Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Monday November 13 2006
Oh but it's not poor Stevie's fault, that once again he was comprehensively outplayed by a quality side. The next time he scores a belter with his two hundredth shot of the game against footballing luminaries such as Luton Town or West Ham his journalist friends will be quick to remind us how gifted poor Stevie is. Of course his next insipid display in an England shirt (in two days time) will be explained away, because 'oh, he can't play with Lampard' or 'oh, he can't play on the right.' Always an excuse isn't there? Poor Stevie suffered the ignomity of becoming Liverpool's FOURTH choice central midfielder behind Sissoko, Alonso and now Zenden. This folks, is because Steven Gerrard is no longer a player who will get back into his own half and fight to regain possession, he provides no protection for his back four. Notice the three or four occasions where he did actually conspire to touch the ball, he took a first time pot shot on every occasion. The myth of Istanbul was exposed as a sham, as Gerrard responded to going behind by resting his chin firmly on his chest. Presumably because, unlike Istanbul, there was no Didi Hamann to come on and rescue him. (Now Did is gone, I wonder who cuts poor Stevie's meat in the club canteen?) Or maybe the sight of Theo Walcott as an unused sub put poor Stevie off, as it did in Germany in the summer?
Anyway, enough of the gloating. Though given the level of abuse I received for daring to claim poor Stevie was over rated, I felt it was necessary to make this point. I was absolutely pleading with Wenger to bring Theo on at the end. Never mind, because it was an awe inspiring display by the lads. It was not quite typical pass and move fare from the Gunners, there was something different about this one, it was more Champions League than Premier League. We outmanouvered Liverpool tactically. The injury to Rosicky limited our midfield options, but I must confess I was surprised to see Flamini start in midfield. But in retrospect, it was an inspired decision. Flamini's tireless work rate meant that Liverpool's playmakers were given little time on the ball. Something that may have influenced Wenger's decision was Flamini's performance on Wednesday night, I believe I mentioned in my match report how he was marauding into space created by Arsenal's tricky wide players, and that proved to be exactly the case with the first goal.
The second goal saw probably the most deserving goalscorer of the season. Toure was magnificent all game, anticipating Crouch's knockdowns, beating him in the air and generally making him look like the second rate numpty he is. Incidentally, Crouch's offside goal has to be the most stupid passage of play I've seen in years. How can an international striker be looking along the line in anticipation of a cross and stand two yards offside when it was patently unnecessary? To deflate my already low opinion of Crouch, he then conspired to wheel away and celebrate then look surprised to see the flag erect. Idiot. Gallas also dealt brilliantly with the threat of the Mark Hughesque Dirk Kuyt. Something I notice about Gallas is that he rarely makes tackles. He stands off and generally closes off the player's options, then uses the moment of hesitation to rob the opponent of the ball. This would explain why he receives few yellow cards and concedes few penalties. He dropped off of Kuyt and anticipated any threat brilliantly and the result was that, for all his class, Kuyt was feeding on scraps all afternoon. But a lot of the credit for the second goal must go to Gilberto Silva. Allow me to elaborate. Early in the second half, Kolo had possession at centre half to find a wall of yellow blocking off all his options. Gilberto verbally instructed him to move forward, as Gilberto slotted in at centre half. Two minutes later, Kolo goes forward- 2-0. This is a glimpse of what the Brazilian gives us and what an intelligent, selfless player he is. He recognised that Kolo would be better at carrying the ball forward than him, so he dropped into centre half. Spotting a falability in the opponents and in himself, conversely, elucidates his strength.
The return of Emmanuel Eboue also proved critical and gave an insight into how badly he has been missed. I cannot believe how much his crossing has improved in such a short space of time and his marauding runs forward gave us a dimension that has been lacking in recent weeks. His piece of control on the touchline following a wayward Gilberto pass is sure to feature in the end of season 'showboating' compendium. I think everybody had a really good game for Arsenal yesterday, Henry is clearly some way off his best form, but the effort was there for all to see and that is all I will ever ask. Robin van Persie looks to be settling in well on the left hand side and I still believe he can be a valuable weapon there. van Persie was in the mood yesterday, creating several dangerous situations and generally roasting Steve Finnan. The Gunners joy was complete when Gerrard left Gallas completely unmarked to head in the third. But of course, that was John Arne Riise's fault.
Date:Monday November 13 2006
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