Football is a game of two halves…and All that Glitters is not Gold…
and for those fickle fans who displayed a disgraceful level of disloyalty towards Arsene Wenger before this game, my reply is “I told you so!” and a special cliché for you. “A fool and his money are soon parted!” Why the torrent of clichés? Well I am about to deliver a reality check, and I do not want anyone to use this blog as another way to knock the greatest Arsenal manager ever to walk the earth bar none ok? He is the only one that can deliver success with this current squad, so getting rid of him is not an option. If you cannot see why after this game, then you just don’t want to see the man succeed and that would be a disgraceful attitude to have as an Arsenal fan.
In the history of Arsenal v Man United clashes, what this match lacked in raw physical animosity, it more than made up for in exciting free flowing football. Howard Webb the referee did his best to spoil the occasion with some ridiculous decisions but all in all the right result was obtained. Why do I say that?, well had Man United taken all of their chances, we would have lost the game 7-5. But before anyone starts saying, you see, Wenger got lucky, it is important to understand that we created a degree of that luck with our excellent desire, our pressure on the ball, and the threat of a blistering counter attack, which made the Man United players rush their efforts.
The First Half
An Arsenal team who had to face the media onslaught that predicted that the slaughter would be X-rated. To read some of the predictions one would have thought it necessary to advise all those of a nervous disposition to come to the Emirates dressed in Red and White matching Waders as usually worn by Trout or Salmon fisherman, in order to maintain their dignity as the entire contents of their bowels were evacuated with the shock of the carnage on view.
OK after 30 seconds Silvestre and Almunia panicked, but we rode that storm. Gael Clichy owned Ronaldo and never allowed him any room such was the pressure he exerted upon any of the balls directed to him. Fergiescum had employed a bizarre 3-3-4 formation when attacking with a 4-5-1 on defensive positions. This played into Arsenal hands, who displayed a mixture of attacking down the flanks in the conventional manner, combined with the threat of releasing Theo Walcott with a high long ball down the right channel.
Arsenal’s beautiful game misfired in the first half, but what was present in abundance, was a proud desire. A will to match every thrust by the mancs and deliver a riposte that would make the very high line of Man United, retreat a little further. Gary Neville did not know what to do with the combination of Nasri and Clichy, and had a torrid time. After the first quarter the score should have been 2-3. Straight forward misses by Bendtner and Rooney, with Almunia’s blushes being spared as he made another goalkeeping error and parried a shot into the path of the offside Berbatov who netted the disallowed effort.
Denilson was playing well but one example in the first half demonstrated why I continue to have concern about his lack of anticipation. It was around 18 minutes in, and Fabregas had just missed a tackle on Anderson who turned in field with three Man U attackers line abreast about 25 yards out from the Arsenal goal. Sagna was in space to Anderson’s left, Gallas and Silvestre had Park and Rooney tightly marked centrally, and Clichy was wide on his left covering any intrusion or ball to Cristiano Ronaldo. Diaby was the nearest player to Anderson.
Denilson was between the back four and the play centrally, but ball watching. Berbatov came from a central deeper position with an angled run behind Denilson, whose positioning was all wrong. He could not see Berbatov and the player with the ball because of his square positioning. As play proceeded, Denilson moved towards Anderson into a no man’s land area, he was neither close enough to apply pressure to the ball nor able to track the intended angled run of Berbatov. Clichy however saw the danger, and started to move towards Berbatov and the space of the likely pass through by Anderson. This would leave Clichy stranded between Ronaldo out wide and the Bulgarian more centrally.
The expected pass came to the Bulgarian, who with his back to goal managed to lay the ball out wide to the advancing Ronaldo. In a stroke the Arsenal defence had been carved through because of the defensive frailty of Denilson. Ronaldo played a square pass to Rooney who pulled away from his marker and because of the good pressure from Silvestre, his intended target, a curled ball into the top right hand corner of Almunia’s goal was missed by a several metres above the goal. The Arsenal faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief. The Arsenal break through came from a mixture of sublime technical skill and a little luck from our Marseille wizard Samir Nasri. The free kick that was headed out by Berbatov was controlled up into the air in a vertical manner so that the ball as it descended was prime for a volley off his left foot. He released the volley and collected a deflection off Neville past van De Sar into the United net.
