Archive for December 7th, 2004

Five Star Arsenal Shoot to Top of Group

2 comments December 7th, 2004

After a difficult November, this was just the sort of result we required as we head towards one of the biggest games of our season, facing Chelsea on Sunday.

Admittedly Rosenburg were pretty appalling defensively, and we should never have had the penalty for our fourth goal, but it was still a heart-warming victory. I feel like doing a player-by-player review, just like the old days:

Manuel Almunia
Arsene Wenger tells us that this guy has the potential to be a “great ‘keeper”. A plunging, out-stretched, split-second save in the first half certainly seemed to suggest he’s a man of great potential. However, from that moment on, it was chaos. Whilst a great save such as that should have given him the confidence to go on and produce a good goal-keeping display, it instead heralded a return to the calamitous ‘keeping we viewed in his two mistakes last week. I was very willing to forgive him after those. I recognised that he needed a run, and that those incidents apart, he’d been very solid. But tonight he wasn’t. Key example: their goal. Whilst on television it looks like Almunia deliberately palms the ball, I can confirm that this is quite far from the truth. Sitting in the front row of the East Stand, it was plain to me that Almunia attempted to catch the ball, and just dropped it. It wasn’t even as if he was under much pressure. It was a massive error, and perhaps proof that suggestions that he has problems with concentration have some basis. And he did it again. We were lucky not to concede more due to his dreadful handling. His kicking was very poor too. I liked the look of Almunia during pre-season and the Carling Cup run, but Wenger is taking a massive gamble by playing him at the moment. He’ll start against Chelsea though, don’t you worry about that.

Justin Hoyte
Stood in for the suspended Lauren, and in doing so showed great maturity. I thought this was far better than his performance at centre-back against Norwich. The fact that he didn’t look out of place in what was a fast, flowing first-half performance from our boys speaks volumes. It’s reassuring to see Justin play like he did tonight. I was beginning to lose faith in his ability. The one problem with Hoyte was that he seemed quite unwilling to play the give-and-go with Pires when it got to their 18-yard line. I don’t understand why, because he used to play as a striker, and is very good going forward. Still, solid enough.

Kolo Toure
Kolo is so much more comfortable alongside Sol than with Cygan. But then again, wouldn’t you be? He even had a couple of his forays forward tonight, creating echoes of last season’s outstanding form. Defended well too.

Sol Campbell
Didn’t have much to do, but what he did, he did well. Rosenborg were a little bit toothless. It’s still a worry that we struggle from set pieces, but that’s nothing new, and wasn’t helped by the keeper’s form tonight.

Ashley Cole
Excellent as ever. There isn’t a lot to say about him that hasn’t been said before. He must be one of the most consistent players in the Premiership. Got a well-earned rest today when he came off in the 80th minute. I think the option of resting Ashley is something we might see exploited later in the season, especially with the excellent Gael Clichy to deputise.

Robert Pires
Switched over here because Freddie was ill, and this was probably the best I’ve ever seen him play on the right-hand side. He tracked back, passed well, and supported Thierry and Dennis brilliantly. Scored a top penalty too. Sometimes I think he should be our first choice taker. Like now, for example. I think the fact that he knew he was playing ahead of the inexperienced Hoyte may have lifted his work-rate a little. Was replaced by Quincy, who didn’t really get a touch (and, I ought to add, didn’t even get to warm up).

Mathieu Flamini
Solid if not spectacular, as ever. He is similar to Parlour, it’s true. Strong tackles and simple passing make up his game, though there’s plenty of running in him too. One important thing is that at 6’1″, he adds something to us aerially, and competes well for goal kicks and the like. His partnership with Cesc didn’t give me any reason to be concerned about Chelsea on Sunday. But then, they were playing against some rubbish Norwegian people.

Cesc Fabregas
Was absolutely superb. In the first-half, he looked like Zidane out there. Flamini’s defensive discipline enabled him to get forward and create, and he accomplished it brilliantly. The highlights were a spectacular run that took his as far as the desperately clawing goal-keeper, and a goal of genuine class. Flicking the ball over the head of the defender, he let it bounce before crashing it into the far corner with a sweet left-footed volley. Perhaps he is God. Or perhaps he is just really really good at football.

Jose Reyes
Only started because of a late withdrawal from an under-the-weather Freddie. Played 90 minutes, which indicates he’ll be on the bench against Chelsea. It’s poor timing for the tricky Spaniard, who had his best game for some time tonight. An early burst brought him his first goal for about 14 games, and from then on he was impressive. Played some sumptuous cross-field balls for Thierry, and generally had that spark about him again. The rest, however, will do him good.

Dennis Bergkamp
Was skipper in his comeback game. And, I thought, was absolutely superb. He was everywhere tonight. The fact he came off with 15 minutes to go suggests he’ll play against Chelsea, and, despite van Persie’s brilliance, it’s definitely the right decision. The highlight for me was his burst down the left, where he caught-up and broke away from a defender who had a 10 yard head-start on him. Obviously his time on the sidelines has done him some good. Deserved a goal, and could have had a couple, but brave goalkeeping denied him.

Gael Clichy
Replaced Den, and played for a bit at left-wing, and then in defence when Cole departed. He’s pure class. The longer we can keep hold of him, the better. Didn’t have time to do much in this game, though.

Thierry Henry
Produced a marvellous finish to match his one against Middlesbrough in the 5-3 epic earlier this season. Aside from that, was very obviously playing the more traditional “centre-forward” role that Wenger prescribed for him against Birmingham. He’s quite good, isn’t he. Let’s hope he produces in the big game at the weekend.

Robin van Persie
Gave everyone another tantalising glimpse of his immense talent. He can be so so good if he keeps working hard. Admittedly, he blazed a couple of oppurtunites wide, but his goal was superbly taken, and some of his touches were simply sublime. I confidently predict he will force his way into our first choice line-up by the end of the season. Ish.


Roll on Sunday. With Chelsea losing to Porto and our outstanding result tonight, the question has to be asked:

“Still Carefree?”

Fawlty Manuel Starts

56 comments December 7th, 2004

As do Justin Hoyte, Mathieu Flamini, and Dennis Bergkamp. Jose Reyes will get some much needed rest. Robin van Persie is also fit again, and should be on the bench.

Almunia’s having a lot of faith placed in him here, and he must know that if he takes his chance this could be the making of him. Good luck to the lad.

In the absence of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry will skipper the side, and he seems fairly fired up, affirming that “it is all about whether you do it for the team or not. It is no good having the armband if you donâ??t do anything”. Well said Thierry.

Let’s hope the boys do the business. I’ll be there, as ever, screaming on the lads in the eerily quiet East Stand.

We need to win tonight, so if you’re going to the game please, please give it your all in terms of vocal support. There are a lot on inexperienced players out there tonight. A cagey atmosphere will not help them.

Come on Arsenal.

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