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Arsenal 4 Portsmouth 1

A season doesn`t feel as though it has well and truly started until the first home match. As is our custom for the first home match, it was a table for eleven at the Olive Tree opposite the Arsenal Tavern for a pre match lunch. Once the eleven of us had quite finished stuffing ourselves with Greek delicatessen, it was on to the important business of the eleven men on the pitch, feasting lasciviously on the carcass of a Pompey side in disarray. My expectation of an unchanged side and a newly Arsenalised stadium were both wide of the mark. None of the adorning pictures I have seen circulated have yet been placed in or on the arena, though the cannon had been painted onto the seats in the East Stand lower tier. (I still cannot quite fathom the quadrant nonsense and, according to Gazidis, this baffling terminology will soon be a thing of the past in favour of the much more discernable compass face terminology). The Gunners also made changes with Eboue, Gibbs, Diaby and Eduardo slotting into the 4-3-3 at the expense of Sagna, Clichy, Song and Bendtner respectively. Eduardo began on the wide left of the front triumvirate, with Arshavin on the right and van Persie at the arrowhead- though the three would rotate constantly throughout the first half.

Arsenal would display their intent in the opening five minutes with Fabregas at the hub of some fine interplay. Arshavin caressed the ball to Denilson, he fed Fabregas and the Gunners captain sprayed a beautifully weighted ball to Abou Diaby- given license to roam, on the right hand side. He made a beeline into Pompey`s eighteen yard area, but saw his cut back blocked with van Persie and Eduardo slow to join him in the area. On 18 minutes, Arsenal would recreate a similar move, this time on the left hand side. Fabregas again clipped a pass to Eduardo on the left, Eddie cheekily nudged the ball past Marc Wilson and looked up to cut the ball back into the path of the onrushing Diaby, who steered the ball into the top corner via the fingernails of David James. With three players upfront to think about, once again an opposing defence did not account for an Arsenal midfielder in the danger zone. Along with the pleasing habit of free scoring midfielders, the Gunners would reignite another old tradition four minutes later with a goal on the counter attack not dissimilar to the one Fabregas scored at Goodison Park. Portsmouth won a corner after some good covering from Eboue; Diaby cleared the corner with his head and then contrived to run the full length of the pitch at lightening pace. Arshavin nudged the ball to Fabregas who again carved open Pompey`s defence with a precise pass to the right flank where Eboue looked rather offside, but the Ivorian was allowed to plough forwards and find the onrushing Diaby alone in the area to plant the ball cleverly past James with a deceptive turn of the body- sending the England keeper the wrong way. It was now a question of how healthy our goal difference would be come five o` clock as the figure 6 was safely logged in the points tally.

van Persie looked to get in on the act, Fabregas, at the heart of everything Arsenal were creating, fed the ball into the Dutch striker with his back to goal, van Persie turned away from Kaboul and fired in a venomous low shot which was pawed away by James. Robin was given another opportunity from range after Cesc`s mazy run between three Pompey midfielders culminated in Kranjcar tripping him. van Persie`s rising free kick was again beaten out by James. However, as is their wont when two goals ahead, Arsenal became decidedly sloppy and unfocussed, allowing Portsmouth back into the game in a manner we have become accustomed to over the last few years. Kranjcar`s right wing corner swung all the way over to Belhadj on Portsmouth`s left. No Arsenal player went to block, allowing him time and space to swing in a precise cross to meet Kaboul`s enormous leap as he beat Almunia to the cross to make it 2-1. Diaby and Gibbs looked on dumbstruck, statuesque embodiments of Arsenal`s lost concentration. I would really like to see our defence begin to take more pride in keeping clean sheets, they should regard it as much a target as a striker does a goal. I would like to see our players take a goal conceded as a personal affront, a stain on their performance, we`ll need that resolution in the very near future and keeping clean sheets is a good habit to get into. Therefore at half time, 2-1 was mildly disappointing given how devastating we had been in the opening half an hour, with Portsmouth allowing us time on the ball to create mischief. The Gunners did nearly register on the stroke of half time when Eduardo danced in from the left, he tucked a ball into van Persie, who turned Kaboul, wriggled past Wilson, but saw James save his close range effort.

