Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday September 20 2007
Before I begin with the report I would like to (have been forced to) give a shout to John, that's John Lowe of Bromley. He sells Fords, yes, that John. Alright? Right, now bizarre pleasantries have been observed let me clear my throat. Everybody came into last night's game on something of a high, warming up for a few jars pre kick off those of us who had witnessed the slaughter at the Lane compared notes and the consensus was that everybody enjoyed a trouble free escape. The team also appeared to be riding the crest of a wave, beginning the game with vigour and confidence. Gael Clichy, as is his wont, was easily repelling the forward thrusts of Daniel Alves and Calpi playing in front of him.
But despite Arsenal's swift passing, Sevilla looked an organised and well drilled unit. Upon witnessing them slughter Tottenham at White Hart Lane (joining a by no means exclusive club), I noticed that they appeared to play with a kind of flying v effect. Using pace and power to attack and defend as one, ably spearheaded by the ever dangerous Fredi Kanoute. So it proved last nigth and chances were at a premium in the first half, with Sevilla happy to watch us pass the ball in front of them, before deploying their speedy wingers and full backs to propel counter attacks. This gave the game a kind war of attrition feeling until Cesc Fabregas exchanged passes with the once again monumental Flamini, Cesc tried his luck from all of thirty yards before a massive deflection from Julien Escude took it past Andreas Palop. Such is football, I remember Cesc hitting an identical shot last season in a 1-1 draw against Newcastle which drifted agonisingly wide of Given's post. At the moment, they're all flying in for Cesc, sometimes it just happens like that, there is no rationalisation. Fabregas was hardly shot shy last season, he just appears to have found that a mixture of confidence in front of goal and good fortune has seen his goalscoring statistics already surpass last season's tally.
From there on the Gunners' hardly looked back, Sevilla looked surprisingly muted with the prospect having to come out and attack us. In truth, they looked neither able nor willing to do so. I think large credit here has to go to our full backs 'Banger' Sagna and Hurricane Clichy superbly foiled Fabiano and Calpi's thrusts down the flanks. Kanoute was impressive but looked largely isolated. Once again I am left to commend the display of Mathieu Flamini, the energy that has always been present is still very much in his game, but the headless chicken impersonation seems to be lacking. His positional sense is greatly improved, as he constantly popped up on the toes of Christian Poulsen (who Wenger had identified as Sevilla's heartbeat pre match), robbing him of the ball. His humility is also impressive, as soon as he wins the ball back he knows instantly to pass to Cesc, Hleb and Rosicky, acknowledging their technical superiority to him. With the competition for places in central midfield stronger than ever, Flam seems to be enjoying a new lease of life. So much so that I am wondering if last season's undisputed player of the year (I don't care what Arsenal.com says) Gilberto should get his place back.
Arsenal looked at ease throughout the second half, it was almost like a diametric opposite of last season. We were hardly creating chance after chance, but with Flamini oiling the good wheel Fabregas, the Gunners' were dictating the pace of the game. Tomas Rosicky limped off early in the second half with a thigh strain and injury looks to be a worryingly regular occurence for Tommy Gun, even more worrying as once again, Demolition Diaby looked anything other than at home on the left wing. The home side would make their territorial dominance pay in the second period, Fabregas whipping in a wicked free kick from the left, which saw Robin van Persie unmarked on the back post to divert into the roof of the net. Arsenal were in their stride thereafter and nearly added a third with a typically robust run from Bacary Sagna down the right, and his pinpoint cross was neaded narrowly wide by Adebayor.
Both teams appeared to want the final whistle at that point, but the Gunners' had one final trick up their sleeve. Alex Hleb dispossessed Julien Escude on the edge of Sevilla's area, he played in Fabregas on the right, and with all around urging him to shoot, the Catalonian had the presence of mind to sniff out the unmarked Eduardo who scored the sort of tap in that he was purchased to score. That brings Fabregas' contribution this week to four assists and two goals. Not bad (particularly if he's in your dream team). It also gives Eduardo his fourth goal in ten days and his second in Arsenal colours, which can only aid his integration into our team. The final whistle sounded to raptuous applause as the 60,000 (that's a 150% increase on London's other Champions' League attendance this week) saluted a fine display. This result is not to be underestimated, Sevilla are a side on a par with Barca and Madrid, and I am sure the acclaim would have been warmer had we spanked one of those guys. But while we shouldn't underestimate this result, we also shouldn't get carried away and underestimate Deby. On my way home I received a text claiming that Mourinho had departed the Bodge, (that is sure to have a drastic effect on their attendances). I usually like a witty ending to an article, but I really could not summise any better than Amos did on another forum, four weeks ago we were the team in crisis, now Stamford Bridge is falling down, United are below Citeh and Jol has a dagger hanging over his head. Wonderful game football isn't it?LD.
Date:Thursday September 20 2007
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