Arsenal - Arsenal 3 Hull City 0
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Arsenal 3 Hull City 0

With Friday night witnessing some absolute carnage in the form of my work Christmas party, the blood was sloshing lazily around the temples in the freezing cold North London air. A party of nine of us took advantage of the late kick off and had an outstanding steak dinner at Galiano`s on Blackstock Road, conversation drifted towards whether Almunia should keep his place and my remark that Arsenal hadn`t scored directly from a free kick for over two years. Both assertions would have cause to crop up again for the post match diagnosis. After a bottle of red and a fine sirloin, I was in a much better fettle to enjoy the match and the return of the nefarious orange tosspot Phil Brown.

With two very tough away fixtures having taken place in the previous six days, the pace of the match was understandably docile in the opening stages. With van Persie and Fabregas sidelined, it was Samir Nasri and Abou Diaby who looked to take on the responsibility of pushing the side forwards. Hull were typically well organised with numbers back and it would take a patient build up to eke out the first chance. Alex Song found Eduardo out on the left hand side, Eddie cut the ball back to Samir Nasri who had found space in the penalty area, but he could not find a true connection and hit the ball straight at Boaz Myhill. A game that was sleepily drifting along was ignited into something more combustible on the half hour mark after Arshavin was fouled by Garcia, Richard Garcia refused to release the ball, culminating in Nasri treading on his foot. Garcia collapsed in faux agony, though Nasri was ill advised, it was a quite appalling attempt to get a fellow professional sent off from Garcia. Barmby waded in on Nasri and a melee ensued (ironically, we had also spoken pre match about an infamous encounter with Norwich City in 1990 which finished 4-3 and erupted into a 21 man brawl). The incident fuelled the crowd and seemed to give the players some impetus too. It was Diaby again who led the charge forward from the centre circle, exchanging passes with Arshavin before being brought down by George Boateng. Denilson stepped up for the free kick, the first I can remember him taking in an Arsenal shirt and he curled the ball over the wall and down into the bottom corner with consummate ease. It proved one of football`s great adages, if you get a free kick; you`re in good hands with a Brazilian! A few Hull players appeared to take issue with Nasri in the tunnel, Nick Barmby heroically pointing outside to suggest a bout of fisticuffs on the cobbles. It was unsurprising that Brown replaced him at half time.

With a goal in the locker in first half injury time, the match became a different prospect in the second half with Hull needing to push on. Five minutes into the half, the Gunners could have been out of sight, Andrey Arshavin had dropped off into a snatch of space and played the ball into the feet of Eduardo, he brilliantly turned and rolled the ball past McShane to put him in on goal, but the chance fell to his right foot and he scuffed it wide. I think it`s about time Arsene made Eduardo wear a slipper on his left foot in training. But the game would again have cause to ignite from dying embers; Stephen Hunt over hit a cross from the left, Craig Fagan had hold of Silvestre before then throwing himself to the ground in the area. Amazingly, Steve Bennett fell for it and awarded the spot kick for one of the worst penalty decisions in living memory. Craig Fagan is of course English, so he will escape censure for diving in the box, but that is exactly what he did. Geovanni stepped up unconvincingly and Almunia palmed away his poor spot kick, the rebound was about to nestle comfortably onto Geovanni`s head for a certain equaliser, but Stephen Hunt allowed his very suspect temperament get the better of him, rushing towards the rebound, barging Geovanni away and heading well wide. Almunia, who has come in for a volley of criticism of late had made a telling contribution. Interestingly, Almunia concedes a goal every 2.5 shots on average this season. Shay Given concedes one every 2.6 shots, one keeper is apparently world class and the other is a clown. Work that one out.