The focus did not appear to sharpen in the opening minutes of the half either. Wilson pumped a long ball down field, the Gunners laid bare on of the big weaknesses of seasons past as the high ball caused panic with only Gallas back (I have literally no idea where Vermaelen, Gibbs or Eboue were, but they weren`t where they were supposed to be), Utaka had the beating of Gallas for pace but bafflingly decided to trip himself rather than run through on goal. That has to be a measure of how poor Pompey`s confidence at the moment and full credit to Steve Bennett for spotting the gamesmanship, I certainly thought it was a foul in real time and my view of the incident was better than Bennett`s. The malaise would come to the fore once more when Wilson`s cross field pass found Gibbs far too nonchalant in his clearance, allowing the impressive Piquionne to dispossess him but fortunately place his shot well wide from a tight angle with Arsenal`s defence again AWOL. With Fabregas replaced at half time, Arsenal could not establish the same rhythm, but did score somewhat against the run of play to secure the points. Arshavin`s free kick was flicked on by van Persie, Vermaelen slid to place the ball back into the six yard box and Gallas kicked the ball onto his face and into the net- his third goal in as many games. In the last twelve months Gallas has scored variously with his crotch, his arse and now his mouth- how ironic that his form has improved since he stopped using his mouth quite so much. I`m backing him to tongue the ball in on Wednesday night, or possibly for a Denilson shot to ricochet past the Celtic keeper via Gallas` sense of self satisfaction.

Pompey`s brief flicker of life had turned into a dull flame and Arsenal managed to stretch their advantage on 69 minutes. van Persie was given an ocean of time to pick out a pass to the onrushing Ramsey, Marc Wilson playing him onside and Ramsey`s calm finish laid the scoring to rest. Pompey did have one last chance as Piquionne motored down the left, with Eboue allowing him in behind unchecked, Piquionne raced to the by-line and cut back for Utaka who somehow contrived to plant the ball well wide. No wonder he`d rather trip himself up than run clear on goal. The final whistle bought the curtain down on a pleasing score line and a very good offensive display. The front three constantly rotated to good effect and made space for the midfield to score yet again, Arshavin`s lack of form thus far does not worry me so long as he turns it on when we really need it- next Saturday would be nice. You get the impression he`s a drifter who will not be overly involved in a game, but once he is you tend to think his effect will be very tangible. However, his tracking back really must improve; I Iost count of the amount of times Pompey bombed forwards with Arshavin stranded upfield with hands on hips. Without the correct work ethic, he is in danger of becoming a luxury player. Pires and Cole was such an effective axis for us because they both defended and attacked in harmony (I cannot get my head around people that claim Pires did not track back- an ungainly myth if ever I heard one), Arshavin will have to work harder in this league than he has perhaps been accustomed in Russia. The lack of goals for strikers bothers me not one iota- even if Myles Palmer thinks it will bring about the apocalypse. The strikers are making space for midfielders to score, if opposing defences then exude focus on the midfield, then the strikers are left to run amok, either way we create problems for the opponents. People such as the increasingly deranged Myles Palmer need to realise football is a team game and catering for individual egos will lead ultimately to hubris. Remember this time last year when we gave Adebayor a fat wedge of cash? If Myles wants to continue his hand parties over Arshavin and his ego, I`ll leave that to him, but whilst Arsenal are averaging four goals a game I won`t worry too much about precious individual egos. What Arsenal will need to do is to demonstrate greater resolution in defence, porous holes appeared yesterday which a better team will have punished more rigorously and the long ball still appears to have our back line panicking. Without Fabregas in the second half, Arsenal`s football wasn`t as fluid, not that it needed to be. But if Arsenal are to take forward their excellent form, they must not allow their focus to drop.LD.

