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How To Endear Yourself to Gooners

In the aftermath of Arsenal's comfortable 3-0 victory over Tottenham at the Grove last season, goalscorer and man of the match Emmanuel Adebayor revealed in an interview, 'Pat Rice said to me before the game, 'if you want these fans to love you, score against Spurs.' It was obviously a message the Togonator took very much to heart and one can't help but wonder if Rice was whittering in the ears of Manuel Almunia and Nicklas Bendtner pre match. Whilst Almunia's tenure as Arsenal's number 1 has been solid so far, he still has yet to convince many. Whilst Bendtner has earned himself more and more minutes in an Arsenal shirt, yet, astoundingly there are those out there that doubt his temperament. Personally, I don't mind arrogance if you've got the goods to back it up. Nicky is young, egotistical but inestimably talented, in fact, he reminds me of me! (I'm better looking mind).

Following yesterday's match, the aforementioned have earned themselves some breathing space. The match began with Tottenham set up to be compact and difficult to break down, with Jamie O'Hara assigned to marshall Fabregas. He did it brilliantly, winning possession back on countless occasions before distributing economically. I saw O'Hara play for Millwall earlier in the season and he didn't look that special in truth, but if he can maintain his current form Tottenham might have a real player on their hands. Fabregas meanwhile, had a very cumbersome game, apparently his parents are over from Spain and it certainly looked as though Cesc had been tucking in to too much home cooked Paella. The Gunners' only real opportunity of the first half came when Fabregas hooked a cute ball into the area and the Flanimal hit the side netting on the half volley. Toure's header from a Fabregas corner brought a cringeworthy Hollywood save from Robinson which could have put his side in trouble, because he might easily have caught the ball. Like I said, ego is fine if you've got talent. Robinson hasn't, fat tosser. Thereafter, the Gunners' looked contemplative in possession, with Adebayor isolated upfront. Tottenham stuck rigidly to their gameplan and at half time, the ground was a couldron of frustration. The lack of any tempo was confusing, as none of the starting eleven had played in midweek, whereas Spurs pitted a first choice side to face Man City.

Four minutes into the second half, Arsenal took an undeserved lead. Rosicky found space and fed Fabregas on the edge of the box and a precocious backheel found Adebayor, who had drifted out to the left (amusingly, in the build up, a guy several rows behind me yelled, 'get in the f*****g middle Adebayor!'), his finish was poor, stroking the ball pretty much straight at Robinson. So it was with a sense of surprise and curiosity that I saw the ball roll in as the chunky 'stopper' allowed it underneath him. Adebayor has replaced Robert Pires as Tottenham's 'bete noir' with his sixth goal against Tottenham in five games. But Arsenal still did not raise the tempo, seemingly settling for 1-0, and Tottenham would punish them eventually. Lennon took the ball down the right hand side, switched back onto his left foot and floated a precise cross to Robbie Keane completely unmarked on the back post, but the sprawling figure of Kolo Toure unnerved Keane and he blasted his effort against the crossbar. Arsenal did not heed the warning and one minute later Spurs had parity. Kaboul knocked the ball forwards to Robbie Keane on the touchline, he found Berbatov with a neat backheel and Berbatov smashed the ball above Almunia and into the net. It was a shame for Spurs that he spent the rest of the game sulking and pleading, he is a top, top striker and a player I thoroughly enjoy watching.

Disaster threatened to turn to tragedy just three minutes later. Huddlestone's free kick wasn't cleared and Berbatov shuffled past Toure, who hacked him down, leaving Rob Styles no choice but to point to the spot. Robbie Keane had been successful in all of his previous five spot kicks this season, so I didn't hold out too much hope. But Almunia wasn't fooled by Keane's shuffle and drop of the shoulder and stood firm to beat out the Irishman's weak effort. Arsenal ventured forward and won a corner and Arsene Wenger sent on Nicklas Bendtner. Had van Persie been on the bench, it would certainly have been him sent on to rescue a victory, fate can be a fickle mistress indeed. Bendtner ran from the touchline, and didn't stop until he lost Huddlestone in the area and rose majestically to head Fabregas' corner past the helpless Robinson. It was quite a first touch, I could see his run as the corner came in and it was a goal borne of desire, Bedntner simply would not entertain the prospect of somebody else being on the end of that corner.