Justice had been served and Arsenal were in the mood to exact a swift and decisive blow. Abou Diaby again carried the ball forwards with purpose and vigour, he touched the ball to Alex Song on the edge of the area and then continued his metronomic run, Song slid the ball to the onrushing Diaby and he put the ball back across goal, leaving Eduardo with the simple task of slipping the ball into the open goal. It being on his right foot of course, he tried to miss! It was a deserved goal and one that will hopefully revitalise sagging confidence. The Tigers were visibly traumatised and Arsenal knew the three points were theirs. Again, the outstanding Diaby brought about the third and final goal, using the simple "pass and move" template which he had destroyed Hull with all afternoon, he pushed the ball to Arshavin and then continued his run into the area, Arshavin displayed typical intelligence to move the ball right back into Diaby`s path, Diaby feinted past McShane before powering the ball past Myhill. A very deserved goal. The supporters were in party mood with Phil Brown the butt of some acid tongues, "Tango, give us a wave" and "You`re getting tanned in the morning" being two sources of particular mirth. Arsenal might have notched another when Denilson`s cross field pass sailed over Zayatte`s head and into the path of Walcott, Myhill advanced to the edge of his area leaving Walcott to lob the ball over him and inches wide. In the end, it was a satisfactory three points and the team deserves credit for keeping their focus in the wake of two tough away fixtures. United, Chelsea and Liverpool all dropped points for the second weekend running, in keeping with the theme of the tallest dwarf competition at the summit of the table. Last season we were dismantled at home to Villa, the encounter the day after Boxing Day will be indicative of how far we have come in twelve months. On behalf of everyone at Vital Arsenal, I`d like to wish the readership here a Merry Christmas and a very prosperous New Year. Hopefully, come May 23rd, 2010, you can be reading my match report from the Bernabeu! It goes without saying that I shall still be producing match reports over the festive period, so do please stop by if you can tear yourself away from the booze and food for long enough!LD.

TEAM: 1.ALMUNIA(c), 27.EBOUE, 10.GALLAS, 5.VERMAELEN, 18.SILVESTRE, 17.SONG, 15.DENILSON, 2.DIABY, 8.NASRI (16.Ramsey `68), 9.EDUARDO (14.Walcott `75), 23.ARSHAVIN (12.Vela `83). Unused: 3.Sagna, 19.Wilshere, 21.Fabianski, 38.Emmanuel Thomas.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday December 20 2009

Time: 6:01PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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"Given concedes one every 2.6 shots, one keeper is apparently world class and the other is a clown. Work that one out". Stats dont always tell the whole story. Almunia looks unconvincing on crosses, keeps punting kicks out for throws and could be blamed directly for 6-8 goals this season. The Man City defense is awful. Given has made 48 saves compared to Almunia with 25. When you watch MOTD Given has kept them in the game on a number of occasions, the same cannot be said about Almunia despite his pen save yesetrday
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20/12/2009 18:36:00

You're right, they don't tell the whole story, but it is a good directive. Why is it that Given is always some redeeming feature for an awful defence? He is part of that defence, he is supposed to organise it and instruct it, which he patently can't do. I'm not sure I've ever seen him catch a cross. I'm not saying he's a badkeeper, he isn't. But I think he gets very favourable publicity compared to Almunia who gets overly negative publicity.
Little Dutch
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20/12/2009 18:56:00

I think the problem is that Almunia always looks shakey which in turn makes the crowd nervous. Take yesterdays game for instance. No pressure yet he kept kicking the ball out for throw inns. Should their be any excuse for a goalkeeper to not be able to kick the ball straight up the field at least 80 percent of the time? He is not the worst keeper ever, but do you not think on current form he is lucky to still be starting every week?
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20/12/2009 19:17:00

Also i dont want this to turn in to another Eboue, Song or Bendtner where we are always looking for a scapegoat. Personally i have little confidence in our keeper every time freekicks, corners or balls get rolled back to him. With Lehman he made stupid mistakes, but i had confidence in him that the majoirty of the time he would make the correct decisions and he did pull out world class saves.
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20/12/2009 19:20:00

Totally with LD on the Given debate. If he were that good, a top club would have signed him by now. Hughes signing you shows that he only reads the sun ratings, considering the over-rated garbage he seems to go for.
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20/12/2009 19:32:00

Great result. Some strong performances from Diaby, Denilson and Song. The 3 of them were fantastic. We've now seen 2 good games in a row from Diaby and his goal was typical - we know he can be strong and powerful and he showed all of that. If he can put in another good game, he will pleasantly surprise a lot of us. Eduardo's confidence is really shot and I dont think the goal helped him that much coz he missed a chance after that. Lets hope he can get it back quickly enough.
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20/12/2009 19:35:00

I thought Almunia had a decent game. He needs a couple of games like this to get his confidence back. He's not a great keeper, but he can be solid, at best. The penalty save was good, but there were 3 Hull players on the end of that save, and no Arsenal player in sight which was really poor. We got lucky with that one.
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20/12/2009 19:39:00

there is hardly a meal I enjoy more than a nice steak with a quality red wine. very jealous.
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20/12/2009 19:49:00

