Archive for February, 2006

Player Ratings Vs Bolton

346 comments February 12th, 2006

A 1-1 draw against Bolton has to be seen as a decent result these days. The manner in which it arrived was particularly pleasing: a last minute equaliser after half an hour of immense pressure. It was good to see the team mixing it up and launching balls into the box – it had real impact.

Here are my thoughts on the individual performers:

Jens Lehmann
Absolutely superb. Blinding. Astonishingly good. Not only did he make a fantastic save in the opening minute, but he also twice shoved Matt Jansen to the ground, and swept up like Franco Baresi. Germany’s #1.

Mathieu Flamini
Defensive positioning awful, he played like an auxillary midfielder, which did certainly help going forward. Still, we miss Lauren massively – at times it was too easy for Stelios or Davies to get in behind him.

Sebastian Larsson
Like Flamini, doing a job, but not particularly well. Was replaced by Bergkamp, who looks finished. He’s just not a threat, however good his touch remains.

Philippe Senderos
I’m doubtful of him, but this was his best game for ages. He was the man who, in the dying minutes, took the game by the scruff of the neck, with several forages forward. Can’t really pass, but today he seemed tougher than usual.

Johan Djourou
Had an unusual tendency to chuck it long to the strikers. Not his best game, but still a big prospect.

Cesc Fabregas
Far far happier when moved to the centre and half-time. I like him in the wide roaming role, but the problem arises when he gets to the byline. He hasn’t got the quick feet to go past people, or Beckham-like crossing ability, so he either loses the ball or goes back to the right-back. We ask so much of him – he is our playmaker at 18. Insane, and he can’t always be expected to deliver.

Jose Reyes
Looked spritely, before that horriffic challenge. Genuinely awful. Personally, I never felt Diaby’s was that bad. This to me looked a definite straight red, and I just assumed Reyes had broken his leg. The amount of treatment he recieved seemed to suggest so. Robert Pires, who came on for him, looked well off the pace: nothing he tried came off.

Was utter gash in the first half. My 10 year old sister, who is hardly an expert, described him as “very crap”. I am a Gilberto fan, but he gave the ball away an awful lot in this game. I’m so grateful for another last minute goal from him, but he was lucky to stay on ahead of…

Abou Diaby
Surprised he’s been criticised by some for his 45 minutes of football. Got about well, put in one very big tackle, and showed neat control. The midfield area was very congested, but he certainly handled it better than Gilberto. Was marking Davies at set pieces, and did well. I hope he comes back in for Liverpool. Freddie Ljungberg came on, and played mostly at right-back, from where he attacked well. Still lacks penetration and creativity.

Thierry Henry
Outstanding. In the first half he was quiet, but only because the service to him was laughably bad. In the second, he was Captain Fantastic. He set off on foraging runs down the left, tackled back, and something I have always said is that his ability to win high balls is underrated. He has a fantastic leap, and won more in the air than Adebayor. Thierry deserved a goal today – my only criticism is that when we had a corner late late on and a chance to win it, he played it short and tried to dribble. Foolish when we had a very big side all forward.

Emmanuel Adebayor
Funny one. Yes, he looks a bit like Kanu. But the two couldn’t be more different. For example, he has none of Kanu’s silky skill. He’s far more similiar to Dogbag, only without the strength. He’s basically a bit of a lump. He’s not fantastic in the air, falls over easily, and isn’t particularly powerful. He’s just a body. The difference he makes is, as Wenger says, presence. But that’s about it. He changes our game because he stands close to Henry when a high-ball is launched, and the two can play off each other. That’s a positive thing. But I do have to question whether this was the best target man that was available. For £7m, I expect a little more. Don’t get me wrong: I’m pleased he’s here, because he presents an option we never had before – I’m just not convinced he’s really a top quality player. It’s not hard to be the best of your type at Arsenal if you’re a target man, because we haven’t got any others. Saying all that, I’d keep him in the team.


Kolo’s back soon. And last minute equalisers are always great. Now let’s stuff Liverpool 12-0.

Destroyer Diaby Awaits Backlash

23 comments February 11th, 2006

Arsenal and Abou Diaby meet Bolton today for the first time since his foot-breaking lunge on Ivan Campo.

Sam Allardyce seened to be in forgiving mood, saying “It was a serious tackle that caused Ivan to break a foot. But perhaps you can forgive him for his naivety, having just arrived in the Premiership”. However, it’ll be interesting to see if the Bolton players are quite as forgiving on the pitch.

Arsenal are without a whole string of stars. Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, and Theo Walcott are all out, along with the rest of the usual suspects (ie. our entire defence). Campbell and Cole, it seems, will miss the first leg of the Madrid tie.

With Bolton favouring a physical approach, Arsene may choose to field the same side that battled to victory at Birmingham:

If not, Freddie Ljungberg or Robert Pires could come back into the side.

This is a vital match in the battle for fourth spot, and will also be my little sister’s first game at Highbury. Two reasons that a win is absolutely vital.

Come on Arsenal.

Hleb Looks For Escape-Route

14 comments February 9th, 2006

When Alexsander Hleb became our only major signing this summer, I foolishly speculated that he could be the new Dennis Bergkamp.

