenal type player so he'll be no great loss, i think Song is a far Arsenal better player than he is.

Unknown said...

You said it all, Goonerboy.

Anonymous said...

It's a bit odd to say that if we hadn't beaten them without those players out it's hard to say when we would in the foreseeable future, given that our foreseeable future looks significantly brighter than theirs. Mikel apart (who played a blinder IMHO), youth is certainly on our side.

Anonymous said...

Loved it, though I much rather like watching us come from behind for a 2-1 win than the agony of 45 iffy minutes up 1-nil.

I must take one issue with this article and perhaps millions of Gooners. Almunia saved us today. He is fabulous and continues to fight the long struggle to get the respect he so deserves. Please stop with the "i don't know about him" comments. Keepers are the easiest to blame and the hardest to argue for; except for that time they save your life from ending drunk and screaming on a cold weekend as the blonde bomber did today. I know we are all coming around, but lets be more proactive in the support of our man.

Now I'm off to buy blonde extensions and make a Sagna hat. Good Day.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9.34, I disagree re Cesc. His 'passion' does not make him 'ineffective' considering he is just back from injury, he did really well.

Anonymous said...

This is the most successful team (with Ade and Alumini) under Wenger, and yet you complain about the team players. How many chances did Van Persie miss? But you always complain about Ade's misses.

The team are doing great including the reserves. We, Gunners, should be the happiess fans in the world right now.

Remember last season or two season's back?