Team: 1.ALMUNIA, 27.EBOUE, 10.GALLAS, 5.VERMAELEN, 28.GIBBS, 15.DENILSON, 4.FABREGAS(c) (16.Ramsey H/T), 23.ARSHAVIN (46.Merida `71), 9.EDUARDO (52.Bendtner `71), 11.v.PERSIE. unused: 3.Sagna, 17.Song, 22.Clichy, 24.Mannone.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday August 23 2009

Time: 11:55AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Good write up LD. I'm also not concerned about the strikers not scoring, yet. The mid field is doing so much more. This is the season for Diaby - we know he's capable of such performances, but it remains to be seen if he can be consistent. He will get his chance with Cesc out. He needs to grab it. Eboue was largely good at RB - somehow, seems more comfortable there.
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23/08/2009 13:28:00

"...because a cannon will always be cooler than a chicken" LMFAO. Who's the genius behind that one ?
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23/08/2009 13:41:00

When do we face you ? I think Chelsea x Arsenal will be even more interesting this season. Considering what happened in the last one.
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23/08/2009 13:42:00

That'll be the work of Niko, Kev. Great write up LD, and I agree, we need to get a couple of clean sheets. One against United would be ideal!
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23/08/2009 14:10:00

prtis, you should be concerned about the strikers not scoring, first game 6-1, only 1 striker scored, second game 2-0 NO STRIKER scored 3rd game 4-1 no striker scored, 6+2+4=12, 12 goals, 1 from a striker who came in and scored a tap in, AND IS NOW INJURED. Robin Van Persie (0 GOALS) but you call him a good striker, he's not a striker period, theres times where he should attack the space HARD HARD HARD, but he looks for a pass and gives the responsibility to others, Nicklas Bedntner, He workds hard, he recieves the ball, and passes, he plays it safe and doesn't take any risks, so how can he DOMINATE, Andrei Arshavin, is supposed to be a messi, giving the defendners a hard time, I didn't get to watch the game becuase off other priorities, but I saw the celtic game, and the striker force to me is garbage, the Midfield may be good, but next week is City, the week after is United, 2 hard games, we need strikers who pressurize the defence and score, You can't expect the mids to be doing the work for strikers, they'll be winning the ball and realeasing quickly because off the pressure they will be under from opposing midfielders, VERY GOOD opposing midfielders, SONG, FABREGAS AND DENILSON have other duties, they can score here and there, but if the strikers are just STANDING PICKING DAISIES, then..... I mean come on.
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24/08/2009 02:10:00

Diaby MOTM? C'mon people? I swear sometimes half you guys are blinded by optimism. Diaby scored 2 goals, and althought being in the right place at the right time does partially require some skill, apart from that he did nothing! Look how much more dead we looked once Cesc went off in the second half... There's no way Diaby can carry that role... absolutely no way. He has a few good moments, but not enough to make him reliable. Moving on from that little rant. One of my biggest concerns is also AA. He barley looked interested in the match at times, tired maybe? I dunno. He just hasn't looked himself this season yet. I'm not concerned about RVP not scoring because he's dangerous either way, he had 6 shots on target against pompey and was only denied a goal because David James was having one of his good days. Eduardo looked good, i hope he gets more game time. Verm and Gallas are looking mighty fine. Gibbs was good but there was 1 mistake he made which almost cost us a goal, BUT! He made up for it. You can deifnately tell the difference between having Sagna/Clichy compared too Eboue/Gibbs. Anyway, thats my rant. Any news on Cesc injury or was that just precaution?
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24/08/2009 02:55:00

@ Munasheonly - Look at the assists we've have from strikers so far... if they were "STANDING PICKING DAISYS" they wouldn't be createing goalscoring oppurtunities and as formentioned in my previous comment, having 6 shots on target. Arsenal have a very free flowing attacking movment and that's when midfielders can push forward and stikers can hold play up. Don't be stupid, it's annoying.
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24/08/2009 03:00:00

This was not a good performance from The Arsenal, Pomey nearly got back to 2:2, before we scored the 3rd and even as poor as Pomey maybe they still got into some good positions and a better team would have scored more than 1. So while 4:1 looks good on paper, imo we still have no problems at the back. I also hope that the Cesc injury is not too serious!
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24/08/2009 07:56:00

