Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Arsenal Turn the Lights on

Arsenal responded to Saturday's shocking defeat like champions as they showed great character and quality to overcome a hostile atmosphere in Belgrade to record their first away victory in the champions league for a year.

The first 10-15 minutes proved difficult for the Gunners as they were under the cosh, sloppy midfield play from Song and defensive dodginess from Djourou among others gave Partizan an encouraging start but after a good recovery from Sagna and Denilson's terrific tackle to stop them from having a great opportunity to take the lead. 
Shortly after, a tremendous one- two between the ever- impressing Jack Wilshere and Andrey Arshavin resulted in Arsenal scoring a terrific goal for 1-0. Arshavin did one of the things he does best and directly dribbled and drove at the defence before sliding the ball to Wilshere who showed incredible intelligence and quality to control the ball and roll it back to the Russsian, who he couldn't see, who drove the ball into the net and familiarly wheeled away with that finger over his mouth again.

After a silly handball from Denilson resulting in Cleo equalising for Partizan from the spot and a missed penalty from Arshavin, Arsenal soon had the game in the palm of their hands again as a brilliant cross from Rosicky screamed out "Go on, head me into the back of the net" to Marouane Chamakh who obliged before Samir Nasri's corner screamed something similar to Sebastien Squillaci who bulleted the ball into the net to settle the game and ensure Arsenal's first away win the the champions league since that bizarre game at Standard Liege last September.

Jack Wilshere looks like he's getting better and better, his awareness and calm in high pressure situations astounds me, after showing no signs of the North London derby affecting his cool as well as the hostile atmosphere in Belgrade last night. That's not to mention his incredible backheel to Arshavin for goal number 1. Not only did it get to Arshavin but it also was perfectly into his path, whilst under pressure from surrounding Partizan defenders, and Arshavin again showed he is one of the best finishers at the club to finish off the move.

Denilson had a mixed night, but mainly a good one. I just want to comment on his tackle which was perfect and showed signs of improved maturity, awareness and defensive responsibility to track back and make an inch- perfect tackle to save the team from going behind.

A good night for Arsenal as a a whole who showed character, maturity and brilliance to overcome a tough game made no easier by the confidence blow last weekend. I have mentioned the word "maturity" a lot as Arsenal seem to be growing in it. OK, you could argue they didn't show it against West Brom but everybody has the occassional off day and the lads showed that experience is helping them and showed their growing maturity and fight to dig in and get a good win in a hard game.

A last note: hats off to Chamakh who showed again the new dimension and effective option he's brought us, especially in these tough away games. And also to Squillaci who scored his first goal for the club. Many positives on a very positive night for The Arsenal.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Joy to Despair

Well on Tuesday Arsenal beat Tottenham 4-1 in their own backyard. A fantastic result and performance and one that made the disappointing last gasp Darren Bent equaliser at Sunderland last Saturday a distant, fading memory. A result that you expect to kick us back into gear after that poor display at Sunderland and be a big confidence boost that would do us wonders going into today's game against West Brom. But no. We lost to West Brom, in OUR own backyard and we come away from today with a big question mark on our ability to win the Premier League this season.

There's never a dull moment as an Arsenal fan is there? That's usually a good thing, but on days like today it isn't. So what happened? All us Gooners are asking the same question. Well maybe it was just an off day. Maybe we underestimated West Brom. Maybe Wenger got the team selection wrong. Maybe his half time team talk was the complete opposite of inspiring after a poor first half. I think it's probably a combination of all of those potential explanations. Every team has an off-day, they usually come away from home but today it unusually came at the Emirates Stadium. However we need to make sure we don't have many of these and that a week tomorrow at 6pm that we aren't 7 points of Chelsea and 6 points off Man Utd going in to the international break (I'll fume about that another time). Because that would give us a big handicap, it wouldn't put us out of the title race, it would be naive to think so. After last years season of playing catch up we wouldn't want to be in the same shoes again.

On the one hand, if we win at Chelsea we'll be one behind them, but if we lose we'll be seven. If we draw we'd be six which is quite big at this stage but given it's away from home, with such a long way to go in the title race and considering the fact that we will have had harder fixtures so far than Chelsea, I think I'd settle for a point. Especially if Man Utd slip up tomorrow and/ or next week. So its not all glum, we could be singing and dancing in eight days time with things looking rosy again having inflicted a second defeat on Chelsea in a week and giving ourselves the belief that is needed for us to get as close as possible of leading the pack, and at the same time harming Chelsea's confidence.

So, overall today was disappointing but Chelsea and Tottenham also lost and we still have plenty of time to make up for it. What better game to bounce back in than the Chelsea game next week? Although I'd much rather be bouncing back against Birmingham at home and save the Chelsea game until after the international break. (Though after today's events maybe not). Maybe the return of Fabregas and Vermaelen next week. Maybe back to winning ways. Maybe.