Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday December 24 2006
A sumptuous festive feast was served up for our delectation yesterday. A tremendous game of football for Gooners and neutrals alike. It just confirms my belief that this side is going somewhere special, it's just a case of obtaining consistency.
There were a number of good displayes from those in red and white yesterday. Adebayor continued to make a mockery of the naysayers with an inspired performance. He was at the heart of evrything, his flick ons- both aerially and on the deck- were superb. Ade is proving that he is not merely a target man, but he is running at people with a voracity that panics defenders. I have said many, many times that this boy is not just brawn, he's got an intelligence with which he is rarely credited. Alex Hleb was outstanding yet again, his willingness to engage defenders and run at them made a huge difference to our attacks. Poor Michael Gray was withdrawn, presumably suffering from twisted bones!
The return of Rosicky lent the side a greater attacking fluency. The partnership of Hleb and Rosicky seems to give our play a liquidity that Ljungberg cannot. It is interesting that Hleb and Rosicky were key in our 4-0 dismantlement of Reading. Tommy Gunn is a great dribbler and the Blackburn defence did not know how to deal with him. Equally capable of a sly through ball or a thirty yard thunderbolt, he creates uncertainty. A disguised ball to Cesc in the second half in particular was breathtaking. Gilberto is relishing his role as captain, marshalling his troops and revelling in the role of elder statesman. Whereas I think the captaincy suffocates Henry, Gilberto's position allows him to grow with the armband. Many believe he should keep the armband and I would be inclined to agree. But it's hard to see how this could be done without significantly upsetting Henry. In reality, an armband is only a piece of cloth, there is nothing preventing Gilbo from continuing his great leadership when TH returns.
But the real difference yesterday was Cesc Fabregas. Building the side around him is the correct way to go, he is a quite awesome talent and he will reap us many rewards in the future. But he is still a teenager and lacks the maturity to dominate for an entire 90 minutes. Yesterday was an example of him dominating an entire match from beginning to end, as opposed to the last half an hour. Cesc just set the rhythm, picking the ball up off Gilberto and feeding the likes of RVP, Hleb, Adebayor, Rosicky. His performance was diametric to his poor showing against Pompey, he was a constant picture of kinesis, moving the ball then instantly getting forward looking to receive it again. The delightful slip back for van Persie for the fifth goal was subtly brilliant, but it was merely an hours d'ouevres. Receiving the ball on the left, he flicked the ball over Savage's head then nonchantly ran off, throwing an extravagant stepover which angered Savage. Lilly attempted to wipe young Cesc out, but the way Fabregas skipped around him was pure comedy gold. In fact, it was scarily reminiscent of van Persie's corner flag effort in the same fixture last season, Lilly attempted to trip van Persie only to witness a moment of genius.
A cautionary note however, we now face two away games at sides fighting for their lives and they will not allow us any space. Also, such has been our inconsistency this year, I would not venture to call this a renaissance just yet. It was a fabulous display, aside from ten very pensive minutes at 3-2, but we must now maintain a consistent level. Another observation was Bentley's appalling histrionics, times he was fouled saw him roll on the ground, clutching a limb and a few Arsenal players were booked as a result by an appalling referee in Howard Webb. I would also like to take the chance to laugh at Chelsea, Wigan offered half price tickets to their supporters for the game yesterday, yet the Champions were not a big enough draw to entice anything approaching a sell out crowd. Money does not make you a big club. Next up in the seasonal hilarities has to be the goalkeeping of Paul Robinson yesterday, if this guy is England's number 1, then I must have a shot at making the England bench!!! I would also like to correct a few trigger happy pundits declaring Paul Scholes volley as goal of the season. Scholes' strike was a stunning effort from the one of the best midfielders of his generation, but van Persie's effort at Charlton was better. The ball came at him quickly at an awkward height, whereas Scholes was given time to line up his shot. In closing I would like to extend a merry Christmas to all of the Vital community. I will be posting reports for all of the upcoming fixtures as usual, so if you can tear yourselves away from drink and song long enough, do stop by. LD.
Date:Sunday December 24 2006
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