Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday January 10 2007
That's right folks, Arsenal are clearly a side in irreversible decline. Wenger has never had a masterplan since the losses of Vieira, Edu, Campbell, Bergkamp and Pires. Arsene clearly had no idea what he was doing and had no plan in place for building another great side, he should have been sacked long ago. The make up of our squad is laughable, Baptista is clearly not good enough and we should have kept Reyes, Aliadiere cannot cut it at this level and Alex Song, who has played for us a massive five times now, is a joke.
Of course sarcasm can be delightful, but my main feeling from last night is one of smug satisfaction. For the last twelve months we have been told that we are a team in decline, the over reliance on average youngsters was merely a move to massage Wenger's ego and the tiny Totts were going to supercede us as the force in North London. Of course the more intelligent/rational/patient/faithful amongst us have been quietly committed to Wenger's vision. Chelsea's massive inherited wealth has turned the Premiership upside down, and we have had to adjust as a result. There has simply been no point in spending massive amounts of money on 'proven' big names (egos) since 2003. If we spend £100,000,000 on new players in a summer, what do you think Chelsea are going to do? Spend £200,000,000 that's what (and probably snafoo several of our targets in the process). The only long term strategy for competing with Chelsea has been to take a leaf out of Fergie's book a la 1995. Mould a team of talented individual youngsters together in order to build a side that grows in composite harmony.
Unfortunately, some supporters just have not been able to see the bigger picture. Players are a disposable entity to a club like Chelsea at the moment, exemplified by their current shotgun policy to the purchase and sale of players. We are not in a position to do this, so the only way to survive (especially whilst securing the costs for a new stadium) has been to do something they will not. Who better to instigate the masterplan than Wenger? I apologise if I have turned a 6-3 victory at Anfield into a bitter rant, but over the last months myself, the editor and many of you that contribute richly to this forum have been called 'apologists' and dubbed 'the rose tinted brigade' by impatient fans who know only how to demand success now, now, now. Just yesterday, somebody came onto this forum and called Julio Baptista 'a joke.' A contributor to another blog implored 'This is Baptista's last chance to impress' IN HIS FIFTH GAME?! Alexandre Song was booed off the pitch against Fulham, his third league start in an Arsenal shirt. Recently at Sheffield United, desperate away fans screamed 'shooot', at Jeremie Aliadiere, when he obliged and missed from an impossible angle, he was met with a torrent of abuse. Last night was vindication, and the aforementioned supporters will hopefully begin to see some sense.
I am not going to bother with a blow by blow match report, the ensuing head whirling excitement and sleep deprivation have discombobulated my brain to the point that I can not even recall the chronology of the goals! But what I can affirm is that this was a performance of some magnitude. Nevermind Benitez's slack team selection and the Reds insipid display, a team containing six teenagers went to fortress Anfield and absolutely blew the home side away. A side containing Steven Gerrard, Craig Bellamy, Luis Garcia, Sami Hyypia- all bar one Champions League winners. Yet the likes of 18 year old Denilson, 19 year old Alex Song, 17 year old Armand Traore, 19 year old Johan Djourou, 19 year old Cesc Fabregas and 18 17 year old Theo Walcott not only dug in and outmuscled Pool, they comprehensively outplayed them with a footballing masterclass. Fabregas, as ever, was the hub of it all, dictating the pace of the game. Slowing it down and speeding it up as and when he saw fit. Alex Song, having dominated a game at Everton away (which sadly, most of the people who criticise him never saw), produced a display of grit, robbing the likes of Garcia and Gerrard of possession on their forward surges. He also passed the ball wonderfully, as did Denilson, who continues to impress with his harmonious mix of intelligent ball retention and never say die resolve. The three central midfielders were so composed in possession, never worrying about the likes of Gerrad snapping at their heels, they just knew where to play the ball before they had even received it.
Armand Traore produced a performance which belied his years and Justin Hoyte appeared to relish the role of older statesman (at 22!) foiling the forward advances of Aurelio and Garcia with a positional savy that I did not know he possessed. Djourou and Toure were excellent, intercepting passes to the forwards and Djourou managed to match the electric Bellamy for pace. The there were the front trio, or the triple entente. Walcott looked in and out, but as Pool came out in search of goals, his pace was effective on the break. Aliadiere produced a display worthy of his considerable talent. I think he has lacked confidence of late, but he fed ravenously on a Liverpool defence that appeared genetically predisposed to his pace, and made the once monumental Hyypia look vitiate. The fact that he finished the match with a goal, three assits and won an ill fated penalty informs you of his effect on the game. I will reiterate that I think Jeremie has a future at Arsenal, I hope this display is the catalyst for some blistering form, he is certainly capable.
That just leaves the Beast. There was an interesting debate on the forum last week, regarding whether or not le Boss would keep hold of Baptista (together with his 36.2cm biceps- that's bigger than my thigh!), I think he may have answered last night. Playing as a target man, Walcott and Aliadiere's pace provided the perfect foil to his power and presence. What makes me most positive is the nature of his goals- two tap ins following scintillating wing play, and two long range efforts. That tells you he has all the readies to be a fixture in our team. Hopefully last night will boost his confidence and present myself and Rocky with the opportunity to write big, smug 'I told you so' articles come May.
A few other points worth mentioning. Firstly, the Liverpool fans were again first class. On three separate occasions Scousers approached myself and my Gooner pal Barry and commented with sincere zest, that they hope we win a trophy this year. Large numbers of them stayed behind to applaud the young Gunners off and that is a mark of the class and esteem with which their football club is held. Vocally, I found my best form last night, if you heard the chant 'Your Season Ends Tonight' or 'Twice In A Week' over your television screens, I can verify that they were the brainchild of one Mr. Stillman. I would also like to mention that Steven Gerrard sought out Theo Walcott as he was replaced by Abou Diaby (good to have you back) and gave him an apologetic looking handshake. This was long overdue, but I applaud Gerrard for executing this courtesy. For my part, my tirades against him will evaporate from this point on. I still feel he is grossly over rated, but the malice has now been removed and I wish Steve Gerrard and Liverpool all the best in their endeavours against Barcelona (mark my words, Pool will beat them). In closing, if I could have been granted the luxury of selecting Arsenal's goalscorers last night, I would have selected Alaidiere, Song and Baptista. All have come in for harsh and ill considered criticism, and I would especially like to see the guys around me at Fulham who booed Song off the pitch, then confronted me for speaking out. WHERE ARE YA? WHERE ARE YA? If you are reading this and you were booing at Fulham, or if you were the guy next to me at Sheffield who moaned, 'The Beast is s**t, bring back Reyes', all I can ask os just how does that humble pie taste? I will be providing pictures from last night in a separate article later tonight. (One particular picture has been covertly doctored by someone seeking to smear my reputation by creating the illusion I have a pint in my hand, for shame pixel pixies). I would like to extend my thanks to Gooners in arms Barry and Bruno, who have taken some great shots from last night and given me permission to reproduce them on this site. Cheers dudes. LD.
Date:Wednesday January 10 2007
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