Archive for September 3rd, 2007

Arsenal 3 – 1 Portsmouth: One big result from being title contenders

257 comments September 3rd, 2007

After crushing Eduardo on Wednesday, Adebayor sets about encouraging the gang rape of Tomas Rosicky.  Aleksandr Hleb feels left out.What an enjoyable game that was.  As an Arsenal fan, the last two years have been typified by tight games in which we’ve been forced to fight our way back from behind.  To be leading two nil at half-time and look so comfortable was a real novelty.

Despite the absences of William Gallas and Bacary Sagna, the line-up we fielded looked very strong.  Philippe Senderos deputised at centre-back, whilst Mathieu Flamini was deployed at right-back, where he performed outstandingly.

That meant Gilberto was able to return to his central midfield holding role, where he played a vital role in helping us assume control early on.  We saw against Sparta Prague the advantage that an early goal can bring, and we were fortunate enough to get another one against Portsmouth.  After only eight minutes, some defensive dallying between Glen Johnson and ex-Gunner Lauren allowed Robin van Persie to latch onto the ball and win a penalty against the on-rushing David James.  The referee decided that the award of a spot-kick was sufficient punishment for the keeper, and Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up to tuck away his first goal of the season.

With Gilberto and Van Persie on the pitch, it was a slight surprise that Ade took the kick.  It was later confirmed that Robin passed up the chance as a continuation of Thierry Henry’s habit of not taking penalties he had won himself.  Although the exact reasons for this remain unclear, it spreads the goals and assists around nicely.  As long as the taker scores, you won’t here any complaints from me.

Before half-time, it was two nil.  Our set pieces (which seemed markedly improved) provided all three goals today, and on this occasion it was a corner swung in by Tomas Rosicky.  Gilberto met it at the near post, and the ball ricocheted into the path of Cesc Fabregas who turned it into the net with his left boot.  That makes it four goals in six games for the Spaniard, who Arsene believes can match Paul Scholes’ goalscoring achievements.

The second half should have been a carefree keep-ball session, but then we do like to do things the hard way.  Not long after the restart, Philippe Senderos allowed Kanu to get goalside, and as the Nigerian closed in on goal, the slightest of contacts caused the Swiss defender to be dismissed as the last man.  It did look a little harsh, especially in the light of the ref’s decision to allow James to stay on, but as Arsene conceded: by the letter of the law, he had to go.

It didn’t matter much.  Within ten minutes, it was 3-0.  A free-kick was awarded close to the goal-line, and as Portsmouth dithered Cesc was able to tee up Tomas Rosicky for a second goal in consecutive games.

Kanu muddled a goal into the net in immediate response, but with Gilberto stepping into the breach at centre-half, we were able to see the game out, and even create more chances.  Diaby (who needs to improve his passing) and Denilson (who looks to have bulked out) came on and the way in which we kept the ball with ten men was very impressive indeed.

This was the first time in a long time that we have looked comfortably better than any Premiership opponent.  We were in complete control of the game against a Portsmouth side who gave Chelsea so many problems just a week ago.  Even though Adebayor and Van Persie struggled, the midfield are turning into match-winners and the defence appears to trust Manuel Almunia more than Jens Lehmann.  Ten points from our opening four games is not to be sniffed at.

The Premiership takes a little break now for two weeks, which is a shame as we’re in great form.  Doubtless most of our key players will return from International duty with injuries.  When we do come back, it’s for a real cracker:  Tottenham away, on Saturday 15th.  We’ll be without Senderos for that game now (Oh Djourou, how I miss thee), but the likes of Sagna, Eboue and even Gallas could be fit again.  If we win there, I will start to talk about this side as title contenders.  Why not?  The form sides at the start of this season are undoubtedly Arsenal and Liverpool.

Expect a full season preview sometime this week, now that the transfer window has closed.  Our latest signing, Lassana Diarra, has talked about why he had to leave Chelsea. 

A result like yesterday makes it infinitely easier to go back to work come Monday morning.  It’s just a shame we’ve got to put up with all that boring International stuff for a while.

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