The first game of the season probably does not deserve over analysis, this is a long way from any indication of our season. However, one moment stood out for me, obscuring Denilson’s classy performance or Nasri’s assured debut – both bode well for the coming season.
Four minutes into the second half Billy ‘possibly got some skills’ Gallas, reverted into ‘Billy no skills’. Having played offside at the wrong time, too close to goal and with Clichy and Djourou not in line, West Brom were foiled by a decent Almunia save and a fine Djourou block. Instead of regrouping, or encouraging his less experienced partner, as Almunia did – Billy lost his head ranting to such a degree that Manuel had to step in and point out there was a corner to be defended. Now, I normally consider any criticism of the boys high treason, but this left me not only in doubt whether Billy had learnt any lessons from Birmingham, but whether he is even up to the task as a defender.
The game had started in positive fashion, more than that really, when a fine interchange of passing resulted in Nasri slotting home his first Arsenal goal after 4 minutes. With Samir, who sparkled all game, playing opposite Theo – lacklustre today in truth – we may be returning to the days when our wingers could be relied upon for double figure goals contributions.
Arsenal 1 – 0 WBA, Nasri 4 Mins.
After 10 minutes Gallas thundered a drive just wide after a fine tackle from Denilson to retrieve possession. Denilson’s performance was superb, winning MOTM awards from Sky Sports as well as that illustrious ArseneHollis dude. It looks quite obvious that Denilson and Gilberto speak the same language on and off the football field; the young Brazilian closed down space, never over-committing, in a fashion his more decorated countryman would have been proud of. As ever Denilson displayed a classy array of passes and never shirked a tackle – Flamini was nowhere near as highly regarded at this time last year.
The remainder of the first half was played out with little incident. Sagna had a shot hit wide deflected past the far post on 17 minutes, on 24 big Nick – sadly poor and peripheral throughout – headed wide from a corner. Denilson and Eboue had reasonable efforts form distance on 45 and 34 respectively; Eboue’s play in central midfield was encouraging, stamina, pace, tackle, technique – you couldn’t ask for much more but some composure.
Half Time: Arsenal 1 – 0 WBA
The second half’s first incident of note came four minutes in, as detailed above, where Almunia and Djourou bailed out the club captains dodgy offside routine – Tony is spinning in his 12 year sober, poetry reading, horse dung casket somewhere on the south coast – only to be berated. If there was any positive here it was that Djourou quite justly called Gallas a dodgy slow cu*t, before Almunia shoved the captain away in support of his junior team-mate.
From here on out the game was played at a morose pace, with Arsenal only stretching the visitors in the last ten minutes as they forced the game looking for an equaliser. On 64 minutes, we pushed forward with Eboue shooting wide, followed by Ade being caught offside 3 minutes later form a good position. RVP, worryingly rested, came on for Big, not today for sure, Bendtner. Then on 72 minutes Toure replaced a rather ineffectual Walcott, he flitted in and out and doesn’t inspire confidence quite frankly – I keep faith though. The game then ran itself out, with only a Nasri shot on 88 minutes to quicken the pulse, although only after 19 players decided to pass up the chance to have a go.
Full Time: 1 – 0 Arsenal.
All told job done; simple as that really. However, if there were any markers for the season, they were few and quite obvious. Nasri looks a genuinely quality player, better than Hleb – all the skills but with a sense that goals win games and ‘end product’ isn’t a Tonka toy, plus some heart and bite.
The big show was Denilson. That kid has been brilliant, and ever-present, all pre-season; forget about Flamini. Just as this time last year Gilberto was the main man and on another continent, we are seeing a changing of the guard. What is most impressive about the younger Brazilian is his new found ability to close space, obviously learnt from a true club legend that never got his fair due; the passing, vision, and technique were always there.
Lastly, and I hate to second guess Le Boss, but Billy Gallas does not look anything other than an outsider to the rest of the team. Clichy said towards the end of last season that Gallas lost the dressing room after Birmingham, you would assume he has it back; not on this evidence. Djourou, along with Sagna our best defender, at least gave some shit back and Almunia jumped in on his side, but this looked sour from Gallas’ point of view – his error compounded by arrogant bullshit.
Job was done, 3 points gained , but we failed to kill of a game we should have walked. Even with a weakened team you would question our ruthlessness, and the only shot the opposition had on target first half was due to Gallas losing a first ball header off a goal kick – old problems showing up when they should have been solved honestly. On a positive note, Nasri was superb, Denilson might win me an argument with the love child of Perry Groves, plus we will get much better and healthier very soon.
Wenger post game interview largely echoed my sentiments:
“we started well and were in control and we just couldn’t finish them off,” he said.
“You have that old story that you feel you probably deserved to be punished in the end – but I am pleased we did not let in a goal. When everybody is here, we can create more clear cut chances because today the final ball was not good enough.
But overall, it has been a good week for us.”
Billy Gallas was somewhat less upbeat, appearing to have improved little on last years trouble spot, stating that:
“We were a bit nervous, especially they played well with the long ball, and it was not easy for us.It was not easy for us but it was very good because we wanted to win our first game and start well.I think we have a lot of hard work ahead of us because it is just the beginning of the season.”
Lastly, pre-game Merse appeared astonished we hadn’t signed Gareth Barry, Charlie Nichols thought that if we signed Alonso we would be favourites for the title, and Phil – sit on me face, bigger than me knob – Thompson chatted gash. On this display, what do we really need? Denilson and Djourou were excellent again, best in their department, so where do we strengthen and what do we need when everyone is fit? For my money Gallas seems the odd twat in.
Sagna –Gallas – Djourou – Clichy
Walcott – Eboue Emmanuel – Denilson – Nasri
(Toure/Walcott – 72 minutes)
Bendtner – Adebeyor
(RVP/Bendtner – 68 minutes)
MOTM: Denilson – honourable mentions to Djourou and Nasri.
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