Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday August 31 2008
I think the world is generally a happier place than it was last Sunday morning, but we must be sure not to forget about the Fulham game because we must dedicate the rest of the season to ensuring that it was a one off. That game must serve as a kind of gravestone, revisit it once in a while, remember how awful it was and make damn sure it's not repeated. Despite the thrashing of a poor Twente side in midweek, I still didn't travel into this game with a great deal of confidence. During our pre match meal in the Olive Tree, predictions were traded and I had plumped for a 1-1 draw in the pleasant early evening sun. I managed to dampen the mood further by my affirmation that, due to work commitments, flying out to Kiev the Monday before the game wasn't an option, thereby condemning us to the Tuesday flights which are £100 more expensive. Eep.
The first thing that struck me walking into the stadium just before kick off was how much more chipperand the noise levels were greater before kick off. Wenger's pre match call to arms appeared to have been heeded as Adebayor's name was sung as the teams lined up. A humbled applause from the Togonator in recognition. We had made our point, it felt like a clean slate. If the mood of the fans was one of botany, the players were in the mood for redemption. Whilst the club knowingly played the Who's 1965 hit 'The Kids Are Alright' over the tannoy pre match, the experienced players seemed to step up. Arsenal had a penalty shout after just 90 seconds, as van Persie was played into the area by Sagna and Coloccini appeared to sithe him down from behind. But referee Rob Styles was hardly at a vantage point to see it and a corner was the only reward. But the Gunners almost rectified that small injustice all by themselves, van Persie's whipped corner was flicked on by Bacary 'Bouldy' Sagna and Gallas got under his finish at the back post and skied from close range when he really ought to have scored. His centre back partner Kolo Toure was next in line for a goal attempt when he drove a low exerset from thirty yards which was brilliantly tipped wide by the ever impressive Shay Given. Where on earth would Newcastle be without him?
Arsenal were warming to the task, Nasri's guile and Eboue's deft touches were providing the Geordies with problems, Cesc pulling the strings as ever. van Persie, who I have criticised this season for not providing the link between midfield and attack, he did that fantastically yesterday. The fact that Wenger made explicit reference to this in the post match interview seems to reveal words to that effect have been whispered into the Dutchman's ears. This left Adebayor to do what he does best and work the backline with his awesome power. This was where Arsenal's opener came from, van Persie passed to Adebayor on the right and his clipped cross hit the outstretched arm of N'Zogbia. van Persie made no mistake with the penalty, burying it low and hard past Given's left hand. van Persie was well and truly in the mood, he picked up the ball from another Eboue run and pass only to be clipped outside the area. Robin sent the resulting free kick arrowing towards the top corner only to see Given's palms thrust outwards in staunch denial. Soon after, the home side were denied what would have been a surefire contender for goal of the season with an aesthetically majesty, van Persie angled a ball to Nasri on the left, who deftly shunted the ball to Clichy on the left and his first time cross saw Coloccini get the slightest of touches to prevent Adebayor's elasticated leg from converting.
Eboue was again instrumental down the right, moving forward and playing to Adebayor, Kolo Toure ran onto his angled pass and fired the ball into the side netting. The Barcodes threatened briefly when Jonas Guttierez, comfortably the visitors most impressive player, motored past Fabregas and Clichy on the right and put in a cross which found Ameobi in the area, the ever greedy Michael Owen took it off his toes and scuffed the ball wide when a more intelligent striker would have waited for the cutback. Though the heartbeat skipped slightly, I had to laugh. I hate Michael Owen, the selfish little tossbag. Why not hobble back into the treatment room and continue what you're good at. Holding clubs to contractual ransom whilst you go and endorse child obesity by shooting an advert for Lurpak or something. Arsenal's response was instant, Eboue found van Persie with his back to goal, he brilliantly held the ball up, waiting for the marauding Adebayor and feeding himwith a delightful flick, Ade ran through on goal but, with Coloccini and Taylor hot on his heels, he screwed the ball wide. But it was the same triumvirate that combined for Arsenal's second goal. Eboue motored goalwards and fed Adebayor over on the right, Eboue continued his run into the area and collected Ade's cutback, which was pitched slightly off tune, but Eboue rectified symphony with an intelligent backheel to van Persie who lashed home a second. If Arsenal were on song, then Eboue was instrumental in calling the tune. His work ethic was beyond reproach and the link play with his full back and his front two was impressive. He managed to introduce a new feature into his game, composure in the final third as evidenced with his assist for the second goal. Eboue has borne the brunt of the boo boys but I think he has a decent case as our player of the month for August! His performance was endorsed by an ironic and amusing rendition of 'we've only come to see Eboue' from the Red Section. (Though Jon did put the legendary kiss of death on him, just as I turned and articulated the above sentiment, Jon agreed, 'he's had an excellent game today, he even looks decent in the ttacking third.' Two seconds later Eboue sent a right wing cross into orbit).