Or the new Robert Pires.

Or the new Edu.

However, on this season’s evidence, he is none of the above.

A promising start on the flanks saw him named as our Player of the Month for August. His skill and trickery, combined with a canny eye for a pass, made him a stand-out player at the beginning of our season.

Just one thing gave cause for concern: a complete reluctance to shoot. No matter how clear a sight of goal he had, no matter how far into he six-yard box he got, he simply refused to have a go. This was fine, though: as long as he kept his passing skill consistent, there were plenty of other players to do the shooting.

Oh dear. After returning from a six-week injury lay off, the passing had entirely disappeared. A few of the clever flicks and spins had stayed, but the ability to play the ball to a team-mate had completely deserted our Hleb.

To add insult to injury, January saw the arrival of Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott – two young players in the positions Hleb purports to excel in. But this is exactly where the problem lies. Hleb is not the new Bergkamp, Pires, or Edu because positionally he can not match them. At Stuttgart he played a roaming attacking midfield role in a central three, whilst at Arsenal he’s often being used in a 4-4-2, in which he is too lightweight to play in the centre.

Now he’s reportedly unhappy, citing both the club’s and his own poor form:

“Of course I’m disappointed about the team’s results and also that I can’t convince my coach Arsene Wenger on the field,” he said.

Add to this confirmation from Hamburg officials that they met Hleb for a chat in London, and rumours of an £8m bid, and it doesn’t look good for his future at Arsenal.

All I will say is this: plenty of players need more than one season to adapt, especially if being asked to play in a new position.

But I’ll add that if Hleb is trying to manouever a way out of Arsenal, then we probably don’t want him here anyway.

New Boys Add Steel In 2-0 Win

328 comments February 5th, 2006

An Arsenal team featuring seven players aged 21 or under scrapped to a 2-0 win at St. Andrews yesterday, with a new-look Arsenal side potentially emerging.

This season has been so full of stops and starts that I’m slightly unwilling to pronounce this as yet another corner turned, but it certainly looked promising.

The main difference appared to come from our two new signings. Emmanuel Adebayor made his debut, and his size and strength up-front provided a fulcrum for a team who were winning just their third away match of the season.

The lanky African’s contribution was marked by his 21st minute headed goal – the sort of scrappy effort we’ve often been criticised for failing to convert. A Thierry Henry flick played in Abou Diaby, whose cross-shot rebounded into the air for Adebayor to nod home.

Diaby himself was sensational. His power and technique, combined with his loping gait have lead to understandable comparisons with Patrick Vieira. But Diaby is his own player – he’s less of a holding midfielder, and more of a counter-attacking powerhouse. The physicality we have added to the squad between he and Adebayor will be a massive help to us on our travels.

It was another teenage midfielder, Cesc Fabregas, who slid in a through-ball which Thierry Henry raced onto for his 200th goal for the club, and the three points were in the bag. Congratulations Thierry – nice touch doing it on the ground where you also grabbed your 100th.

Special mention must go to our defence. Marshalled by the superb Jens Lehmann, a back four with an average age of 20 managed to keep out the highly physical pairing of Chris Sutton and Emile Heskey, with Heskey amusingly sent off late on.

The defence will be augmented when Sol Campbell returns to training on Monday. Let’s hope we can all put the events of the past week behind us.

Nice, winning away from home. I’d almost forgotten…

Stand by Sol

27 comments February 3rd, 2006

Today’s news mainly followed the fall-out from Sol’s Wednesday walk-out.

He has been given 5 days off, and Arsene seems unwilling to be drawn on the situation.

“I cannot really tell you a lot more than you know already,” the manager told journalists at his usual pre-match press conference. “I have not seen him since Wednesday night and I have no news.”

I suspect that Arsene does know exactly what’s going on, but is just protecting Sol’s privacy. Reports have suggested that he himself asked to be substituted against West Ham, claiming he was mentally unable to continue.

Since then, there have all sorts of rumours about possible explanations. Personally, I am completely unwilling to comment on them. My only remark is to agree with Arsene when he says “The only thing was can do as a Club is support people when they need our help”.

Sol may be in poor form, but he was at the centre of our amazing team spirit during our unbeaten run. It was him in the cente of the huddle shouting “Together”. Don’t forget that.

If we start turning on our own this club will spiral into decline. Let’s remember the great players who played some of the best football we’ve ever seen over the past few years, and support them. Sol was a key figure in those sides, and deserves our respect.

His fellow players are clearly concerned for his welfare, and you can understand why. Not only is he a key member of our squad, but he leaves Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos as the only available defenders (a situation made yet worse by Lauren being out for the rest of the season). Mathieu Flamini and Seb Larsson will continue at full-back against Birmingham, whilst Robin van Persie and Freddie Ljungberg have been rather bizarrely rested.

Their omission, however, does make way for Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott to be named in the squad for the first time. I think it’s far more likely we’ll see the Togolese striker than the teenage winger.

A win would really help raise spirits in these difficult times. Come on boys: It might even cheer Sol up.

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