Solid Defending, Midfield Goals – A Very Much Changed Arsenal (Portsmouth Reaction)

3-1, down to ten men for 40 minutes, flared tempers and some exhilarating football made today’s match against Pompey one of the games of the season so far.  The game was made an open one once Adebayor converted a penalty.  The hunger of Van Persie to chase down the ball showed the new found determination of this Arsenal side.  This commitment was ever present throughout the whole team and it was hard to pick out a man of the match.  One thing I personally have been calling for is a blistering start from our boys in red and today we got it.  Our tempo was high, passing slick and there was directness to it aswell.  Lo and behold we got our goal within the first ten minutes.  The question now was whether we could get another goal and finish off Pompey.   The good football continued and there were some moments of absolute genius.  One particular move between Rosicky and Adebayor reminded me so much of the football of the invincibles.  More and more the free flowing football is coming back to its top level and I for one am so glad.  The team of the 03/04 season has moved on, but Arsene is still here and his football education is finally coming to fruit once again. Even better today, we scored from a corner and we rarely do this!  Other teams are expectant when they get a corner, yet Arsenal fans never really anticipate a goal coming from such a situation.  However a cleverly worked near post flick-on gave Fabregas the chance to spin and plant his shot into the bottom corner.  That was Cesc’s 4th goal of the season in only 6 games.  It took him 49 starts to reach this number last season.  Hopefully it is a sign of things to come from our little magician.  Therefore with Fabregas’s 35 minute goal Arsenal went into the break looking comfortable.  Was it game over? Many certainly thought so and it probably was until the events of the 49th minute.  Kanu was clean through and Senderos brought him down.  The incident was very controversial in itself.  The key factors were as follows: was Kanu offside and was there that much contact as Kanu fell to the ground?  If both of these received the answer yes then we have further questions.  Was it deliberate from Senderos and was he last man?  It looked to me like it was a foul by Senderos but that he may not have been last man. As a spectator at the Emirates I only got first views on the incident (the ground cannot show controversial incidents on the replays) so excuse me if my judgement is a little off.  I thought that both Clichy and Toure were level with Senderos at least and would have recovered had Kanu escaped Senderos’s attentions.  I believe the ref made a rash decision and didn’t even consult his linesman by the look of it.  The resulting free kick was very nearly converted but for a great save from Almunia and a rash shot my Matt Taylor with the goal gaping.  Had this gone in the game would have been very different. Wenger moved Rosicky and Hleb more central to accommodate Gilberto at centre-back.  Rosicky in particular was fantastic.  He, along with Fabregas covered so much ground and put in some brilliant challenges.  When Rosicky is on top if his game he can be an important player for us.  He has vision on the football pitch and has a great ability on the ball and his passing is very accurate.  He takes pressure off Cesc as the chief playmaker.  Teams have to stem two sources of midfield directness and along with Hleb’s eye for a pass the current midfield has the ability to open teams up at will.  Today Hleb was clearly still suffering from his illness but threatened in the first half.  Rosicky was rewarded for his performance with a very clever goal.  Fabregas noticed that the Pompey defence were asleep at a free kick.  From the left flank he slipped in Rosicky who drove his shot through three Pompey players into the far corner.   The celebrations showed what it meant to him and the players.  If Rosicky can get more goals aswell then we will have goals from all over the park.  This is necessary if a team is to challenge on all fronts.  At 3-0 the game seemed as good as over.  Yet it was made nerve-racking once again 1 minute later.  Kanu inadvertently converted the lively Utaka’s cross and the home crowd was silenced for a moment.  Out of respect Kanu didn’t celebrate and that was a nice touch, even if it was expected. As Hleb became weary Wenger brought on Denilson with an eye to keep the ball and see out the game after Pompey pulled one back.  Arsenal knocked the ball about well but Portsmouth were always able to use the extra man.  They aimed to get the ball wide to Taylor and Utaka.  Taylor delivered countless wasteful crosses but Utaka was a real handful.  He turned Clichy inside out a few times but a mixture of slack finishing, brilliant defending and solid goalkeeping kept the away team at bay. Diaby replaced Van Persie with 20 minutes to go and was guilty of one of the misses of Arsenal’s campaign so far.  An absolutely outstanding move ended up with an inch perfect Clichy cross finding Diaby who headed wide from about 5 yards out.  The fans inside the Emirates Stadium couldn’t believe the net had not rippled.  It seemed it was easier to score than miss.  Arsenal seemed to want to do things the hard way!  Very soon after, Almunia showed us once again that not only his hair colour has changed.  His ability has a goalkeeper has really come on.  He made a fantastic save to deny Glen Johnson a goal on his first start since moving permanently from Chelsea.  His general shot stopping was calm and assured and he looked safe at corners. In the end Arsenal came home easily, stroking the ball about until the ref completed the formalities. Today showed that this team really can produce some brilliant football; the defence looks tighter than it was last year.  We drew with Portsmouth last year and once more we are seeing a different Arsenal from last season: midfield goals, direct football and a more solid defence.  As I have already said I cannot pick a man of the match from this.  I would go for anyone of Almunia, Flamini, Toure, Gilberto, Rosicky and Fabregas. Level with Liverpool at the top of the table with a game in hand on Chelsea and Man Utd.  Role on White Hart Lane

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