Nice piece LD, as usual. My only gripe is your description of Eduardo's part in out first goal. " Eddie cheekily nudged the ball past Marc Wilson " is an ugly 'dumbing down' of a beautiful act. The way in which Eddy made our first goal left me slack-jawed in stupification. He completely bamboozled Wilson, putting the ball to one side of him, then collecting it on the other. In a split second he had somehow gone from 2 yards in front of the defender, to 3 yards behind him. He then had the intelligence to look up and cut a lovely ball back to the edge of the Pompey area. I distinctly remember jumping from my seat in expectation, only to mumble to myself " Oh no, it's Diaby". Sorry Abou.
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24/08/2009 08:07:00

Our strikers contribute well to the overall build up play and link up well with the team. As long as thats happening, the goals are only a matter of time coming. Sometimes, we get too caught up in stats. Our attacking play is not a concern for me. We're looking really fluid, more so than the past season. We're counter attacking a lot more effectively. 1 goal scored by a striker out of 12 is only a stat - pretty meaningless.
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24/08/2009 08:24:00

I swear this all started when people started getting player's names on their shirts- the individuals somehow have become more important to people than the team. The strikers are creating space for the midfielders to score, look back at all of our goals this season- defences occupied by three strikers- allowing Diaby, Denilson, Fabregas space on the edge of the box to score. We also look a real threat at set pieces, Vermaelen is more of a threat there than Toure so we have another dimension. As long as that keeps happening, I'm not gonna shed tears because van Persie isn't getting his scoring bonus- he's doing a great job for the team. This calendar year we had four consecutive goalless draws and now people are moaning about free scoring midfielders? Fuikaka, who said Diaby was MOTM?
Little Dutch
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24/08/2009 08:59:00

LD - I think he's refering to the post-match poll at the side. 53% in favour of Diaby. I didn't get to see the full 90 so I'm not really qualified to say, but it usually goes (with media and fans) that the scorer of the most goals gets MOTM!
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24/08/2009 09:19:00

Aaaaah, gotcha. My apologies. I have to say I agree, he didn't have a bad game, but had he not scored twice you would have said he had an ordinary game- probably was partly at fault for the goal we conceded. I think Eduardo, RvP and Fabregas were much better bets for MOTM.
Little Dutch
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24/08/2009 09:32:00

Cesc was MOTM for me. My only problem is with his injury as he said he has been 'feeling' his hamstring all week. Having saturday off would have obviously suited him and us more. If there are games out there when you can afford to 'rest' people, then surely it MUST be Portsmouth at home. As for United away, I can't remember the last time we played them with our strongest 11. We always seem to have a massive player missing against them.
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24/08/2009 09:58:00

LD - Rocky7 was correct, i was looking at the poll on the side. I gotta agree with your 3 picks. One thing that concerned me though was how different we looked in the second half without Cesc. When he goes, we're gonna need to either adapt our style slightly or find someone who does what he does, as good as he does it ...which will be very difficult since he's one of the best "seeing" players in the world. RVP is looking sharp. It was only down to DJ that he didn't get a goal (obviously, he's the goalkeep!! :P) but RVP pass to Ramsey was spot on, he straight took 4 defenders out of the game, i think he's being practising with Cesc :p his free-kicks are looking good too.
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24/08/2009 10:20:00

I thought Eboue playing in his actual position of RB was excellent. Good defending, some good blocks, attacked the wings well & picked up an assist. Eduardo looked really sharp too, was glad to see him back. Arshavin was very efficient without doing too much. Tidy passes, 1-2s, througballs with ease. Portsmouth are my favourites to go down, especially if they dont buy anyone which is looking likely they dont.
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24/08/2009 11:03:00

Think it's fantastique that we can rest some of our key players and still come away with a relatively comfortable 3 points, top stuff Arsenal, keep it up.
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24/08/2009 14:03:00

