The story on everyone’s lips before kick-off was about the absence of Nik Bendtner. The coach said he’d picked up a Man-United pre-international groin strain, so he wasn’t dropped.
We lined up as I correctly predicted yesterday. The team took a bit of time to find our stride. The first real chance came after a stretched pass by Alex Song which put Nasri through on goal only for the Frenchman to be thwarted by a Distin block.
The ball went down the other end where Coleman roasted Fabregas, floated a back post pass in for Cahill who uncharacteristically headed over and wide.
Arshavin and Jack both went close within a short space of each other, the game failed to find a flow. Heitinga and Cesc were both guilty of rash challenges. It was nice to see that Everton had come out to rough us up and they were getting no joy! Alex Song dropped a needless body check in the middle of the park and his passing was well off.
Our opener came after a Nasri 25 yard ripper was tipped wide by Howard, Arshavin picked up the loose ball, cut it back to the free Sagna who had a think, moved a few yards forward and ripped it inside Howard’s near post! A screamer of a goal from an impossibly tight angle!
Everton went close late on in the half when Fabianski came for a corner, flapped… luckily the headed rebound hit him on the back. A timely reminder that a bit of David James lurks beneath.
Half time arrived and it was clear that we were losing the midfield battle and we had to perk up in the second half. Unusually for Wenger he decided to change the team straight away bringing on Denilson for Wilshere. Was this the move of a madman or was this inspired?
Incredibly it was inspired. Within minutes Denilson was giving us more steel in the middle, his passing was far crisper than Jack’s and perhaps the competition for places had given him the boot up the Arsenal he needed. He started the move for the goal with a well timed interception, passing to Cesc, who played a one two with Chamakh and buried it low and hard past Tim Howard. A great start to the half!
Squillaci was lucky not to see red after taking Saha down when he was the last man. Luckily for us Webb was in tip-top inconsistent form and only reached for the yellow card.
Pienaar cut an inviting ball back to Rodwell who fired over from 8 yards, that was a warning shot.
Samir Nasri went on a surging run down the other end speeding past the whole Everton team only to have his shot smartly saved by Howard.
Cesc managed to land himself in the book after having his ankle stamped on by Sylvain Distin. Clearly Howard Webb booked him for last week’s challenge at Wolves.
Nasri and Cesc joined forces to play slip Chamakh in, the Moroccan fired over from 3 yards. One he’ll hope to forget you’d imagine!
Song decided to help out down the other end when he perfectly positioned himself in front of a Saha shot to block acrobatically with his shoulder. Geoff and I both agreed that was an exquisite moment of defensive genius.
Beckford joined the field of play and was immediately played in with a long ball over the top, he cut it back, threw in a pirouette and struck it at the far post where Fabianski was on hand to tip it wide at a stretch. A superb save!
The Polish international went on to deny Pienaar then moments later he flew across his goal to keep out Saha’s curling shot… he was certainly earning his zloty’s today!
His good form couldn’t keep out Everton. A corner was looped to the back post, Saha cut back a header and Cahill was on hand to bury it. We don’t do things the easy way do we?
The game fizzled out and Arsenal took the three points.
Did we play well?
Not particularly. Cesc again seemed well off the pace and his new found love for a rash challenge appears to be catching the eye of referees up and down the country. I thought as a team we became really sloppy towards to end of the half, more down to nerves than anything.
We gave the ball away far too much in the middle of the park, Alex Song being a particular culprit of this. Many people disagreed with me on this front… well, even the beloved Guardian Chalkboards weren’t kind to him today… he made 6 passes unsuccessful passes our of 32, he only won 50% of his tackles, only one of his 4 clearances was successful and sadly there wasn’t a stat for losing the ball when in control. He did make one or two superb interception and his incredible agility and quick thinking was there for all to see with his late block.
We’re winning ugly and I love it.
How did we handle the rough stuff?
Once again we didn’t allow a team from the North West to put it up us. That’s not to say they didn’t try. Watching Cesc stroke the back man mountain Distin after their altercation was quite funny. The equivalent of Manny Pacquiao consoling David Haye after hitting him too hard in a sparring match.
We’ve injected a bit more grit into the team with players like Squillaci and some of the kids are stepping up to the challenge of ‘manning up’. Perhaps Wenger has been putting Yorkie bars in their packed lunches?
How did we defend?
In the main, we defended really well until 70 minutes passed. Then it all became a bit hectic but it was more of a team issue than a back 4 problem. I thought JD was excellent again. I can’t recall anyone getting inside him and thought Squillaci wasn’t at the races today, his experience certainly helps reassure whoever he is playing next to.
How was the keeper?
In the end, he was our star performer. He pulled of 3 or 4 crucial saves and he ultimately saved those three points for us. The main difference between him and Almunia is that when he’s on form, he’s up there with the best in the world. He actually wins you games. Something you could rarely say of the Spaniard.
However, for all the good in his game, I still fear the bad. Alex Manninger was a super shot stopper, however, he was hugely erratic dealing with those aerial balls into the box. Crosses are a weak point of the team in general, the last thing you need is a keeper who is poor at collecting them as well.
It’s like jumping into an dodgy old taxi after a night out, then hearing the driver say he only has sight in one eye… not exactly reassuring!
There’s a bit of David James in his game, is that good enough for Arsenal long-term? We’ll wait and see… United and Barcelona will exploit glaring weaknesses.
Any other thoughts?
Though not vintage Arshavin, I thought he found his game a little today. He was a bit more adventurous in front of goal and he only made one bad pass. I think he’s going to feel right at home when the winter kicks in and hopefully we’ll see that player of two seasons ago! Another assist might I add?
I also thought Denilson’s introduction was a interesting as he was a bit of a star in the second half. He brought composure and added a bit of calmness to the middle of the park. Jack had one of those game young players do. He’s not going to find consistency for at least another couple of season so we just have to support him. Nasri was also very impressive yesterday, I thought his pace and power really shone through, the hard work he puts into training is clearly paying off.
Finally, you have to love how the weekend panned out. We played the best team out of anyone in the top 4 and won away.
- United drew and should have lost after a dismal performance.
- Manchester City drew again… it’s all imploding over there!
- Liverpool lost and failed to continue their blip of wins…
- Chelsea lost 3-0 at home to Sunderland and Cashley set up Wellbeck for the winner!
A great weekend for the Arse, next up, Harry Redknapp brings God and the rest of the Spurs team to the Emirates.
It’s going to be a continuation of our great form and a slap down to our pikey next door neighbours!
Fabianski – 9
Clichy – 7
Sagna – 7
Squillaci – 7
JD – 7.5
Song – 6.5
Cesc – 6
Wilshere – 5.5
Arshavin – 6.5
Nasri – 7.5
Chamakh – 6
Denilson – 8
Rosicky – 7
Eboue – 10