Nicky Butt was the only real blight on the first half, a cynical rake down van Persie's leg should have been punished, whilst a horrible knee into Cesc's hamstring also yielded no action from Rob Styles. Just coincidence that it was the same hamstring Cesc had injured a fortnight ago, I'm sure Butt had no prior information on that, the despicable Ferguson loving arseflap. Fabregas was later predictably booked for his only foul whilst the man whose name is fittingly a synonym for the human posterior was allowed to patrol the midfield with thuggish intent. Karma slightly intervened at the start of the second half when Butt's looping header from N'Zogbia's corner hit the bar. Hopefully Butt will accidentally sit in Joey Barton's favourite seat in the canteen or something. That'll sort the little twat out. Arsenal built on their lead with another beautifully crafted goal. Nasri collected the ball in the area, confronted with a wall of Geordie defenders, he didn't panic, and clamly fed Adebayor, who in turn made an angled ball for Denilson to bundle in his first Premiership goal for Arsenal.
It was party time, Nasri was again menacing on the left, van Persie latching onto his pass on the touchline, his attempted cut back came back to him and he thundered a shot onto the underside of the bar from an impossible angle. Unsurprisingly, he went off injured as a result. It looks tobe a very similar injury to the one he picked up when he broke his foot scoring against Manchester United eighteen months ago. Yet again it's an RvP injury from an innocuous incident. It's incorrect to say I amlosing faith in van Persie's ability to stay fit, I had already lost faith, a blow is easier to absorb when you're expecting it. It's just a shame it's happened on the first occasion this season that he's looked like the player we know he can be. That said, if the x ray shows a broken bone, I've a feeling Robin's Arsenal career could be over soon. Nevertheless his premature departure allowed us a tantalising first glimpse of Carlos Vela. It was the ideal game for him to come into, when Clichy is hitting venomous shots from thirty yards, you know you're well and truly in the ascendancy. We were treated to a taster of the future of our attack when Walcott turned N'Zogbia, played to Vela, who lifted a delightful through ball for Walcott to run onto down the right, Walcott beat N'Zogbia again and fed Vela on the edge of the box, but his shot was charged down. Such moves will hopefully feature in my match reports for the 2011-2012 season.
The ever threatening Samir Nasri had a free kick tipped over by Given and N'Zogbia cleared a Gallas header off the line. The best chance to embellish the scoreline came when Nasri cut in and gave the ball to Adebayor, he selflessly fed Walcott who had time to set himself, before flashing the ball wide at Given's near post when he should have gone across the keeper. If Adebayor had been something of a pantomime villain thus far this campaign, then the late introduction of Joey Barton gave Ade further credence as a human being. Barton was predictably booed, instead of keeping his head down and his mouth shut and playing his game, Barton appeared hellbent on winding everyone up with finger to lip gestures and an attention seeking tough, but fair, tackle on Nasri. Nasri showed he won't be bullied by tripping Barton off the ball some seconds later. Keegan raged well after the final whistle, but anybody who thinks kicking Joey Barton is a reprehensible act ought to rectify their moral compass. At least Barton wasn't stranded on the floor and surrounded by Nasri's drunken accomplices. I'm not sure why Keegan is trying to create a fuss in the aftermath with his illusory monologue, Nasri was booked. I like Keegan, he's a nice guy with good intentions, but he has to understand that trying to garner sympathy for Barton is a lost cause, particularly for an incident as innocuous as that. Interestingly, the Newcastle fans hardly rushed to his defence, then again I didn't hear a peep from them all afternoon. As the final whistle sounded, only the referee shook Barton's hand.
Overall the performance was hugely impressive, Adebayor worked harder, van Persie worked harder and performed his function excellently, Eboue looked menacing in the final third for once. But Samir Nasri is the name on most tongues. He has added a new dimension to our attack with his willingness to come in off the flanks and get involved with play, allowing Clichy to push up and become an auxillary winger. Nasri appears to have an intelligence in his play that was exemplified with his role in the third goal, his transition has been impressive but will be tested in full in our next three away matches. After the game our post match drink in the Bank of Friendship was illuminated by the sight of Liam Brady propping up the bar. Good to see him up and about, the same could be said for Arsenal. A shame we appear to have re established our rhythm, just as an international break arrives to ruin it. C'est la vie.LD.
Date:Sunday August 31 2008
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