Confidence breeds confidence. It’s as simple as that really. Arsenal kicked off their mini revival against Liverpool, continued it by spanking our pathetic neighbours down the road and tonight, we continued our march with a resounding win over a team in shop window mode.
Arsenal Starting 11
For me, the only surprise was to see Eboue in there. Why I was surprised, I don’t know… he’s like athletes foot, just as you think you’ve rid yourself… there it is, flaking up your sock again.
Many were calling for Diaby to be castigated to a far away Island, indeed, many people I was sharing a viewing spot with. My thoughts were if he were to be dropped, he might not come back from it. I almost feel like Diaby needs to be played until he comes good or is replaced by one of the fit again established players.
Dropping him at this stage would be harsh. Like dumping a girl after she’s dropped 4 dress sizes for you. We’ve come so far… if I’m prepared to do it for Song, I”ll be damned if I’m not prepared to stick to my guns with Diaby.
HE WILL BE GOOD!
So, the game kicked off and within 2minutes, Diaby had fluffed a pass and Eboue had gone on one of his classic runs that end in him falling over.
Give me a red shirt, a £30k a week contract and a ball and I can do that for you all day long Arsene… I can even throw in a dive for good measure, and I promise I’ll keep the same sordid secret Eboue keeps for you.
For Diaby though, things began to look up. His passing was measured, he tracked back to make a few important interceptions and he looked stronger/more balanced than he had in the last few games.
Our first chance came when the ref blew up for a back pass. A bit of a weird decision, but what the heck! Robin blasted it into the legs of the static wall. The way AZ were playing, you felt that wouldn’t be the last chance of the game.
Why I made the last comment is a bit beyond me, we could have been playing Chelsea and it wouldn’t have been the last chance of the game… I digress.
After watching the partnership between Eboue and Songs invisible friend develop with a few excellent balls, the time arrived.
Gallas found himself in nose bleed territory, he played it safe and laid it off to Cesc, who jinked inside his man, held off the challenge then slid the ball tamely but accurately past the keeper at the near post. He walked away and politely said, ‘fuck you’ to the AZ full back.
It didn’t take long for the second one to arrive. Arshavin picked up the ball centrally, laid the ball into Nasri who cleverly wrong footed his man with stylish jink of the shoulder, powered past two defenders and buried his shot low and hard past the Argentinian Mick Hucknell. Nasri ran off towards the crowd, presumably his celebration was him metaphorically dusting off the cobwebs of the last few months. Super goal, artistic celebration.
Half time came and Tony Adams was enlightening us with his wisdom. He said something that upset me though.
‘I applauded Arsene on his new 4-3-3, he corrected me though, he said he was playing a 4-1-4-1.’
For gods sake Arsene, it’s 4-4-2, 3-5-1, 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3… don’t start over complicating things and geeking it up, stick with tradition.
The second half kicked off and the fans were hoping for more goals and the Arsenal didn’t disappoint. Arshavin picked the ball up again, ran with it and perfectly timed his through ball to Cesc. He looked up and instead of bending it into the far corner in a ‘Thierry Pires’ kind of way, he hit it into the top corner near side. A masterful goal from the ridiculously productive Spaniard. No ‘fuck you very much’ this time, just a big thumbs up to the fans.
Gibbs who was playing well went close with a driven shot that just went wide.
Eduardo who had replaced Robin earlier on started the move for the 4th with a delightful back heel to Arshavin. The Russian ran forward, cut back and played Diaby in, the Frenchman took a touch and fired it back past the hairy Argentinian for his first goal of the night.
Superb, now all we needed was a clean sheet.
That would be too easy though.
In the dying minutes, Kieron Gibbs was out muscled on the half way line, Lens was played through, Eboue couldn’t get across quick enough to stop him getting a shot in that went into the bottom corner. Technically, Eboue did everything right… he didn’t dive in and he pushed his player out wide. Gibbs was guilty of naivety and Almunia was guilty of not being on his toes.
A bit of a disappointing end to the night, but who cares… we could be Liverpool or Barcelona!
Qualified and we barely broke sweat.
Almunia: Pulled of a particularly spectacular save from a powerful 8 yard half volley in the second half. He did well with some tough crosses, but I felt he let himself down with the goal. 6.5
Eboue: Please don’t tell me he played well tonight because I won’t hear it. He was garbage. I counted at least 7 stray passes and one ‘gallopandcrash’. Average right back, superb dressing room clown. 5
Gibbs: In the main he did pretty well. I thought he was caught out of position a few times and strength is clearly an issue. It’s early doors for him and he must learn quickly. 6
Gallas: Just the one assist and in the main, an impeccable game. It was his header that should have been a penalty, which could have prevented the last goal happening. I’m marking him down half a point for not getting the decision. 8
Vermaelen: Top game from everyone’s favourite Belgian. Hard in the challenge, exciting going forward and strong as an ox. 8
Song: Truly the invisible wall tonight. Did everything that was asked of him. A very professional performance. 7
Arshavin: Superb from our dynamic Russian. There seem to be a lot of fans out there keen to underplay how good he is and that is a shame. Trying to down play his brilliance to justify the poor performances of the weaker players is a very boring argument. You don’t drop Arshavin for the same reason we never dropped Bergkamp of Thierry… genius. 3 assists and very strong performance for my favourite person under 5ft7. 8.5
Cesc: Again, suffers the same fate as Arshavin… the reason people don’t jump on Cesc’s back is because even when he is playing badly, he’ll pop up with an assist or a goal. Tonight he was superb, pulling strings like grade 8 Cello player and scoring goals like he has a reputation for finishing. If Cesc continues this form, it would be hard to argue that he could be classed among the top 3 midfielders in the world. 9
Diaby: I said he should be dropped after the Spurs game, and at the time, I meant it. There was not excuse for that performance, but in the week I softened my view. He is adapting to a new position which I personally believe is affecting his strengths (Not in a kryptonite way…). There are no excuses for some of the idiotic things he does on the pitch, but tonight he looked much better. I’m a big believer in his ability to become a top player for us and tonight he demonstrated glimpses of what he can do for us. He made some key interceptions, held off some strong challenges and came out with the ball and scored a classy goal. I’m giving that half point I took off Gallas, to Diaby… kind of like a gold star for effort. 7.5
RvP: A good game from a player some are calling ‘Henkamp’. He stretched AZ with his clever runs and he went close on a number of occasions. My favourite aspect of Robin Van Persie’s persona is his undoubted passion for the cause… Mr Arsenal through and through. As a fan, I connect with him in the same way I connected with Theirry, Paddy and Freddie. It’s great having players like that on your side and it’s great they are playing well and receiving the deserved credit. Arsene believes he is amongst the top 5 strikers in the world, what do you think? 7.5
Nasri: A very good return to action from a player we’re all expecting big things from this year. His passing was good, his ability to create space for others was still there and his eye for goal was demonstrated to all. This year I will be mostly looking for him to show up in every game, to score more goals and to man up and stop taking time off for girly injuries. 8
A top performance from a team on fire. We need to learn to maintain a lead till the end. The rate we are going, it is going to start to become a mental block. You could once again see that we started to panic towards the end, that’s no good going into the 90th minute of a semi final 1-0 up.
Attacking wise we’re looking superb and it was great to see Rosicky, Nasri and Eduardo come through the game unscathed.
If I were a Wolves fan, I’d be worried… very worried.
Err, happy Bonfire night?!
See you in the comments!