Confounding the Critics : Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0

September 2, 2013

This is not a match report, its a bunch of ramblings from a very happy Gooner with no real structure.

Lets start as we mean to go on, with a bloody good laugh. Laugh at the media, laugh at Levy’s £109m investment, laugh at AVB sprinting down the touch line to tell Kyle Walker to launch the ball in to the box because he was too thick to realise it was 30 seconds to go, laugh at all those who say Arsene Wenger doesn’t do tactics.

Yesterday our wily old Frenchman won the tactical battle, and the players executed it perfectly. Looking at the line ups it appeared that Spurs had been set up to create a solid defensive unit and to spring counter attacks using the pace of Townsend and Chadli feeding Soldado (I’m glad at this point the teamsheet is there as it indeed shows that they had a centre forward on the pitch £28m worth apparently).

Wenger had a trick up his sleeve, their midfield three lacked mobility, so Wenger set us up not to push too high, their attacking three were isolated and red and white shirts crowded them out and regained possession with relative ease. And when we won possession we had the pace and numbers to look threatening running at the heart of the Tottenham defence.

Wenger was rewarded by his players with a beautifully fashioned goal, at pace the ball was pinged around and players moved with intent, Theo was set free down the right with Spurs defenders not knowing who to mark, Giroud pulled Dawson this way and that before darting towards the near post to produce a deft finish to the bottom corner from Theo’s accurate cross.

giro goal

After the goal we were content to continue the game plan, sitting deep, defending strongly and maximising use of the football when we had it. We were so comfortable that AVB started to change his team pushing Paulinho further forward, which just gave us more room to play forward when we did have the ball.

Despite having very little possession we continued to look threatening on the break, a better pass or a better touch at the crucial moment and we could have had a second.

Just before half time Jack Wilshere was removed feeling unwell and was replaced by Flamini, it wasn’t long before we got to see why it was a “no brainer” for Arsene. Flamini slotted straight in, for the rest of the half and all of the second he was one of the first to press the ball, organising those around him not used to such a battle. Those around him responded, Ramsey, Santi, Rosicky and Theo all prepared to do the more unpleasant side of the game, winning the ball back, fighting for possession.

I haven’t even moved on to the defence yet, they were simply magnificent, Soldado did not get a touch from Koscielny, Chadli and Townsend were kept relatively quiet by Gibbs and Jenkinson and Mertesacker did what he does best, provides calm assurance to those around him and reading the game inside out. And when they did breach the defensive unit Szczesny produced an absolutely top class save.

With players tiring and Spurs throwing more bodies forward it did get a little tense in the last ten minutes. We struggled to clear our lines and hold onto possession further up the pitch, especially once Rosicky and Theo had been replaced by Monreal and Sagna respectively. Giroud had been able to rely on those two for most of the game to be his outlet when trying to hold the ball up, now off the pitch he was looking more isolated but what I think we are all beginning to love about Oli is his work rate, he does not stop competing for his mates. Anyone watch MotD on Saturday night? A certain Mr Berbatov (that player that Arsene should have signed last summer) was sulking around St James’s Park. I know which of the two I’d rather have in my team.

All in all a very good days work, this wasn’t our most fluent display, but it was the kind of performance many of us have been waiting for. So many of my Spurs supporting clients were quick to text me after our defeat by Villa, I’ve kept my powder dry, when should I text, first thing in the morning, or when we’ve announced three super super quality signings?

Ratings:

Szczesny : 9 comfortable handling all game, good distribution especially under pressure and two cracking saves.

Jenkinson : 8 disciplined at right back, considerably helped by Theo occupying Walker

Gibbs : 7 given a bit of a working over by Townsend early on but ordinary service was resumed for the next 70 minutes, not helped by no one occupying Rose.

Koscielny : 9 is he pleased to see us or is that a £28m striker in his pocket.

Mertesacker : 8 leads by example.

Wilshere : 7 not his normal effervescent self but considering illness unsurprising

Ramsey : 9 lead the team in tackles, touches and attempted passes.

Cazorla : 9 the boy is class

Walcott : 8 used his pace to worry Spurs when we had the ball and defended well when we didn’t

Giroud : 9 a great finish, constantly working for his team, goal line block.

