Don’t ask how that Photo was taken… just accept that it was at about 1400 yesterday afternoon… hail stones in Spain! About as likely as seeing Adebayor score a bicycle kick to draw us level in the Champions league quarter finals I guess!
Sagna Toure Gallas Clichy
Walcott Denilson Song Nasri
Nasri slotted in for Arshavin and the rest of the team was the same as the City line up. For me, it was the best team the coach could have put out and everyone was pretty revved up for a Man City type mauling…
Were we as fans slightly guilty of complacency? I believe so…
Arsenal didn’t start particularly well… there was a lack of fluency and pace in our passing, there was little creative edge and to be fair to the Spaniards… they did a fine job of nullifying us.
It didn’t take long for the dead lock to be broken. Senna picked up the ball about 25 yards out, clipped his nails, made a cup of tea, read the first chapter of War and Peace… then picked his spot and buried a perfectly placed bullet into the top corner. It was sloppy defending from Arsenal, not the type of goal you’d expect to concede when you have two defensive midfielders in the side. Senna should have been shut down immediately and he should never have been allowed to get that shot off…
Things got worse for Arsenal… Shortly after the goal, Almunia decided an earlier challenge from Rossi was actually quite painful… so on came Fabianski. Questions over whether he was focussed enough were soon answered when he saved another pile driver from Senna, jumped up and saved the second shot powered in by some Spanish looking guy.
Oh… then it got even worse… Song cut across Rossi just outside the area… as he chopped him down, Rossi fell onto William’s knee and crunched him… Willy went off on a stretcher… then came back on… we nearly conceded… Willy decided actually medial knee ligament damage couldn’t be run off… Cheerio Gallas… season over. It’s not often I scream for the whistle to blow… but today I did… I was worried a lightning bolt would wipe out the team or something equally as unlucky might happen… as first halves go, it was a bit of a shocker!
The ref blew up… half time talk was of bringing on Bendtner to partner Ade… and it looked like Wenger was going to do that, but he changed his mind just before the game kicked off.
The second half started in a more familiar manner. Arsenal started to believe in their game, players headed forwards and we began our search for the elusive away goal. Nasri should have shot but instead over hit a pass to Theo who couldn’t get any power on his effort back accross goal… Ade headed just wide after one of those really neat chipped crosses from Theo (Did I say neat, I meant ineffective)… Kolo jinked into the box, played a cheeky cross accross the area, but no one was there to finish… were we ever going to get a goal?
We needed some magic…
Cesc picked up the ball about 40 yards out, looked up, played a perfectly weighted ball to Ade…. Ade, with his back to goal, chests it up… changes the angle of his body and hit the most outrageous overhead kick into the far corner!
Hooray I cheered! Hooray! We had the goal, and the rip roaring gooners were one up! Terrific!
Arsenal continued to push for an winner, but sadly it was not forthcoming. However, our slick passing returned and Villarreal looked pretty demoralised. The ref blew up, the game finished 1-1 and we had the advantage… now all we have to do is keep a clean sheet at home and hope Porto follow suit.
So… how about some player ratings?
Almunia: Could do nothing about the goal, shame he went off. I heard he’s out for two weeks. 6
Sagna: I thought Sagna had a solid game today. He made some crunching challenges and went forward with a bit more conviction. 7
Gallas: I thought he played quite well until he went off. I was a bit shocked he was sent back on when he was quite clearly in pain… that could have cost us, thankfully it didn’t. He looks set to miss the rest of the season. Bad luck Willy, you’ve done yourself and the team proud over the last few months. 7
Toure: I thought he stepped up quite well when Gallas went off. I was a bit annoyed he was out jumped at a corner, but other than that, he did ok. 7
Clichy: Zero input attack wise in the first half. He and Nasri don’t seem to click at all. I think he worked well with Rosicky because Rosicky released the ball quicker… Nasri holds onto it and tends to move into the middle. I thought he was better in the second half, he went forward more often and linked up in a lovely move in the last minute. Needs to work on that cross. 7
Song: I thought he had a poor first half. I thought he was slow off the mark to close down Senna, which cost us the first goal. His sloppy challenge cost us our best centre back and nearly cost us a penalty. Thankfully his game picked up in the second half and he made some good challenges… his passing has been better of late, but by Arsenal’s high standards, I feel it is pretty sloppy. 5.5
Denilson: I thought he was pretty impressive today. He is much more efficient than Song and he allows our quick passing game to flow. I think playing him and Song is over kill… it crowds out the middle of the park a bit too much. Denilson would be my first choice going into the next game. 7
Nasri: A bit like Robinho isn’t he? Very good at home… anonymous away. I thought he was very poor in the first half… i said earlier in the year that he doesn’t seem to have the drive to make things happen… I think he needs to work harder to create magic, like Arshavin does… he needs to take more risks. I also think he holds onto the ball too long. 6
Theo: I wasn’t impressed. He runs up too many blind alleys, he rarely runs at full pace because he’s thinking about what to do for ten minutes… and I hate his silly little floated chip crosses. They are rubbish. Theo needs to sharpen up… Eboue is fit and ready to take his place. * I was impressed by some great tackles. 6.5
Cesc: Wasn’t his best game… he looked a little rusty and I’m not sure whether playing in the hole suits him as much as playing a bit deeper. However, that pass to Adebayor was a little bit special. The freekick was a little dim, but I appreciated the ‘risktakingness’ of it all. Oh how we’ve missed him… 7.5
Adebayor: He was taking a lot of flak at half time… he wasn’t having his best game, but I think it’s pretty difficult to look good when you’re playing up top on your own. However, that goal was straight out the book of Thierry. Magical, majestic…unbelievable… pick your superlative… because the chances are it would be too modest! Goals like that are great for Ade… he thrives on confidence… so hopefully he’ll bang a few more in during the home straight! 8
Fabianski: This was a big moment for the young Pole, could he come on in a crucial game and impress? Could he contain his nerves? Could he show us why he should be number one? Emphatically yes. Within minutes of entering the field of play he pulled off a remarkable double save. He commanded his box pretty well, bar a few communication lapses when coming out to clear the ball. Overall, I thought he played a blinder. 7.5
JD: Again, brought on at a difficult time against an extremely able team. There were a few moments of madness, but overall, I thought he did his first team credentials no harm. There have been some doubts raised over his ability to step up to the plate… but I am confident he will demonstrate his ability for us till the end of the season. 7
Eboue: A game just isn’t complete without the token appearance by Eboue. In fairness, I was still pretty awe struck by Ade’s goal to make a sound judgement on Eboue. From what I remember, he didn’t do to badly… so I’ll give him a 6.5
The important thing to remember is that form goes out of the window when it comes to these games. Everyone raises their game and I think the only criticism that can be levelled at the team was the lack of urgency to press Villarreal at the start. We more than made amends in the second half and I have to say, I’d be pretty upset if we didn’t make it through to the next round where we’ll be playing FC Porto.
So… what’s that… 18 games unbeaten now?
We’re turning in a bit of a run, aren’t we!
See you in the comments!