As one commentator said, Saturday’s visit to Upton Park was a “man’s game” and tonight was exactly the same. Like that game we also won 1-0 and I for one am delighted. It shows once more we can win dirty when we need to.
Tonight was not a pretty performance in any sense but it was never going to be. Arsenal’s record in Eastern Europe read: P 6 L 5 D 1 W 0 F 3 A 14 and this game would always be scrappy. We kept the ball quite well even though we lacked something in the final third. The defence stood firm except for a few instances where they attempted to contrive against one another.
The game was pretty uneventful. The first half produced one real attempt on target and that was from Flamini but was well saved. Fabregas should have scored but blasted high from 6 yards. The goal itself came after good work from Adebayor who put the ball in the danger area where Van Persie pounced like all good strikers should to fire the ball into the roof of the net – job done! I won’t concentrate on match highlights as they weren’t many but will look at specific things.
In defence Senderos was excellent. He was part of our back four in the run to the Champions League final. Tonight he brought back memories of the quality of his play back then. His positioning was excellent and he won everything in the air. He does seem more suited to the European game and this was highlighted when he was exposed due to lack of pace. This happens a lot in the Premiership and Toure bailed him out countless times.
Toure headed off the line to rescue Almunia after the goalkeeper left his post to clear. He is Arsenal’s “Mr Reliable” and was consistent as ever. Sagna and Eboue worked quite well on the right and covered for the other when necessary. Eboue is still settling into his new position but has the attributes to succeed there. Hleb on the other wing was our biggest threat. His passing was accurate as ever and his tight ball control gave him so much more room to look for openings. Arsenal’s best moments came from Hleb.
Fabregas was not his usual self but we expect so much from him that when he doesn’t stand out it seems he hasn’t played that well. He did his work efficiently and didn’t put a foot wrong except for his glaring miss. Like Fabregas, Adebayor and Van Persie have taken the plaudits this season but they were also a bit lethargic tonight. Their movement was quite poor and Adebayor especially did not seem to be completely awake. He had chances to get in behind but didn’t seem to be up for the chase at times. He was offside too many times but he was ready when it mattered and set up Van Persie for the winner.
Van Persie showed flashes of his talent but he must stamp his authority a bit more when others are failing to do so. One man that deserves a mention is Flamini. He nearly left the vclub in the summer and many fans would not have looked twice. However he stayed to try and take his chance and he has done so to full effect. He does the dirty work and adds grit to our midfield. He has kept a World Cup Winner out of the team and given Fabregas license to attack with the security behind him. He is un-droppable right now and Wenger for one must be delighted.
We didn’t play amazingly tonight but the result was what mattered. There were a few shaky moments at the back, mainly self inflicted but they can be ironed out. Before this game we have looked lively up front so I am sure tonight’s sluggishness is simply a one off. We have now won 9 games in a row and go into Sunday’s game full of confidence.