Arsenal cruise to victory over hapless Pompey
I have a job. It’s not something I am proud of but it’s true. I am gainfully employed. And, unfortunately, my employment reared its ugly head this weekend forcing me to miss twitter during the match, miss blogging last night and leave me writing this entry so exhausted that I’m going to be brief. (which means that this entry will be the length of a normal blog written by a normal person and not my usual verbose ramblings.)
Arsenal were rampant against Pompey on Saturday. That’s really all you need to know. And the more blogs I read from supposed Arsenal fans, the more I realize that there are some really disturbed people out there. For some, it is impossible to just enjoy supporting this club. They must find the negative with the team, the boss and the performance. And for those people this was the perfect weekend. They got to watch Arsenal score four goals in another victory, while leaving them room to criticise the defense, the strikers, Arsene Wenger, and the color of the grass on the emirates pitch. Must be nice to always see the glass as 90% empty.
For the rest of us, Saturday was a lovely stroll. Yes, we went to sleep for a few moments here and there, but for the most part it was a confident and composed performance that saw us comfortably in control the entire match. Almunia should have controlled his six-yard box better to prevent pompey goal, but it was merely a hiccup in a solid performance. While it is true that Pompey created a few chances, that was down to our committment to attack. Our players were camped out in the Pompey half for most of the game, and while the high pressure was effective, when it fails, sometimes it yields counter-attacking opportunities. That was true with Barcelona last season and it will be true with us this campaign.
Arsene Wenger, as expect, made several changes to the side that won the first to matches. Diaby, Eduardo, Gibbs, and Eboue all came into the side, with Song, Bendtner, Clichy and Sagna all rested on the subs bench. So for anyone to criticize the performance is silly considering we dominated the match with four starters on the bench, several usual starters injured, and Cesc replaced at half-time by Aaron Ramsey due to a hamstring injury.
There were bright spots everywhere for the home side on Saturday. Although the doomsday crowd will gripe that our forwards still aren’t scoring, they were all pivotal in setting up their teammates for goals and created a bounty of chances. Arshavin is getting some criticism for a slow start, but I saw a player on saturday who was always getting into good positions and delivering dangerous passes. His final touch in the penalty area might be letting him down at the moment, but a player of his class is always quick to bounce back.
Van Persie and Eduardo were at the heart of most of Arsenal’s dangerous moves and it was a piece of brilliance from the crozillian that setup Diaby for the first goal. A sexy slalom move got Eduardo clear down the right channel and gave him space to pull the ball back to Diaby near the top of the box. The Frenchman’s finish was powerful and precise. Diaby scored the second minutes later when Arshavin started the counter attack, Cesc found Eboue streaking down the right wing and Eboue slid the ball across to Diaby for a simple slot home. What I loved about that goal was the effort from three players. Eboue raced down the field to get behind the defense. Diaby ran hard to get into scoring position, and Denilson was flying down the left beside Diaby to provide another option. A defender and two holding midfielders were first down the pitch to finish off a lightning quick counter attack.
Arsenal created chance after chance in the first half and it would be difficult to find fault with any player on the pitch. Almunia’s failure to dominate his area cost us a goal, but the more I watch the replays the more I think the keeper failed to see the danger. He approached the ball as if it was going to be catching practice.
We scored two more after the break to put the match well beyond hapless Pompey. Gallas used teh unorthodox combination of his foot and his face to put the ball in the net after a fantastic Arshavin delivery from a free kick was nodded on by Van Persie and kicked across goal by Vermaelen. Gallas now has three goals in three matches and it’s uncanny how he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Full credit to him.
The final goal saw Van Persie pick a slide-rule pass to find Aaron Ramsey breaking unmarked into the box. The Welshman finished with aplomb to seal the victory. Ramsey had come on at half-time for Cesc and I think it’s a measure of our talent that a team without Cesc, Rosicky, Nasri, Theo, Song, Clichy and Sagna was able to put together a strong second half and kill off the game.
Of course there was a big talking point in the match. Gallas appeared to foul Utaka when he was behind the defense. If a foul had been called it would have undoubtedly been a sending off. I’ve seen several replays and can’t say that it was a definite foul, but Utaka claims that Gallas has admitted as much. Regardless, the call went our way and it must have been difficult for Pompey fans that it was Gallas who promptly scored at the other end.
There were a few bright moments for Pompey when better finishing might have seen them get another goal or two, but the way we were playing on Saturday was always going to leave us a little exposed to counter-attacks. And I think that’s a good thing. Last season we suffered too many draws and too many nil-nil draws in particular against teams we should be beating. It looked on Saturday as if Arsene Wenger decided that we were going to come at Pompey and take the game right to them regardless of whether it left us a little exposed. We did have our vulnerable moments, but created more than enough chances to come away deserving victors.
Abou Diaby deserves special praise for the his performance and he got it from the boss. Wenger said this might be “his year.” Diaby seems to have all the talent and potential in the world and would be huge lift if he could realize some of that potential this season. I’m still not sure we got the all-out effort from him Saturday that is required, but, to be fair, I think the team as a whole struggled to stay focused through the entire 90 minutes. That we came through with such a resounding scoreline is a good sign. While the forwards are yet to really start banging in the goals, I think we should be more excited by the fact that we’re getting the goals from other areas of the pitch. Van Persie, Eduardo, and Arshavin are going to get their goals sooner or later.
With the Pompey game in the rear-view mirror, all eyes turn to Celtic and Manchester United. But before that, we will be forced to bite our nails this morning as Cesc faces a fitness test that will determine whether he will be out a few days or three weeks. With all of our other injuries, and the fantastic start to his season, it would be a hammer blow to lose him now. My only hope would be that Arsene moves Arshavin into the center of midfield where he can pull the strings, but maybe we won’t have to come to that. In fact, there’s even rumors of Rosicky returning to training this week…Ahead of schedule! Imagine that.
United will be a stern test next weekend and our ability to come through it successfully will be impacted by the personnel we’re able to call upon for action. But there’s plenty of time for looking ahead. Right now the immediate task is to use our best lucky charms to get Cesc through his fitness test free and clear. Then we must finish what we started with Celtic and ensure our participation in the Champions League group stage. If we can do that, there might even be a new signing or two before the window shuts at the end of the month.
And that’s all there is from me at the moment. As mentioned, I’m wiped out with exhaustion from a wretched weekend of work so my apologies for the underwhelming blog. Fortunately, Arsenal have three wins from three matches and 10 goals to show for their efforts so my blog won’t be too worrying I suspect.
Off to get some much needed and mostly deserved sleep (perchance to dream…)