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Gunners Can Handle Themselves

As the coach made its way past the desolate estates of Croxteth, the radio was piping coverage from Upton Park to us. United led 1-0 and seemed very comfortable, just as the coach parked up, United were awarded a penalty. The Gooners who had stayed on the coach to listen to the remainder of the match began to collect their coats and leave, leaving just me and a mate unwilling to brave the blustery Merseyside conditions. By the time Ronaldo had blasted his penalty wide, our coach was barren. West Ham conspired of course to score two goals in the remaining thirteen minutes of the game to put a real spring in our step as we made haste for the Bullens Road Upper Tier. Wenger took a necessary gamble in resting a weary Rosicky and Adebayor in favour of Demolition Diaby, and supersub Nicky Bendtner would partner Eduardo upfront. The expectation in the away section was rife as we prepared to reassume top spot only three days after having been knocked off our perch.

Arsenal started the match reasonably well, with a good tempo. Bendtner and Eduardo looked hungry for the ball, as Diaby and Clichy linked up well on the left, leaving the partisan home support hushed. But gradually the hosts gameplan kicked in as Arteta began to find space and Yakubu chased long balls. On 19 minutes, Yakubu shoulder charged Toure and won Everton a corner under the noses of the visiting fans. (Four minutes later, Bendtner was booked for the same offence). Arteta swung the corner into the near post, Sagna could only flick his dreadlocks at it, Bendtner could not clear it at the back post, and Tim Cahill stopped in to give Everton the lead from close range. The Everton supporters mistakenly believed that Yakubu had scored, as they serenaded the Nigerian target man. From there on, the half belonged to Everton. Hleb and Fabregas found themselves double marked every time they received the ball, and subsequently Bendtner and Eduardo were starved of service. Though the home side did not create a great deal, though Arteta's excellent delivery provided some nervy moments from set pieces. Phil Neville scooped a shot over after good play between Cahill and Arteta. There was an unfortunate incident as Kolo Toure was struck by an object thrown from the ground. I did not see a single steward make any sort of movement towards the offending area for the entire match. But at half time, I was thinking that I would take a point.

But the Gunners gave themselves a timely boost just two minutes into the second half. Unusually, it would arrive via route one, Clichy's hopeful long ball was misjudged by Phil Jagielka and Eduardo showed his astounding nous in the box by gambling on the ball arriving, he controlled it- probably with his arm- before steadying himself and beating Howard with a finish of inhuman composure. Every time the Crozilian finds himself in that sort of position, he scores. I would be interested to see his goals to shots ratio in our colours, I'm sure he'd be pushing a 90% conversion rate. The Bullens Road stand became reinvigorated with hope, as the game began to look genuinely winnable for the first time. Though Arsenal were fortunate when Lescott's cross found Yakubu Aiyegbeni completely unmarked eight yards out, only for the prolific marksman to head wide. Anybody who has been to Merseyside to watch football will be aware of a curious regional phenomenon exclusive to Liverpool and Everton fans, whereby they cry, 'HANDBALL!!!!' just about every time the ball leaves the ground. Well, on 58 minutes, the natives cry would be grounded in genuine injustice as opposed to pathetic whining. Another Clichy high ball was flicked on by Nicklas 'Smudger' Bendtner, and Eduardo flicked the ball around Jagielka, before appearing to control it with his hand again and slotting beyond the stranded Tim Howard.