One nil and the stadium erupted. Ronaldo could have restored equality within two minutes, but his side foot effort passed Almunia’s far post by inches. Arsenal took their lead into the half time break despite a couple more scares including a glanced header off Clichy’s head that upon another day, would have found the net. The worst error by Howard Webb was the inability to caution Carrick for bringing down Diaby just outside the box, when he was only 20 yards away from goal. The reaction of the Man Utd player confirmed his guilt and replays clearly showed the contact.
The Second Half.
Arsene Wenger worked his magic as a completely different team emerged for the second half. The team were confident and their first touch assured. Indeed all of the players who had come in for criticism in the first half, namely Bendtner, Denilson and Almunia raised their games. Am I being harsh with Niklas Bendtner? well I am afraid to say that upon the biggest stage of all he delivered another disappointing display, to make Adebayor look like a quality striker takes some doing, but the Dane managed to do just that.
It took 16 simple passes (including the corner) that provided insight into Arsenal’s quality of ball possession and the need to keep hold of Cesc Fabregas who had taken over from the mighty Bergkamp as the provider of wonderfully intuitive passes to unlock defences. Not a single manc touched the ball during the build up to the perfect Arsenal goal, which finally came with Theo Walcott making a square run to draw the defenders away from Nasri, who had received a sublime ball from Cesc, which he gratefully struck powerfully to the left of the static van De Sar. This is the type of football that could win us the Premiership if repeated game after game. For the rest of the game, it was straightforward for Arsenal as we soaked up the manc pressure. Denilson played the best second half that I have seen in a long time, snapping into tackles on Berbatov and Anderson in midfield.
The introduction of Brazilian defender Rafael was the only disturbance that threatened to take away Arsenal’s victory. Almunia suffered a nasty blow to the head as Carrick went for a 50/50 ball. He was inexplicably booked for the challenge, when in fact he had not committed an error. Ars ene Wenger again took off Walcott, and this time Song was focused instead of complacent as he was against Tottenham, and Arsenal survived the 6 additional minutes of time added on for the attention given to Almunia.
So, today I am very happy, I have just regained my voice. My hangover from Saturday just about gone.If we were Tottenham fans, we would now be claiming that we ware going to win The Premiership, The FA Cup, the Carling Cup and the Champions league. However we are Arsenal fans, and we have seen a great victory, but we are honest enough to understand that luck played a part, and this time for once in our favour. I congratulate our players and wish that they can embark upon a twelve match unbeaten run, which will put us in touch of the top of the league. I am happy that next up is Aston Villa at home, because this will give us the momentum we need to go to Stamford bridge and repeat the victory of 2004. I know that we can do it.
So Arsene Wenger answered his critics, with the very best response. I hope that they are gracious enough to accept that their criticisms were excessively negative. If they cannot, then that would make me angry and silly enough to suggest that the Anti-Wenger fans would have been happy to see the team lose! That is clearly not the case as they are genuine Arsenal supporters, but not supporters of Arsene Wenger. They remain frustrated, but now they must understand why their continuing criticisms must be more muted if the team are to get through a tricky November.
My man of the match was Nasri who narrowly displaced Fabregas with his goals, but every player deserved much praise. Denilson showed finally what Wenger sees in him in a bravura second half performance, Gallas and Silvestre repelled all aerial threats. Clichy has made a powerful case for becoming the next Arsenal Captain if the scaremongerers are to be believed and Fabregas leaves the club for Barcelona in the summer. I cannot believe tha Fabregas would turn his back on Gooners who support the team, but if you continue booing his efforts, perhaps he might do just that.
I still feel that Arsene Wenger must be persuaded to buy a goal scoring striker, a holding midfielder and a another Goal Keeper if we are to battle on three fronts in the New Year. This false crisis was created in Fleet Street the home of tabloid newspapers, but the seeds were sown in the negative mouths of Arsenal’s own supporters. If we are to learn anything from this game last Saturday, then let it be the intention to keep our criticisms measured and constructive, but most of all within the family, and I hope never to hear again the obscene sound of ungrateful so called “Gooners” booing the manager and the mightiest Club ever to change the face of modern football.
F*ck ‘em all, F*ck ‘em all…
United, West Ham, Liverpool
For we are the Arsenal, and we are the best.
WE ARE THE ARSENAL…
SO F*CK ALL THE REST!!!
Fabregas the King.