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Gael Force: Arsenal 1 Newcastle 1

Gael Force: Arsenal 1 Newcastle 1

I believe at some point last season, one of the Arsenal bloggers (I forget whom) became so disillusioned with writing match reports for 1-0 away defeats, that he produced a template with a 'delete as appropriate' option. I'm starting to think of doing the same thing. In fact, I could just ask you all to click on the archive and relive the Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Everton match reports. But I'll leave the idle journalism to those repulsive creatures on match of the day.

Golden August has turned an emty grey November, but the mistakes of early season are repeated persistently. Henry was left on the bench and the Beast was bought in to support Adebayor, Flamini came in for Gilberto and on glimpse of the line up I could not help but think it lacked mobility. I am a keen proponent of Arsenal using the 4-5-1, but it is a template that is dependent on choreographed kinesis, interchanging positions and balletic movement. We were robbed of the two pivots of this system in Gilberto and Rosicky and the upshot was an insipid first half. The Gunners looked very static, maybe as a result of midweek internationals, maybe to do with a lack of mobile technicians, but I think I also sensed a hint of complacency in the biting winter air.

Nevertheless, Aliaksandr Hleb took up the reins and was a nuisance to Newcastle all afternoon- on the left and the right. It was he who created the first opportunity of the game, linking telepathically with Fabregas who fired narrowly over. But once again, Arsenal were to be undone by a moment of contemplative slumber. A hit and hope ball from Steven Taylor was flicked on by the livewire Martins and Kieron Dyer found it all too easy to collect the ball and curl it nonchalantly into the bottom corner. A number of enquiries need to be held in the dressing room. Like where was Flamini, whose job it was to protect the back four? Where were the centre halves? Why was Eboue's attempted block so apathetic? It was indicative of an afternoon that saw Arsenal produce a lot of dangerous attacks, but ultimately neglect their defensive duties. I cannot help but feel that Gilberto's presence may have averted that particular goal, all afternoon Flamini was unable and Fabregas was unwilling to win possession back for the side.

I think you know the story of the second half. Henry came on for the injured van Persie and the home side, still feeling the pangs of their managers frustration, began to close the ball down and looked to make things happen as opposed to waiting for fate to giftwrap an opportunity. With after after wave of attack, came the same conclusion, as Shay Given's athleticism prevented a deserved equaliser. Finally, Arsenal were given their reward when Steven Taylor hauled Henry down on the edge of the box. With the Newcastle wall nowhere near the requisite ten yards (look at the replay, the referee has to be embarassed that he cannot pace out such a paltry distance), he curled a resplendant free kick off the underside of the bar. The third occasion this season that an equaliser has not come from open play. Disappointingly, the Gunners have begun to observe a new trend of eating up valuable seconds by over elaborating their equaliser celebrations. In the aftermarth of both goals, it was Gallas who fished the ball out of the net and slammed it onto the centre spot. I hope that focus can radiate to the other players.

At this point, Arsenal had found their groove, Henry's deflected strike hit a post, Given denied Henry's curling shot and Fabregas's deflected effort trickled agonisingly wide, in one of those heart pounding slow motion moments. The referee, who by and large had a positive game, did let us down with his decision to punish Newcastle's constant time the ninety third minute. Surely the point has to be made much earlier than that? Peter Ramage might as well have been openly gesticulating in his face when he left the field for treatment, he took a detour that could have amounted to a lap of silverstone!

Ultimately it was not to be as the barcodes held on for dear life. Their 'support' writhing in ecstatic delight. #Your support is f****** s***# rang out from the visiting Geordies, rich coming from a set of fans who have yet to sell out a home game this season. The utter tripe espoused by the media and regurgitated by those who have never heard the hush at St. James's Park stands alongside Steven Gerrard's Champions League 'heroics' as one of the biggest myths in football. The memory of them spitting on a prone Robert Pires as he was stretchered off the field still lingers large, and their behaviour outside of their ground, and their silence inside it, has often left me disappointed. Unfortunately, there are still factions of our support that need a kick in the pants too. I have often mentioned a guy who sits behind me who is a fully paid up member of the 'shoooot' brigade. Good natured mocking turned to vitriolic ire, as the tension of the game and the clueless rapture of his cries caused a simultaneous explosion in myself and my good neighbour J-Lo. (Unfortunately, not the curvacious Latin goddess you're thinking of, but my friend John Lowe- get it?) With Baptista back to goal, thirty yards out, and Ramage and Taylor ravenously chomping at his heels, our friend in row six shouted 'shoooot' in an ear piercing, damsel in distress fashion. 'Excuse me good sir, we understand the collective frustration of the situation, but please could you refrain from making such ludicrous statements. Much obliged,' we oppined as gentlemanly pleasantries were observed. (Alright, there may have been the odd expletive, but I am an educated man, a voracious reader, and I must not let the intellectual mask slip in front of the typewriter).