Tottenham had cause for complaint with two minutes left on the clock as Sagna untidily tripped Adel Taraabt in the area, but Styles fortunately waved away the appeals. Though Tottenham have made missing late penalties in London derbies a habit this season. The Gunners' held out and the final whistle was greeted with a raptuous chorus of Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody.' The players mobbed Almunia as the crowd chanted his name gratefully, somewhere there was a moody German possibly re evaluating the wisdom the following comment, 'Almunia hasn't won us any big games.' Spirits were particularly high in the Bank of Friendship afterwards, where several celebratory Guinnesses and stiff whiskies toasted the victory. And so to you dear readers I wish the season's greetings, needless to say I shall be trawling the South Coast and the Mersey in the next seven days, so if you can tear yourself away from the turkey and alcohol long enough, do watch this space. Otherwise, have yourselves a Merry little Christmas and let's hope that St. Nick can deliver a few more Arsenal type pressies in the coming days, six points will do it nicely for me.LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday December 23 2007

Time: 11:21AM

Your Comments

c,mon tim that finish from adebayor was not bad by any means.....and it most defo wasnt straight at robinson...it was henryesque the way he opened his body and curled it...saying it was a bad finish is too harsh
karley
A very Merry Christmas to you, mister Stillman! And a cracking write-up, great to read, just like it's great to see us topping the table as we wecome in the festivities... Thumping header from Niko, it really was an emphatic run and despatch, Adams-esque in it's nature, the header of a man who would not be denied.
»»Arsene Knows»»
Wingston75
LD, you have also missed the penalty on Rosicky when he was clearly shoved in the back. The ref wasn't watching because he didn't have the ball but it was a nailed on penalty. I also find it amazing how nobody has mentioned the fact that Barbietov fell over every single time an arsenal player got near him (but hey if you enjoy watching that, all power to you). He dived on at least 10 occasions yesterday without receiving a booking for simulation & he shouldn't have even been on the field to score a goal. Ramos is clearly having an effect on spurs but I worked out their game plan very early yesterday. They just played for free kicks around the box because they thought that was their only chance of scoring & in fairness it probably was. Spurs worked hard but still couldn't really test Almunia.
Ashburton Gooner
I also thought o'Hara did well - a bit like Miller against us for Sunderland. As a consequence Cesc had one of his poorer games overall yet still claimed two assists. Hleb was forced too deep so we struggled to create much throughout the game. Too often we were trying to play the ball forward from too far back and the long ball creeps into our game too much when that happens. It was disappointing to hear that RvP wasn't in the line-up. I felt he was what we needed to be a little more incisive and give their back four more to do. But two good finishes..... including Ade's which wasn't quite as poor as you suggest. Rosicky did ok and Gallas' calm assurance is a comforting factor. Merry Xmas LD and thanks for all the entertaining and enjoyable write ups!
Amos.
berbatov is extremely talented but frankly hard to watch, all the whining and sulking takes 90% of the time he is on screen not enjoyable at all
anonymous
Berbatov fell over every time there was a slight bit of contact.
EBOUE4LIFE
**** me when keane was stepping up, i thought that was it, i could just imagine him running up to the old NB celebrating.... well done Manuel (still think Jens would've saved it). What is it with fat boy Robbo changing ends at the toss, *****. Bottle job.
AFC85Lew
Adebayor's finish was one of those where if it goes in you think it's good and if it doesn't then not so good. But I think strikers purposely aim the ball close to the keeper as it's harder to get your hand down to your side rather than dive across. I personally think it was a great finish - hit true, with accuracy and confidence. Spurs were getting between our midfield and defence too often yesterday. Berbatov's movement, touch and goal were top class; his all-round demeanour is pathetic for a professional footballer. One final point I'd like everyone's opinion on: I personally don't think Rosicky does enough for us and think he could be the one to make way for Vela next season. Also, I don't think Eboue adds anything to this side whatsoever but Wenger seems to and persists with him. Thoughts of others?
Gooner_Vin
Think i echo your sentiments with regards to Eboue, he always seems to have an average to poor game and get subbed in the 70th minute, or is it just me? But i disagree re Rosicky, he still has a lot to offer definitely, his 1st touch is top class - but he needs to play a more vital role in the big matches. I'd be very surprised if Vela waltzed straight into the 1st team n all mate.
AFC85Lew
I disagree with ur comments regarding rosicky.. i thought of all our midfield rosicky had the best game yesterday.. sure fabregas got both assists but fabregas was set up in the 1st place by a risciky through ball.. and he was felled twice yesterday in the box yesterday, just that the on the second occasion nobody made any noise, including rosicky himself.. he is full of running and his telepathic understanding with clichy is irreplacable.. eboue has some tricks up his sleeve but he was most effective last season putting in crosses into the box which he doesnt want to do nowadyas, prefering to cut inside defenders ala hleb.. hleb had a poor game by his standards yesterday but i'll cut him some slack as has been immense this season and is allowed 1 poor game.. i fully expect arsene to play 4-4-2 against pompey and everton with RVP and Ade up front keeping nick and n eduardo on the bench.. 9 points from the next 3