The sense of injustice was not lost on the 3,000 travelling faithful who had a perfect view of Eduardo's indiscretion. 'Score when we handball, we only score when he handball,' came the acknowledgement, followed by the even more cutting, 'Handball, to the Arsenal.' The Evertonians grateful applause would morph into fully blown scorn as the Gunners weren't finished with the mockery, a self mocking 'same old Arsenal, always cheating' incensed the locals. At the third attempt the official, presumably embarrassed at being mocked by his beneficiaries, booked Eduardo for another Maradona impression. But the chances of smash and grab looked to be on the wane on 74 minutes when Nicklas Bendtner, already on a booking, raised his studs to Andrew Johnson and was correctly dismissed. There has been suggestion since of some tomfoolery on the touchline, Wenger wanted to sub Bendtner but could not owing to a fault with the Fourth Official's technical equipment. I have to say, I was sat directly adjacent to the bench and I had the distinct impression that the decision to delay the substitution was Arsenal's. In any case, Bendtner's challenge was naive. I genuinely don't think it was as malicious as it might have appeared, I think he wanted to use his body to shield the ball and stuck a leg out in order to position himself between ball and player. (You may recall a similar challenge by Jamei Redknapp a few years back). But it was ill timed, ill judged and he deserved his marching orders.

As Bendtner left the field, the sleet began to hammer down, ricocheting noisily on the roof above us. Exactly the type of conditions our fancy dan foreigners cannot handle. Almunia saved from a Johnson flick on and clung manfully to a low Lee Carsley strike. And on 78 minutes, Almunia would be credited with an unlikely assist. His hopeful punt forward just evaded Adebayor's leap and with the ball drifting back towards Tim Howard, the Togonator showed tremendous desire to chase the ball down and capitalise on a seconds hesitation between Yobo and Howard, prodding the ball between Howard's legs before treading the red carpet to an empty goal. Game over it seemed, as the delighted Gooner entourage belted out, 'we are top of the league' and a seasonal chorus of jingle balls. But there was still drama to come. Fabregas hassled Arteta in possession, forcing him to turn his back towards goal, frustrated by Cesc's close attention, Arteta lashed out with a hand into Fabregas' face. Much seems to have been made of a Cesc over reaction (which he was certainly guilty of with the infamous Ashley Cole incident), but Arteta clearly raised an arm and connected. Textbook red card. I admit the force probably wasn't enough to leave Cesc writhing in agony, but forcible enough to garner sufficient contact. David Moyes may well whine post match about perceived Fabregas hystrionics, but its a clear red card and Arteta should have known better. Besides, Moyes knows all about gamesmanship, he once bought a player called Andy Johnson.

The fizz evaporated from Everton's game at that point, Fabregas, public enemy number one amongst those of the Blue persuasion, was removed presumably to prevent him from exacting the retribution of a marked man. Tomas Rosicky would replace him and become Arsenal's third scoring substitute in three games. Adebayor received Clichy's pass on the left, teased Jagielka, before prodding the ball to Rosicky through the most minute of gaps and Rosicky neatly smashed home a fourth to leave us with a scoreline which scarsely reflected Everton's performance. The final whistle was greeted with a rousing rendition of 'we shall not be moved' as a game that looked lost at half time, somehow morphed into a resounding win against one of the Premiership's form sides. Three route one goals, five bookings and a red card amidst the sleet and hail of a December evening in the North West shows that Arsenal have got their edge back. We proved that not only can we kick it, we can handle it too.LD

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday December 30 2007

Time: 1:55PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Agree with you LD, I'd love to see dudu's goal to shots ratio, I can only recall him missing one against ManU(re). Good writeup mate
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30/12/2007 14:13:00

We were awful first half. Simply pathetic. I thought this was Middlesborough- Arsenal part II actually. But I don't think Eduardo handles the ball on the first occasion. It was probably his left nipple or something like that. But what a finish the second one was! Squeezing it through the tightest of gaps. And Moyes has the nerve to say we didn't deserve to win. Pis$ on him I say. If any team scores 4 away goals they deserve to win (unless ofcourse you're reading).
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30/12/2007 14:17:00

That volley against United is literally the only one I can think of too. He just looks unflappable in those situations and you never doubt that he will score.
Little Dutch
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30/12/2007 14:23:00

And what was it Wenger said about Eduardo being a secret weapon in the second half of the season? How uncanny that in game number 20 he comes up with the goods.
Little Dutch
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30/12/2007 14:24:00