"Given has made 48 saves compared to Almunia with 25. " He has also had half as much playing time again as Almunia. Those stats might tell you that Given is a great shot stopper but that alone doesn't make you a great keeper. If Almunia were to be judged on the goals conceded by Citeh yesterday he would be crucified here. In fact if he were judged on the basis of the goals Reina conceded yesterday he would also be heavily criticised. Almunia is a decent keeper judged by entirely different criteria than some keepers with a better pedigree.
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20/12/2009 20:22:00

Feel for Eduardo because at the start of the season he looked really sharp. Given the lack of personnel, really think we're going to need a different approach to the Villa game - wish we could go 4-4-2 with Arshavin playing off Eduardo
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20/12/2009 20:43:00

We don't suit 442
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20/12/2009 20:44:00

this winter, i will miss you, i will miss you alex song!
Gooner SA
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20/12/2009 20:54:00

I'm going to hold my tongue on the debate as to whether or not Almunia should be dropped now that he's made that penalty save. That shot of confidence could seriously enhance his performance from here on. Hopefully he won't be so tentative when dealing with crosses next Sunday. The phycological significance of the result of that game will be absolutely massive, for both sides, and the rest of the teams in places 1-6.
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20/12/2009 21:16:00

Diaby gets a goal. Nice stuff.
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20/12/2009 21:40:00

Another perfect weekend!! :) Happy Christmas everyone!!
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20/12/2009 22:04:00

Diaby had a very good game, which was great. Poor Theo, he really should have scored from that chip?! Maybe he's saving his goal scoring for the Villa game??? Hopefully!
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20/12/2009 22:05:00

I thought Almunia had a very decent game. Infact he actually came out of the D, to make a clearance! how long before I saw that! Silvestre, Song, Almunia, all had good games. And Diaby - probably his best game of the season.
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20/12/2009 22:06:00

Really hoping Eduardo's goal will give him some badly needed confidence. He had a good game. I like seeing these increasing examples of our players being nasty - like Eboue's and Denilson's challenges where they went for the man and not the ball. We were winning things when we weren't so nice. Diaby was immense. Have to say Villa seriously worry me but we're seeing signs that our players are beginning to get used to their new roles without RVP and Bendtner -- and also that the players who've recently come back from long injuries are coming into form.
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20/12/2009 23:26:00

i thought diaby was very good in this game, even before his goal. i hope he continues in this rich vein of form and show us the full extent of his abilities. wenger must have a good reason to persist with him. also, i seriously think the best player of the first half of this season must be alexander SONG. he has narrowly missed out of the monthly awards on a few occasions but he has been very consistent throughout these last few months. he is having a flamini-esque season, lets hope he continues for the second half of the season after the african cup.
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21/12/2009 04:29:00

Jaelle, i'm hoping so too. Eddy is dangerous as hell when he's on form. NOW! A huge question raised. Our pefect starting XI on the pitch, everyone's fit. Who take's the direct free kicks? Personally i'd be giving Denilson another shot since he has a 100% record now. Den from the left coming in, RVP from the right coming in.
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21/12/2009 05:44:00

Oh, and bad move by Nasri, if any of the ref's had've seen that it would've more then likely been a red card. We need cool heads to win firey games.
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21/12/2009 05:48:00

Nasri stamping? I'm sorry but what I saw was a player treading on another's foot (yes, deliberately), but not stamping. Happens all the time in football but what was different this time was the theatrics from Garcia and the ill-discipline of his team-mates. Seems to me the Hull players can dish it out but can't take it. If Naz had been stamping on Garcia's head I might have understood the over-the-top reaction from Hull. But stepping on someone's foot? Pluuulease! Garcia, who had been commiting niggly fouls on Nasri all match, falls like some little girl and Barmby and Co assault Nasri in full view of the officials. Barmby was the only clown who deserved a red card...and perhaps Garcia for a quite ridiculous bit of play-acting.
Wyn Mills
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21/12/2009 11:05:00

Diaby looked very impressive and I hope he goes on from this and starts to establish some consistency. Almunia’s shot-stopping statistics don’t mean very much. He needs replacing (as our No. 1) which I hope will happen in January but I very much doubt it will happen. A win over Villa will be a big result for us and I might just start believing we can win the premiership again.
Sir Henry
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21/12/2009 13:46:00


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