Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday November 22 2006
Due to a lunch hour that has been diminished by a nationwide cash machine shortage, I will have to make today's exchanges brief. (A real challenge for me, let me tell you!)
Over at my other literary Arsenal employers, the gooner, we have been trying to ascertain what would make a great Arsenal anthem. A chant in the vein of #You'll Never Walk Alone# or #Blue Moon#, something instantly evocative of our club and its unsurpassed history. At this rate, Avril Lavigne's #Why Do You Have To Go and Make Things So Complicated?# might just be our signature tune! (NB, this was not meant to be a plug for the gooner, nevertheless, new issue this Saturday!)
What on earth has to happen for Arsenal to apply some defensive concentration in the opening stages of home games? One has to question why this mistake is being repeated constantly. (Speaking of signature tunes, #Over and Over and Over Again# seems to strike a chord of resonance). Once again, Arsenal were lacksidaisical in defence and found themselves a goal down in the first half. The phrase 'here we go again' was palpable in the thick winter air, as Arsenal put their wotsits right on the line (not to mention their Champions League future). Seriously, as a child, how many times do you put your hand in a blazing oven before you realise it's a bad idea? The 'comme ci, comme ca' nature of our defending threatens our season, and it nearly dealt us an enormous blow last night. The goal also confirmed that, for all his industry, Mathieu Flamini just is not good enough to do the 'screening' job. Throughout the game he did not pursue the ball in the correct areas and I can remember few occasions when he won it back for the team. The first half petered out into a damp squib, Hleb's shot crashing the crossbar our solitary moment of danger as the players did not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation.
I'm certain that it does not happen often, but I'm willing to bet money the crockery was damaged at half time as Arsenal enjoyed a second half resurgence. They began to press the ball in all areas and were rewarded with a swift equaliser. What followed bears discussion. I sit in the East Upper opposite the dugouts and I am convinced I saw Henry gesticulate wildly to the Arsenal bench. At first I was aghast as he appeared to flick a provocative v-sign towards Arsene Wenger. But in hindsight, he was obviously reminding the manager of the merits of a two man forward line. This also suggests that Henry lost his rag at half time, fed up with being isolated as a lone striker. Seconds later, Henry was booked for a petulant charge at Joris Mathijsen which sees him miss the Porto game. Is this inspired leadership or moon faced sulking? I'll let you decide. Either way, I do not think we will play 4-5-1 at home again.
The Gunners huffed and puffed again thereafter in a similar vein to the Everton, Boro, Newcastle and Villa matches. But le boss showed further tactical acumen with two substitutions that were to change the game irrevicably. I raised my eyebrows in a mixture of surprise and disgust to see Hleb and van Persie substituted, but Adebayor and Walcott changed the match. They bought the side a refreshing vibrancy. Adebayor charged around like a man possessed, closing down space and holding the ball up, bringing others into play. But his most effective contribution was to maraud down the right hand side. His nuisance factor pulled defenders all over the shop, allowing room for the pace and guile of young Walcott. Hamburg had substituted a left back for a striker following the equaliser, and Eboue, Walcott and Adebayor declared open season on the right hand side. It was therefore no surprise that Arsenal took the lead when Walcott fed an overlapping Eboue, and Wachter spilled his shot gloriously into the net. The third had a nice touch of symmetry to it for Wenger, as Adebayor linked up excellently with fellow substitute Walcott and his pinpoint cross was met with a firm header by the Beeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaasssssssssssssst! A glimpse of what he can give us, and a goal created by all three substitutes. Relief collectively washed over us with a crucial three points had been bagged. Hopefully, this result will give the side the confidence to surmount one goal defecits. On the other hand, let's hope that it gives the players to good sense to CONCENTRATE!!!!
With the relief having evaporated into early morning frost, a few notes of caution. Firstly, we still have it all to do. I managed to catch most of the Porto Moscow game in the Tavern and Porto looked incredibly dangerous. Estadio Dragao had a fiersome reputation as a cauldorn of partisan support and obtaining the much desired draw is by no means a foregone conclusion. The fact that we are shorn of our captain, frankly, does not greatly trouble me. To be honest, I think he could do with the rest with the game sandwiched precariously between two huge London derbies. Also, Zagreb, Hamburg and United away have all been achieved without his influence this season, this side can play without him and I have full confidence that his loss will not be greatly felt. Another thing troubles me, the law of averages suggests that we had to win from a losing position sooner or later. Likewise, the universe could have its wicked way on December 2nd too, because sooner or later we'll lose from a goal down. If you shoot yourself in the foot enough times, you'll eventually die of blood loss, comprende? LD.
Date:Wednesday November 22 2006
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