I thought Bendtner was really awful yesterday. Now we know why Wenger prefers Adebayor. Bendtner does better as an impact substitute I guess.
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30/12/2007 14:28:00

Bendtner began to play better as a deeper lying striker in the second half. Neither of the front two were involved a lot, but that was mainly because they had little service. Lest we also forget that a year ago today, Arsenal conceded a first half goal away at Sheffield United and capitulated to a pathetic and limp defeat. We are clearly made of sterner stuff nowadays.
Little Dutch
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30/12/2007 14:30:00

Great wirte up LD. Nobody had said anything about the Yakubu shoulder charge and Im glad you did. The exact thing got Bendtner booked.
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30/12/2007 14:31:00

LD, we maybe sterner this year, but Everton completely bossed us around in the first half. We need to be even sterner IMO
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30/12/2007 14:33:00

Awesome article LD. I love the Togonator part ;). I hope Dudu will continue to bang the goals in the remaining of the season and other seasons to come. Starting the year while on top of the league, what a gift to get as a gooner!
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30/12/2007 14:36:00

WouldYouBelieveIt?!, we were bossed because we have not played 4-4-2 from start of a game for a while now and the likes of Fabregas and Hleb didn't work extra hard plus they each were specifically followed by two players whenever they had the ball.
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30/12/2007 14:45:00

I refuse to believe the reason we weren't as physical as Everton is because of a 4-4-2. Middlesborough did well when we played a 4-5-1 so that couldn't be the reason. Maybe because Hleb and Cesc haven't performed as well after injury.
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30/12/2007 14:47:00

When I look at Eduardo I feel proud about my country's(football) talent, not only do we feed clubs around the world great talent, but we are also feeding National teams.
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30/12/2007 14:52:00

I only got to see the second half on an ancient TV set abroad but clearly saw Arteta's elbow hit Cesc on the side of the face, so it was definite red - even though Arteta is not a dirty player. Anyway, I don't know if I'm the only one but every time we play tricky games like this I have to keep telling myself "Remember it's not like last year"...and this team proves it every single time - we have our edge back alright. Don't know if its enough to win us the title yet but it's clear we are gonna scrap for it, as evidenced by the look of outright aggression on Cesc's face everytime we stick one up 'em. Come on you Gunnnners!!!
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30/12/2007 15:15:00

Eduardo's stats 07-08 season, all competitions: 12(7), 9 goals, 2 assists, 26 shots, 16 shots on target. 61.5% shot accuracy. 56.3% goal conversion (out of shots on target). 34.6% goal conversion (out of all shots).
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30/12/2007 15:25:00

1 sub app for Eduardo is for Croatia, he had no shots there anyway, so it's 12(6) for Arsenal
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30/12/2007 15:26:00

Lethal conversion rate he has. I didn't expect Eduardo to be like that sort of a player. I thought he was more an RvP sort of striker. Atleast now we have a fox in the box kinda striker.
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30/12/2007 15:41:00

Good write up LD. I was thinking the exact same thing about Dudu, he is so composed in the box, and a betting man will always favour him in a one on one situation with the goalie. His finishes were excellent, although I dont think he handled the ball on either occassion. Bendtner had a poor game by his standards, even in the 1st half, his touch simply deserted him on the night. His 1st yellow card was questionable, but the 2nd was clearly a booking. Same for Arteta, his elbow clearly made significant contact with Cesc' face and he deserved the red. The ref got most decisions right. All in all, an excellent result, coz we would have done well to hang on for a draw.
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30/12/2007 16:54:00

i think u got it wrong for the first goal.. i saw it on television.. and clearly.. it wasnt a handball according to subsequent replays.. the second one was.. and it appeared as if the ball bounced of dudu's hand for the yellow card he got.. clearly not his fault.. one thing worth noticing was that every everton free kick was taken from abt 5 yards ahead of where the foul was committed.. think someone from arsenal should look at that during freekicks..
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30/12/2007 17:52:00

bendtner,may have a had a poor game by his own standards,but he did at least flick the ball on for dudu to score the second,and his running probably tired out the defence enough for ade to come on and take the super sub mantle,just like adebayor does for bendtner when he starts
fran merida
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30/12/2007 18:05:00