McGooner
Take both of your points AFC85Lew and McGooner. I do like Rosicky and I appreciate his touch and role in build up play. I'd just like him to be more a matchwinner, do something out of the ordinary. There's no doubting his technique, desire and workrate. I think he has it in him to do more, especially in the final third/penalty area. I used to love Eboue when he first came on the scene; now he just doesn't do enough going forward or back for us, so what's the point.
Gooner_Vin
I thought Arsenal had only two very good performers yesterday, Gallas and Flamini, therest were distinctly average (not ignoring Almunia's contribution). My point with Ade's finish was that there are about 16 other keepers in the Prem who would have saved it comfortably, fortunately Robbo is far from agile. I would have had no complaints if Spurs came away with a point, I did mention Berbatov's sulking, which is bloody annoying, but he has is a class act. Rooney is an arsehol too, but you can't deny he is a fabulous player to watch. Fate had a big part to play yesterday, the 60 seconds between the penalty save and the goal might become the minute that wins us the Premiership. And had RVP been in the sixteen, he would have come on instead of Bendtner I am sure and we might be contemplating a frustrating draw.
Little Dutch
RvP wouldn't have had the same impact coming off the bench as Bendtner did - that's true. If we had been able to start with him along with Ade and Hleb on the right we would have had a better first half though. Spuds would have had to play a little deeper then.
Amos.
Thanks LD, great writeup as usual. On Rosicky, looking at the 2 penalty claims in MotD, I think at least the 1st one was a clear penalty. The 2nd one was marginal, but so was Sagna's trip on Taarabt. I was watching the last 20 mins of the ManU-Everton game. Everton played well and until 85' I really thought they could also "endear" themselves to us by taking 1 or even 3 points at OT. It did seem probable. But when Giggs got tripped in the box, I thought that was it, 2-1 to them, as I've simply not seen 2 penalties being saved in the same weekend. Anyway, we're the ones blessed with a great Christmas quite fittingly by Emmannuel (and no, LD, the only point I wouldn't agree on is his finish, it's not bad at all) and a guy called Nicholas. Happy Christmas to you and everyone!
Louisa
Same weekend? Didn't Friedal save 2 in the same game not so long back :)
AFC85Lew
i see where gooner vin is coming from in terms of Rosicky. a great player no doubt. and he does do well if you ask me.. but he's the kind of player who you just feel that he should be setting the field alight rather than just doing well.
ArsenalRob
Yeah Lew I didn't see that. Haven't seen 2 penalty saves in a weekend in my short period of football fandom. Anyway, just finished watching the Milan derby. Milan IS beatable. Their weakest link is the goalkeeper. While they have pacy players like Kaka and Gilardino further up, their backline's really slow. Didn't hear the commentators mention Seedorf much, that's how off his day was. Paolo "God" Maldini tried to clear a ball by heading it right into Cambiasso's path which gave them a goal where Dida should have been able to try and save but didn't even give it a good try at all. Ambrossini didn't seem near Milan class. They usually up their game on big occasions but it wasn't that exciting to me and the tempo of the game was really slow, with your markers like a few yards away from the guy on the ball until he got nearer the box. Really think Liverpool have a much tougher draw than we do at this point, though we never know how it's gonna be like in Feb. Old heads v young guns, slow men vs pacy kids, really interesting!
Louisa
I think Wenger persists with Eboue because he does help Sagna out defensively. On at least 3 occasions yesterday Eboue went into the right back position when Sagna went past him. That side of Eboue's game doesn't get mentioned anymore because we all expect him to be setting up goals or scoring them, which to be fair hasn't been in his job description until this season.
Ashburton Gooner
Fair point AG. I keep assessing him as a RW when he's been in this role only this season. Regarding defensive work, I also realise Theo did noticeably more on that too. They're both work in progress, while Hleb, not a winger at all, has been effective in that position. I even feel his performances in the hole behind the striker haven't been as great recently as in pre-season. Perhaps when we first saw him do that, it's a pleasant surprise really on the back of a "doom and gloom" summer with limited expectations and all. I still think as things stand, it's Hleb > Eboue > Theo who's more of a sub to run against tired defences in top games.
Louisa
i was thinking the same AG,we on the right two similar players who can overlap eacvh other and slot into defensive duties,which probably why they are on the pitch,but eboue did let robbie bottle job keane get a free shot on the back post, btw ld wasnt it fabregas who made contact with tarrabt in the box?
fran merida
Fran, it's Sagna who tripped Taarabt in the box. I was sweating too, but phew, no penalty. Guess that'd "even out" Rosicky's 1st penalty claim then, while the 2nd one wasn't as obvious a penalty.