Subs:

Flamini : 8 it was indeed a no brainer

Monreal : 7 did what he had to

Sagna : 7 ditto

Wenger : 10 out tacticted the young pretender

Enjoy transfer deadline Gooners bathing in the warm afterglow of a North London Derby win.

Gooner in Exile


Cesc Will Rue The Day He Left Arsenal

July 23, 2011

Not many players leave Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal and thrive.

Look at Alex Hleb.

The ‘new George Best’ sold his soul for a Mr Whippy with extra sprinkles and quickly went from Barcelona to the heady heights of Birmingham FC.

Now, still owned by Barca but not wanted by anyone, he floats in the footballing ether, dribbling in mazy circles to nowhere and declining clear shooting opportunities to his heart’s content.

Matthieu Flamini, after finally having a good season at Arsenal, showed all the loyalty of a two bob hooker and decamped for Milan. One of his main gripes was that he had been forced to play so many games at Arsenal as a left back.

No such problem with the Rossoneri. They played him at right back instead.

Thierry Henry won some gongs when he joined Barcelona, but he was literally a peripheral figure (pushed back out to the wings, from where Arsene had rescued him all those years earlier). A classy, brilliant player, but no-one can doubt that we got the best of him and sold him when his decline had started.

Now he’s some kind of showman in the Americas, wearing a Stetson and juggling footballs on the back of a rodeo bull while toting a Colt 45 or somesuch.

Patrick Vieira? Like Henry he was too good to vanish into obscurity. However, when he moved to Italy he had the bittersweet experience of winning numerous medals – but only as a bit part player. When he stumbled across the ATM that never stops churning out ten pound notes (otherwise known as Man City), who can blame him for retiring to its warm dressing rooms and well varnished benches?

Ljungberg, Pires, Adebayor, Reyes, Petit, Overmars… I could go on, but the point is: Arsene knows when it’s time to let a player go. In most cases it is when he has judged that their performances have crested the zenith. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad, just that they will never quite reach their peak again and will, in fact, decline.

Even those he has been forced to sell reluctantly, like Flamini and Anelka, have never subsequently had the central, starring roles they had at Arsenal.

So what about Cesc?

Have we seen the best of El Capitan? When he leaves us will it be for a few tortured years of bench-sitting at Barcelona, plagued by ever-worsening hamstrings and haunted by the curious longevity of the Xavi-Iniesta partnership, still winning the Primera Liga well into their thirities?

Will we Arsenal fans nod sagely to each other and repeat the mantra that players just never do as well when they leave us?

DON’T BE STUPID.

Cesc Fabregas is one of the best four or five players in the world. I would put Messi and Ronaldo ahead of him, but after that…? The man is a genius. Of course he is going to have a marvelous career at Barcelona. If he is not a regular first team starter by January London will eat his red-and-white socks*.

And yet, you say, your headline referred to him rueing the day he leaves Arsenal. If he goes on to win Spanish title after Copa del Ray after Champions League what will there be to regret? What tears will little Francesc possibly shed?

Let me tell you.

Cesc will rue the day he leaves because when this Arsenal team, whose talisman he has been for so long, finally starts to win the big prizes without him it will pierce his heart with the brilliant sharpness of one of his incredible passes through the Totteringham defence.

If Arsenal win the league this year – and I am one of those who believes it is a real possibility – then Cesc will be disconsolate. It will be a failure for him that will live with him throughout his career and his life.

He will have given eight years of his life to a project – and not just any project, but a glorious, ambitious, eyes-on-the-stars kind of project – and then walked away just before it reached its crowning glory. It would be as if Neil Armstrong got to the Moon’s orbit and said: “You know what, I’m fine, I’ll just stay here in Apollo 11 and look out the window…”

Never mind whether he has a championship medal in Spain, a Champions League title and has been chosen as Miss Catalunia 2013, there will be a hole in Cesc’s soul that will never be filled.

He will rejoice for his erstwhile teammates, but deep down he will know that he should have been with them. And for that, I will grieve with him.

RockyLives

*That’s OK isn’t it London?