A moments silence now please for the death of Liverpools' title hopes.
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30/12/2007 18:20:00

LOL nikolaijns..fran merida,I agree with you about Bendtner..just watching a repeat of manure's game with hammers and am really enjoying it not like when I watched it live LOL
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30/12/2007 18:58:00

i thought we won the game without playing nice football, route one ! playing a plan B football, perfect !
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30/12/2007 20:30:00

Interesting what Moyes had to say. If Everton had done to Arsenal what we did to them, the papers and the pundits would have been screaming in ecstasy. Wenger seems now to have found the solution to teams packing the midfield in order to stifle out Hleb, Cesc and Tomas. Kick the ball over the top of them and let our pacey forwards do the rest. If Fat Sam was going it, everyone would be shouting for him to be the Next England manager, Arsene does it and oh boy, Moyes is throwing his toys. The double standards of these guys amazes me.
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30/12/2007 21:06:00

You are right to be proud of Brazilian footballers Kev. A few weeks back Platini tried to make a point about the lack of numbers of English players competing in the CL teams and illustrated it by pointing out that the greatest representation was in the 95 Brazilians taking part - completing missing the irony that Brazil isn't a European nation.
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30/12/2007 21:30:00

Amos,its no great secret that Platini is an idiot
fran merida
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30/12/2007 22:04:00

do the media focus on everton's poor defending? their diving? their fouling?, Arsenal's great finishing, resiliance or passion. Nope its Bendtners foul, Eduardo's handball and Cesc's play acting all the way for our wonderful media. this is a blatant display of Anti Arsenal media bias that we all already know exists.
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30/12/2007 22:15:00

Amos, I was trying to dig deeper in this No-English talent issue. There's not much help from the brazilian government either, lol. Just a quick question, do brits play futsal(indoor football). Because 95% of the brazilian players played futsal and/or beach football when they were younger.
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30/12/2007 22:27:00

By saying there's not much help from the brazilian government either was regarding the point platini was trying to make, since it looks like he was asking the FA and clubs to invest more in youth football. But the truth is that here, kids play anywhere and everywhere.So Platini's point is pretty much completely *****ed. loll
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30/12/2007 22:29:00

And If the result was reversed i.e. we had lost 4-1 at home and AW came out with the same Drivel as Moyes , the media would have crucified him but as usual not a word was said. It gets to the point where as soon as the final whistle goes , I usually switch over....can't be bothered to listen to what the idiots in the studio have to say. According to the tossers on talk-sport we stiil haven't got enough to take the title...United are still stronger...lolololololol
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30/12/2007 22:35:00

gazzap, the press have always been anti english, when in 93 we were the first club to win 2 domestic cups we got eff all credit, then our two doubles and unbeaten season, wengers vision of finding players for next to nothing and making them world class time and time again, we don't need to be liverpool, manu or chelsea and spend big bucks to play good football and be top of the league, so the only thing they can talk about is the odd foul and petulance... big deal.
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30/12/2007 23:36:00

Ello all..... Been a while since I last commented on here.....would love to say it's because I've not had time to, but the truth is my interweb time has been spent pursuing my other great passion (no not that...) Thought the Everton game really proved just how far the team have progressed in a relatively short time, and I must admit to being just a tad pessimistic about our chances as the first half ended.... What a joy it is to be wrong sometimes..... Personally I like that we're getting a bit of a nasty streak back, playing "nice" got us nothing but ridicule from the press and pundits, so it's good to see the lads giving as good as they get, and I wait with baited breath for the calls of "dirty Arsenal" to do the rounds again.... Anyway the main thing I wanted to say was: Have a brilliant night tonight/tomorrow and all the very best for '08
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30/12/2007 23:45:00

