Archive for September, 2005

Gilberto Boost for Brum

7 comments September 29th, 2005

The Brazilian midfielder could be back in time for our Sunday afternoon encounter with Steve Bruce’s Birmingham. He was expected to be out for 4-6 weeks, but one positive scan later, and it’s all looking good again.

To be honest, we need him. Flamini and Fabregas did well against Ajax, but we would always miss the invaluable experience of a player like Gilberto. In the absence of Patrick Vieira, he’s really stepped up a gear, flying into tackles that last year he would have stepped out of.

That’s the only real news around at the moment. Justin Hoyte has been made available for our League Cup clash with Sunderland, but whether or not that frees up Mart Poom to play I am not sure.

Er. That’s it.

Pires Spot On: Ajax 1 – 2 Arsenal

10 comments September 28th, 2005

Coming into the game, Robert Pires was described by Arsene Wenger as being only “50-50” to play. On reflection, it’s a good job that he did, for it was his 69th minute penalty that eventually proved decisive.

Freddie Ljungberg and Jose Reyes were the unlikely striking duo, and when the Spaniard played in Fred in just the second minute, he finished with the sort of deft flick we have become used to. It was a brilliant start, and helped settle the young midfield of Fabregas and Flamini – the latter particularly impressing with his enthusiasm and guts.

It was a controlled, professional performance from our makeshift side, and a breakaway attack late on led to a second goal: Cesc sliding in Reyes, who rounded the goalie only to be dragged to the ground. Yellow card; penalty. Pires duly did his duty, tucking the ball into the corner of the net.

They always say you’re most vulnerable when you’ve just conceded: this was a perfect example. We had tended to sit back a little, allowing them shots at goal from range. However, no-one expected their holding midfielder, Galasek, to unleash a shot with the velocity and swerve that his effort took on. A brilliant save from Almunia tipped the ball onto the post, but it rebounded kindly for substitute Rosenberg to tap in.

However, despite a couple of scary moments, we held on for a very welcome 3 points. There ought to be a special mention for the defence, particularly Sol Campbell. He’s been absolutely superb since his return, and has shown us all that it’ll be some time before Philippe Senderos can truly call himself the first choice centre-half. And so it should be. Also, in the absence of Thierry Henry, Sol has emerged as real leader, and a very able deputy to the skipper.

It’s good to have him back.

If Wenger got his rule changes, we’d have one more point.

8 comments September 26th, 2005

Which would put us level with West Ham. Who we drew with.

It all adds up.

In all seriousness though, I do wish Wenger would stop moaning. He’s a superb manager, but he does come out with some right crap sometimes. We are used to him know how to read through his post-match bullshit, but to the rest of the Premiership he must occasionally come across as a bit of a wally.

Yes, of course I want a more open Premiership with more goals. Yes, I despise 4-5-1 and the way it turns games into bitty midfield slogs. But Alan Hansen got it right on Match of the Day – Arsenal are the only team who would benefit from a more open league. There was a fairly open league in 2004: we went unbeaten playing wonderful attacking football.

But defending in the Premiership has improved. And Arsenal have been somewhat sussed. Get all your men on the edge of the penalty area, and let them knock it about in front of you. For Arsenal, it means we have to produce something genuinely outstanding everytime we want to score. But we’re off-form. Which is why we’ve had to profit from set pieces.

It is no coincidence that probably our best performances of the season have come against Chelsea: a team good enough to not build their entire gameplan around shutting us down. But for any team who wants to, it now seems achievable.

It’s not game over though. Extraordinary talents like Thierry Henry will always find a way to the goal. Alexsander Hleb’s dribbling skill and eye for a pass will help pick a channel through the tightest of defences. But it is going to be tough. Without the battering ram of Baptista, we will find it hard.

But hey. We’re Arsenal. We’ll be fine.


West Ham 0 – 0 Arsenal

16 comments September 24th, 2005

This match, in spite of a roaring crowd, was probably as dull as the scoreline suggests. Despite two of the most attacking teams in the Premiership coming together with not a 4-5-1 in site, there was barely a shot on target at either end.

Freddie Ljungberg was passed fit, but Bergkamp and Pires both failed to make it, with Hleb starting out on the left and Jose Reyes partnering Robin van Persie up-front.

We struggled for fluency and didn’t really create a significant chance. Quincy came on to inject some pace, but even his magic feet couldn’t conjure a genuine opportunity. Hleb dallied, van Persie disappeared, and Gilberto was worryingly brought off with an ankle injury.

But hey, it’s an away point (something we hadn’t yet achieved this season). And another clean sheet for Sol Campbell. It’s not all bad.

What we lack is goals. We’ve resorted to scoring from set-pieces. Which is good. But now we need to start tearing teams apart in open play.

Thierry Henry will help out with that when he returns. But perhaps a bigger issue is finding a source of goals from midfield. With Pires fading and Vieira departed, there’s a huge gap to fill.

But Arsene knows that. He tried to add Wright-Phillips and Baptista to address that problem.

And he will do so in January.

By which time, the title race will be far from over.

Have faith – if Man U losing to Blackburn doesn’t raise a smile, what will?

Pires/Den/Fred injuries deal Hammer blow…

493 comments September 23rd, 2005

Robert Pires, Fredrik Ljungberg and Dennis Bergkamp could join Thierry Henry on the sidelines for Saturday’s game with West Ham, meaning our entire first choice attacking quarted has been wiped out. I blame Phil Neville.

Even if Bergkamp passes a fitness test, I doubt he’ll be risked, what with the journey to Amsterdam still to come. On the bright side, Mathieu Flamini is back, so Alex Song can go back to the “NewPatrickVieira-Moulding Department” at Colney. There are many malfunctions to be corrected.

I expect the team will end up looking something like this:

Sol Campbell will continue to captain the side as he battles back towards the World Cup, and Jose Reyes will yet again lead the line. On the subject of little Jose, Arsene has finally admitted that he plays a bit better without Thierry, saying, “The other players always look first to find Thierry. At the moment Jose is receiving more passes because Thierry is not there and I think he enjoys that.”

He also suggests Jose is not so little after all: “He looks less lightweight and is more dominant in the challenge than he was when he arrived here. It’s all part of his growing process.” Promising.

Not so promising for the non-Dutch accused rapist in our ranks, Graham Stack, whose case has kicked off before he’s even taken the field for Reading.

But if you thought that was bad, spare a thought for Johnathan Woodgate. Dear dear.

You have to laugh.

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