On a much more positive note, the performance of Alex Hleb was brilliant, once again to no general acclaim from the crowd (damn, I really DO need a template). His dribbling committing defenders and causing mayhem in the Newcastle defence. He was the chief tormentor and the architect of all Arsenal's moves. (Save for the equaliser curiously enough). But special praise is reserved for Gael Clichy who was industrious all game. Snappy in the tackle, he closed down space and pressed Solano high up the field, winning the ball back in dangerous situations and defending in a concentrated and consummate fashion. Ashburton Gunner made a comment on my Liverpool report that I had neglected to mention his brilliance. He was absolutely correct and his performance yesterday was magnificent. I think by and large Clichy is too easily forgotten by Gooners, the world and his wife knows how made up I am that we nabbed Gallas, but Clichy is the real reason that Cole's departure left me unconcerned. Surely, international honours are to follow and I could not help but think his pressing and appetite for the ball should have reflected in our two central midfielders yesterday. I would like to conclude by congratulating Robin van Persie and his wife Bouchra on the birth of baby boy Shaqueel. I'm told he has his mother's eyes, his grandfathers nose....and his dad's left foot. Sign him up!!!LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday November 19 2006
Time: 12:24PM


Watched MoTD this morning. As a neutral I have to say on their day Arsenal play the most attractive football of any Prem team. Absolutely battered Newcastle in the second half but once again scored only once and dropped more points. Sad to say but I believe AFC will never win the league by playing this way. Step back Wenger and get ugly perhaps?
19/11/2006 14:23:00
We went 49 matches unbeaten playing like that. Because Wenger never uses it as an excuse people forget two things, firstly how new this team is. Diaby, Cesc, Senderos, Rosicky, Baptista, Gallas, Hleb, Denilson, Song, Djourou, Adebayor, Eboue and Walcott are all new arrivals. That means the the team is going to require a little time to get used to each other and that is what is happening now. Secondly, people forget that the invincibles of 2002-2005 won nowt between 1999-2001 because of the time it takes to bed a team in. I don't think this side could play ugly if they tried and it would not benefit us to attempt it. This is a very young side and I think all the hallmarks of a great team are there, infortunately, when you support a hige club, people aren't prepared to be patient.
Little Dutch
19/11/2006 14:49:00
i'm still not convinced clichy is the longterm successor of cashley, but i'll be glad if he proves me wrong, but i think we need a left back who can defend better, but then again, i'm sure he will get better and really hope he does..
19/11/2006 16:26:00
I think he's a much better defender than Cole was at 21. I also think that Gael has always been a player who improves with games, getting an extended run in the side and being first choice will see him turn into a world class left back. I also think a call up for France is close by, he is already much better than Evra, Abidal and Givet.
Little Dutch
19/11/2006 16:43:00
yeh i guess he will improve with games and once the team starts winning consistently, the players will also get better, but don't you think we should get cover for the leftback position in january? we only have one specialist left back at the moment..
19/11/2006 16:54:00
To be honest I don't think so. I think Gallas is a great replacement and with Djourou and Senderos we have excellent cover all across the back. If we were to buy someone, he would have to be content with not playing, in turn, that would suggest he would not be a player of the requisite standard.
Little Dutch
19/11/2006 16:59:00
and since you've mentioned djourou and senderos, let us say that gallas and toure don't suffer any injuries this season, then the two swiss players won't get a chance to play at all, and do you think senderos in particular would be content to be on the bench all the time, after the part he played in our champions league campaign last year, he in particular was a first choice last season and now he may not play much at all, i fear they might just want to leave if they don't get enough playing time, we have four quality central defenders, which is good in a way, but it's also a problem if you look at it this way..
19/11/2006 17:06:00
i thought our defence looked awsome but i have to wonder why they keep giving away early easy goals, that they should be really defending, like yesterday, gallas and toure were not to be seen?
19/11/2006 18:47:00
I'm disappointed again, that we seemingly dominated a game but didnt get the 3 points. i agree with LD, i dont think this team is capable of playing ugly. plus its not the end of the world that we should make drastic changes to our playing style. just some fine tuning to the finishing and we are still up there. just that this talk comes up when we draw or lose, and disappears the minute we win. but if we drop points to so many teams (especially to teams like newcastle in their current form), i dont see how we can realisatically challenge for the title this season. of course, im not saying its over already, but we do need to bury games like newcastle.
19/11/2006 18:56:00
I think that Senderos and Djourou have recently signed long term deals, so the manager must have spoken to them and they must be content that they are the future. This team will play sixty plus games a season and I think overall, they will get enough games to assuage them. I also think that these two are two of the best young defenders in the world, but they both have some learning to do. Training with Gallas will do them the world of good because I watch this guy closely and he is an artist of a defender. Always has time on the ball, rarely tackles and I've been so impressed by his desire. I knew Willy was good, but I guess getting to see him at close quarters so regularly has meant he has still surprised me.
Little Dutch
19/11/2006 19:51:00
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