Kev, futsal is barely played over here, but notably Micah Richards claims to have played it regularly as a youngster. It's probably no great coincidence that he was the only English youngster to emerge under McLaren.
Little Dutch
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30/12/2007 23:57:00

Well, then I think I solved the case!lol, futsal improves one's skill greatly. Plus, less players involved and a smaller terrain to play, results in every player grabbing the ball constantly, coming back and forth to defend and attack. You also have to think quickly and have great skills with the ball. In my opinion, that has large effect on the british talent.
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31/12/2007 00:08:00

Futsal! It's great practice, many play here as well, since there are more basketball courts than football fields over here anyway. But of course us football players can still play on the field, we just train by playing futsal sometimes.
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31/12/2007 01:01:00

Kev, It is worth noting that Arsene believes that a good futsol player is a good football player. There is a nike competition for futsol tournament for kids (a couple of teams are coached by Senderos and Diaby) and the winners are to have a days training sessions with Arsene. He believes that playing futsol is good for the very same reasons: Vision, dribling, passing and movement off the ball.
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31/12/2007 02:56:00

Interesting point on futsal. Playing football on the iced surface of a lake in the freezing winter of Belarus apparently helps a great deal too. Hleb said that's how he got his great balance and quick feet.
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31/12/2007 03:23:00

A rare article in the press that points out Moyes is a "bad loser":
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31/12/2007 03:52:00

Then why is there only ONE Hleb? If they all played on the iced surface of a lake then Belarus would be full of midfield wizards.
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31/12/2007 05:45:00

just last week i questioned Clichy's ability in the attacking part of his game and that he never comes up with any assists, and look what happened. but i still feel he can get better in attack, but it's a wonderful feeling when the lads come out and prove you wrong..
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31/12/2007 06:04:00

@louisa: His father had a big hand on Hleb's early football development. He was told before to always practice BOTH feet equally. @stu: Well, Alex has a brother, Vyacheslav, but he isn't exactly a midfield wizard, more of an attacking midfielder/forward type of player.
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31/12/2007 06:16:00

Dudu's first goal was not handball, but it was a crafty, patient finish. His second unfortunately was handball, but the rest of it was sublime. Reminded a little of Bergy's againt Newcastle!! Awful performance, great result, the stuff of champions (hopefully)
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31/12/2007 07:09:00

Then problem solved, funny how the FA still haven't figured that out. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Diego, Rivaldo, they all played futsal. Though keep in mind that you only should play futsal to about 14 and move to normal football, of course one can still play futsal and normal footy, but from that age on it's better to concentrate in normal footy.
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31/12/2007 12:14:00

I'm back! huzzah, have had a bit of a depressing time with severely intermittent internet connection lately. As for this match, it seemed all lost at half time, i retreated to the clock radio in the bedroom, in a malaise. Nodding off, i was brought round by a rapid equaliser at the start of the second half, and it really preked me up. The final score was very harsh on everton, from the sounds of how the game had been going, but how refreshing to see us perform porrly, yet severely punish one of the form teams in the Prem. A mark of champions, as the press constantly remind us, when ManYoo do it. Many games to go still, but how sweet it is to be sitting top as we welcome in 2008. A stern test awaits us in the form of West Ham, yet I am reckoning that after what was surely a supreme effort put in by their players in their victory over ManYoo, they may find it hard to raise their game to such heady heights again, so soon after that performance. After seeing us tear the hammers to shreds at home the past two seasons, yet somehow manage to lose, I will settle for a patchy performance, with a 2 goal difference between the teams, in Arsenal's favour of course...
»»Arsene Knows««
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31/12/2007 12:45:00

KaoTek,im curious to know what your other great passion is?? anyway did i miss something on skysports or did they omit to mention Arsenal return to the top of the league on The Final Word,they were even talking about sunderland (no offence)
fran merida
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31/12/2007 16:11:00

Heh - producing music (breakbeat and DnB primarily....) It's a science that takes many years of study (self in my case) Damn 14:30 on new years day and still can't sleep......that's not right.......
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01/01/2008 07:31:00


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