I agree Eboue was fantasic. I think we woulda won the league this year but Spurs are looking the best bet now:(
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24/08/2009 16:30:00

On The Final Word on Sky Sports yesterday Andy Gray actually analysed our second goal and he identified it was actually Diaby that made the defensive header from the Portsmouth corner (or free-kick) and then makde a 90 yard run to finish off the move. I think that's pretty awesome and he does deserve a lot of credit for yesterday's performance. He also didn't dwell on the ball too long and played it simple when necessary.
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24/08/2009 22:06:00

FuiKaka, I'm not been stupid or annoying at all, what is annoying you is the truth, Van Persie "6 shots on target and he made assists" Well then he's not a striker if he's making assists he should go and play in the midfield, All the top england strikers have scored except for "VAN PERSIE", A strikers job is to score goals, HOWCOME van persie CAN'T score goals, I just am wondering, HE CAN'T SCORE, Arshavin? I've been hearing tons about him and he's been rubbish lately hmm? You gotta face the truth, DEFENSIVLEY we're good, MIDFIELD we're good, STRIKER FORCE, arsenal is poor, poor, POOR. You can gimme the excuse off Van Persie is making assits, next week is united, shouldn't he be pressing the defence and more focoused on scoring, INSTEAD off making assits, NOTHING WRONG WITH MAKING ASSITS, no not at all. but if the team has scored 12 goals and you're not even on the list, ONLY 1 STRIKER is on the list, that says a lot about the strike force and how rubbish it is, Arshavin RIGHT Eduardo CENTER van persie left, eduardo is more deadly than van persie, who does nothing.
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24/08/2009 23:52:00

another person who knows nothing about football
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25/08/2009 00:26:00

I have my doubts about van Persie, but you take it to another level.
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25/08/2009 00:30:00

6 shots on target = doing nothing? Defensively we're good (2 goals conceded in 3 games), but the striker force is poor ? I understand that opinions can be different, but this borders on the ridiculous.
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25/08/2009 00:54:00

Go easy on him Paul, as he freely admits, he's only 7.
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25/08/2009 00:56:00

and he loves CAPITALS!! :) It's been 3 games mate, plenty of strikers (even the best in the world) can go 3 games or more without scoring, and in those 3 games be a lot less productive then RVP has been. Like i said and everyone with half a brain cell knows, Arsenal have a totally unique playing style and going forward anyone can fill in and drop down and swap rolls which has been proven by our 12 goals in 3 games. Goals win games mate, and we're getting plenty. They could all be from fkn Almunia for all i care as long as it's 3 points.
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25/08/2009 02:06:00

Guys the problem is that you have to analyse the game after the match. Thank God that ARSENAL TV on line now has the full game and not only d highligts. I really liked what our forward line is doing which you will notice when you anayse the game, they are moving so much off the ball that they are taking defenders with them thus leaing pockets for the midfield to exploit. This was paticularly obvious in the pompey game when Eduardo broke through on the left RVP had run deep initially left thturned sharply and ran to the right taking the attention of the 2 central defenders thus leaving the centre for AD to score an excellent goal. RVPs movement also helped to create Cesc's 2nd goal against Everton.You have to uderstand that this is useful for teams that pack a bus in front of their goalmouth.
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25/08/2009 05:07:00

It's the only "taking the player out of the game" run ...always been a dangerous tool. Making a good run doesn't always mean you receive the ball right infront of the goal. If i defender goes wide with you its 1 less defender to worry about and also gives the defenders that didnt go with the runner more to think about. Sexy manouver.
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25/08/2009 08:37:00

You don't have to analyse very intensely to see how we've benefited from that this season. Denilson, Diaby, Fabregas and Ramsey have all scored goals completely unmarked from midfield as a direct result of Everton / Pompey having three strikers to cope with.
Little Dutch
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25/08/2009 09:02:00

It was kinda worrying when Arshavin flicked that pass with the outside of his boot near the left touch line and Van Persie didn't run for it at all. Strange moment.
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25/08/2009 22:07:00


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