A View From Oz: AC & Eboue
Last night we didn`t quite get the result we wanted, but in my opinion we definitely got the response we wanted after the train wreck at Old Trafford. Not everyone will agree but I thought we were fantastic and even though the shots were too often straight at the keeper, or just wide of the post we played an experienced and decorated AC Milan side off the park. I have read some people that said that they defended excellently, and although Nesta and Oddo in particular were solid for them, I think that is giving them a little to much credit. For one Nesta, indisputably Milan`s best defender was man-marking Adebayor and I feel that the 0-0 score line owed as much to his inconsistent performance as it did to Nesta`s quality. Eboue killed Kaladze so badly that he had to be shifted to the centre after 25 minutes and then even the evergreen Maldini still could not effectively contain him.
In the midfield Fabregas and Hleb dictated the game for the most part, spraying the ball about and passing players with ease, at times it appeared that Gattuso and Ambrossini were simply witches hats positioned as obstacles to avoid in training. Flamini was particularly impressive, the fact that neither Kaka`s, nor Pirlo`s or Seedorf`s presence was noticed is about the greatest compliment you can give a holding midfielder. Senderos and Gallas didn`t put a foot wrong and made Pato look more like a player of his age than his reputation. Lehmann although rarely called upon to make a save did exactly what was required of him on the two occasions necessary, his kicking was much improved from the weekend and his throwing, the one part of 'keeping I doubt if Almunia will ever be able to equal the German at, was excellent, setting up a number of counter attacks. As always, Clichy and Sagna were rock solid in both there contributions to defence and the attack.
The player I want to focus on though is Eboue. I thought his response to both an idiotic and invisible display at the weekend was exceptional, that is right up until Jankulovski made contact with him in the box. He had gone a long way to changing my opinion of whether or not he could effectively function on the right wing with probably his best performance of the season, and then with one moment of stupidity he undid half his good work by flinging himself theatrically to the floor to alter the referee`s perception of what should have been a nailed on penalty. He is such a frustrating player. 80 minutes of incident free, classy, skillful, technical, powerful and penetrating football and he goes and over exaggerates a penalty claim that never needed exaggerating. The sad thing is that this is what people will remember of his game. People want look back on his performance and compliment him on how he repetitively skinned possibly the best left back in the history of the game or how he performed trickery and close control in the box that most Arsenal fans thought only Hleb and Robin Van Persie were capable of in this side. They will remember yet another moment of bad sportsmanship. If he could get his attitude together, on the basis of that performance and his game against Villa, he could be some player for us but whether or not he will be able to sort himself out is incredibly hard to gauge, especially considering his behaviour has actually deteriorated as he got older.
In 2005/06 he was a relatively problem free player (the only incident I can remember was the dive in the CL final, we took the lead from the resulting free kick) and probably the best attacking full back in the Champions League. In 2006/07 the petulance and cheating became more common, the Wayne Bridge handbags incident the most memorable of a few, he also became a much more suspect right back than he had been the previous year. This season, every game he seems to make a rash, cowardly tackle, take a ridiculously over the top dive or spend minutes arguing with referee`s and opposition players, but to make matters worse he has been an inconsistent right winger. Watching the replay of his dive last night was so disappointing as an Arsenal fan as up until that point I had been so impressed with his display and then, in an instant, the embarrassment came straight back.
In two weeks time we will need a very impressive display in the San Siro too progress to the next round, but I think it is possible. Commentators read to much into a 0-0 draw. Yes, a win would`ve been nice. Yes, Milan are one of the best sides at defending 1-0 leads in the world, but as we saw tonight they will tire late in the game and, especially if the game goes to extra time. A score draw is far from beyond this side and although not overly optimistic about our chances it is not the mission impossible that the commentators had made it out to be. More on that clash in two weeks, Cheers, boys!