Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday September 24 2006
Look at the tile of the article. Funny how easy it can be to put a positive spin on the naysayers and doom merchants.
A fairly routine victory yesterday and I think few doubted the result. Though we appeared to be in for a frustrating afternoon in the first half. The Gunners came out of the traps quickly and almost provided an early goal. Gallas and Rosicky linking up well on the left and Billy G just dragging his shot wide. An Henry header from Toure's pinpoint cross was somehow tipped wide by Bennett. But sometime after the fifteen minute mark, with the early goal not forthcoming, there was a tangible drop off in impetus from Arsenal, consequently the remainder of the half was something of a damp squib. We slumped back into the frustrating habits of early season, for all our possession there was little vibrancy as we were once again far too ponderous. I can not help but think that Henry's presence, through no fault of his own at times, intimidates our younger players and prevents them from taking responsibility.
Anyhow, things improved greatly in the second half. We began to pop the ball about with applomb, quickening the pace of the game and using the width of the pitch. Wenger obviously instructed the centre halfs to set the tempo of our attacks. Toure and Djoourou- both very accomplished on the ball- began to bring the ball out of defence, pushing the team forwards. With only one striker, the Blades tactics simply did not merit four defenders back at all times. One of Toure's forrays forward nearly resulted in a goal, but he blasted into the side netting. Tomas Rosicky really began to run at defenders and when Freddie Ljungberg's header was tipped onto the bar by Ian Bennett, you sensed a goal was coming so long as we did not again succumb to a defensive lapse.
Though he had by and large a poor game, it was Henry who really made the difference. He is clearly still blighted by a lack of sharpness, but it was his trio of contributions that earned victory. On 65 minutes, he lifted the ball cutely into the area (something we ALWAYS seem to try, but NEVER seems to work) Cesc Fabregas stretched every sinew to bring the ball under control, and the marauding Billy G was in the right place at the right time to smash the ball home. (Maybe that no.10 shirt isn't so strange after all). One nil and it really was game over. Sheffield United's gameplan was discarded like so many uneaten sandwich crusts. As is so often the case, with United's morale drained, the second followed soon after. Henry received the ball on the left, and though he was faced with something akin to Hadrian's Wall in the penalty box, the enigmatic Frenchman tricked and shimmied his way to the byline, where the hapless Phil Jagielka well and truly 'shinned it' into his own net.
At this point the Gunners really turned on the style, a breath sapping one touch move from back to front nearly yielded an end to the goal of the season competition as substitute Robin van Persie was thwarted from converting a low Djourou cross. A third felt inevitable, and it arrived in the most unlikely of circumstances. Firstly, because Eboue delivered a sumptuous cross from the right hand side (his deliveries usually trouble row z more than they do opposition defences) and Thierry Henry was left with the simple task of nodding the ball into the net. A header from a cross?! Surely that was not included in the ticket price?!
For all their industry, it was palpable that Sheffield United just were not good enough and I think they will have to make Bramall Lane something of a fortress if they are to survive the cut throat world of top flight football. Now it is never my intention to applaud foul play, but Fabregas's booking was quite satisfying in a perverse way. Flying into a challenge on Derek Geary, teeth snarled in determined poise, it was a tackle that is paradigmatic of young Cesc's toughening up. He's simply not taking any (expletive deleted) this season is he? The Beats provided another impressive cameo, but it was young Djourou who impressed the most. Rob Hulse is not the most frightening prospect the young Swiss will face, but he will seldom meet a more physical presence, but Djourou coped with it comfortably. There's something about the boy, his poise or his aura of calm, that reeks class to me. My only moan? Well a new stadium is always going to have teething problems in terms of access to transport outlets, but quite why the police are blocking off every which way out of the ground is a mystery. The clever back route I've been taking to Finsbury Park has now been thwarted as the back entrance to the station has been closed? Why? What purpose does that serve? Surely it makes sense to spread the masses over more exits for a safe and swift journey home. Quite why the police have seen fit to create potentially unsafe situations by hearding around 40,000 people to two entrances (one at Arsenal station, one at Finsbury Park) is anybody's guess.
All in all, the performance was not too dissimilar to our offerings at home to Villa and Boro. The difference being we did not concede the first goal. Porto will be a much stiffer challenge on tuesday night, and I'd like us to return to the 4-5-1. Gilberto will have hisnhands full with Quaresma and Helder Postiga breaking from modfield, and I genuinely believe the system suits our players much more than a conventional 4-4-2. A quick note to wingston75, who I know is a member of this site. You posted a Djourou song on a blog the other week and my friends and I tried to get it started in Hamburg and Manchester with limited success. But I heard it quietly go up in the South Stand yesterday, which is very pleasing because it's a good song for a player who deserves one. Those of you not aware of it, but fancy giving your vocal chords a going over at a game, #Chim chimeny, chim chimeny, chim chim, charoo, who needs Sol Campbell when we've got Djourou?# Quality. LD.
Date:Sunday September 24 2006
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