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Arsenal 4 Portsmouth 1

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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Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday August 23 2009
Time: 11:55AM


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.
23/08/2009 13:28:00
"...because a cannon will always be cooler than a chicken" LMFAO. Who's the genius behind that one ?
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
24/08/2009 08:24:00
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