Louisa
We have the "champions' luck" and character to come up with 3 points even when we're not playing well. But I'm gutted to see even luckier ManU have the same qualities today. We got a penalty saved, they got one scored - towards the end of the game. Everton truly deserved something out of it! Only now do I look back to the Boro and Newcastle games, though I should be looking ahead no matter what. OK, 4-4-2 with RvP at Portsmouth please. Happy Christmas to you guys!
Louisa
Great write up LD. I think it is extremely harsh to say Ade's goal was a bad shot. There was really no where else to put it. It was a great goal IMO and very much like his mentor.
gunnerkid107
Has anyone heard anything on RVP's "knock"?
gunnerkid107
Apparently he was dropped because Arsenal had their xmas party on Thursday and he acted a bit of a *****. I don't know how true that is, something I heard on the grapevine. I don't think it was anything of United proportions though.
Little Dutch
Well thats strange. Its not like Arsene to drop somebody from the squad for something so miniscule.
gunnerkid107
i still believe it was a minor injury
ArsenalRob
If you believe arsenal.com, RvP will be back for Everton, if not Portsmouth. I hope Portsmouth, we need to put together a run by winning there before going to Everton which is a bit tougher IMO.
Louisa
for sure it was a minor knock, watching highlights down under thats what the commentators were saying anyway..
anonymous
the next two games are going to be very tough, and of course important, and I really feel that RVP is the kind of player who can make the difference. We still have players capable of winning it, but not with much comfort.
ArsenalRob
bit off topic but with barnsley FA cup and spuds CC in a row, do you think AW will give our first-teamers a 12 day break?
ArsenalRob
Great article LD but I disagree with "Arsenal took an undeserved lead"..we started the 2nd half very well and we deserve the lead especially with that back heel from Cesc after a very nice pass from Rosicky... ArsenalRob, that is more likely, we need to give the first-teamers a breather.
CoastarianGooner
I guess so Rob. I hadnt looked at that before. That will be a great break for the first team after the holiday schedule.
gunnerkid107
Also something I noticed looking at our schedule is that Toure and Eboue will be back for the Milan game!! Toure is a must in advancing.
gunnerkid107
Gunnerkid, yes that's why I kept saying fingers crossed Kolo and Eboue do come back from ACN unscathed! Oh one way to even further endear yourself to Gooners is to be modest while you're on top of your game. After the Spurs game, Almunia said about saving Keane's penalty honestly, "Yes, I guessed. Instinct played a part, and luck as well. I never study the other team, I don't see anything about the other team." Mad Jens, who famously saved two of the 4 Argentina penalties and correctly guessed the directions of the other two at the World Cup last year after pulling out from his socks and reading his goalkeeping coach's well-researched notes, must have really exploded with madness hearing what Almunia said about his "intuitive" save.
Louisa
Yes indeed gunnerkid107, I noticed that too and was a little relieved yet to be relieved completely when he actually plays that day. I hope whoever will play on his behalf will deputise well and not miss that much otherwise I won't support Ivory Coast in ACN..yeah am selfish...LOL
CoastarianGooner
CoastarianGooner did Kenya make it to the ACN?
gunnerkid107
Merry Christmas to you all and let us relish the prospect of being on top of the table for the duration of Christmas Day. Even though I still expect us to be at the top come January when things get tough. If RvP can make it for Portsmouth that would be a great asset to us. I just hope Kanu doesn't try another of his backheel tricks again.
stukazufuss
If RVP cant make it for Pompey then I want to see Bendtner and Ade up front for us.
gunnerkid107
i hope wenger gives bendtner a chance against pompey.. i have been waiting for it for quite sometime.. and he proved against spuds that he is worth it.. some people here are saying that rosicky is not doing much.. speaking abt that i would say u have to see the amount of running and the linking of passes he provides in midfield.. also.. his partnership with clichy is going from good to better.. eboue himself hasnt got himself accustomed to his new position just yet.. but does win us some good free kicks.. and helps sagna out a lot of times.. and dont forget.. hez just 23.. loads of time on his side..
go4it_adi
but yeah.. i am looking at more moments of brilliance coming out of tommy.. which he is certainly capable of.. anyways.. merry x'mas y'all.. have a blast.. cheers..
go4it_adi
Good write up LD, and Merry Christmas to everyone. Good to be on top of the table now. It was a well deserved win for Arsenal, though Spurs may consider themselves a wee bit unlucky not to take a point from the game. Bendtner's goal was awesome, and he impresses me with every outing. Ade drifted out wide too often for my liking, but it paid off with the goal, which was a decent finish. Rosicky had a really good game, and I think we are seeing the best of Almunia as he plays more games like this.
prits
gunnerkid107, no they didn't make it
CoastarianGooner
By the way, merry Xmass to ya'all
CoastarianGooner
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/1351_afr_foot_vote/index.shtml you know what to do
ArsenalRob
good point louisa about lehman,i sympathize with the guy actually it's kind of funny lool
princeoflove909
 

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