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Arsenal 2 Huddersfield Town 1

I must confess to not having taken this game too seriously when the draw was made. The feeling of anticipation was slightly different upon waking this morning, not a hint of nerves or even apprehension. I fell for that complacent practise of not speculating on the victory but rather the size of the margin. In hindsight, it`s worth pointing out that the score line achieved today would not have sufficed to knock Ipswich out on Tuesday evening. With the exception of the surprise inclusion of Nasri, it was pretty much the selection we all expected, with Almunia, Diaby and Squillaci all returning. Far from our most fluid eleven but plenty to win the game you felt.

There was little to dispel the feeling of comfort in the opening minutes. After only 3 minutes, the Gunners were ruing their first piece of profligacy. Eboue got to the by line, his cross was half blocked by McCombe, Bendtner worked to keep the ball alive with a deft backwards header which smuggled its way to Arshavin who, for about the hundredth time this month, lent well back and smashed the ball high over the bar from close range. You feel he needs a goal. Badly. The missed chance did not appear to deter him though, on twelve minutes he accelerated past Peltier on Arsenal`s left and drove in a low cross which was deflected before it reached Nicklas Bendtner, who amazingly missed the target from all of four yards. Nasri set the wheels in motion for another attack down the left with the Terriers hoping to hang on in there. Arshavin again twisted and turned, negotiating his way past Peltier, before turning his shot onto the outside of the post. Playing in Fabregas` advanced midfield role, Nasri was again the architect with a fine clipped pass, spotting Bendtner peeling away from McCombe on the back post, but Bendtner badly scuffed his attempted volley- much to the audible amusement of the 5,000 travelling Terriers fans.

But their mirth was short lived when Chamakh moved the ball inside to Nasri, who flicked the ball around the corner to the onrushing Bendtner on the right. The Dane controlled the ball and struck across the keeper, his finish aided by a serendipitous deflection off of Peter Clarke. Whether the ball would have gone in without the ricochet is open to debate, but it mattered little. Arsenal were ahead and it was hard to see anything other than a comfortable afternoon. However, Huddersfield had no intention of lying down. The busy Pilkington raced down the right past a very lacklustre Gibbs (the screams for him to replace Clichy have died down of late I note), his low cross seemed destined for the sliding Alan Lee, only for Squillaci to touch the ball around the post to safety. (Particularly as the linesman somehow gave a goal kick. I dunno, male linesmen, what do they know?) Hearts were a flutter when Denilson`s awful backwards pass went straight to Lee on the edge of the area, he spread the ball wide to Pilkington whose shot flew wide. Bendtner looked intent on trying to double his tally after collecting Arshavin`s cute back heel, but Bennett was equal to the strike.

But the Gunners` luck would change for the worst. Nasri chased down an Almunia long kick and immediately pulled up. Rosicky came on and Nasri hobbled off down the tunnel. With ties against Barcelona and the Carling Cup Final in sight, it`s bad news. The importance of keeping Messrs Fabregas and van Persie fit is magnified somewhat. Arsenal lost their mojo without the Frenchman and contrived to create very little of note. The visitors meanwhile, were buoyed by Arsenal`s inertia and might have scored when Pilkington headed Gudjonsson`s cross wide. Matters were complicated further four minutes before half time when Gibbs was caught well up field, Denilson provided cover in body, but his powder puff "tackle" when Jack Hunt galloped past him should shame him just a little. Hunt carried on past Koscielny and nudged the ball the other side of Squillaci. Squillaci put an arm out and took Hunt to ground. Difficult to argue with the red card there. Song was prepped to come on for the second half, meaning Arsenal were about to use the second of their three substitutes, hardly ideal in the circumstances. Arsenal did have a chance to stretch their lead in the opening seconds of the second half when Rosicky`s slide rule pass found Arshavin, but he could only blast into the side netting.

From there on in, it was all Huddersfield who dominated possession and began to pepper the Arsenal goal. Gary Roberts`s cross field pass once again found Gibbs all at sea and Gudjonsson seemed destined to score, only for Andrey Arshavin to throw his body in and block. You did read that correctly, Arshavin making a gutsy defensive block. What next? Women officials? Huddersfield began to sling the crosses into the Arsenal box, with neither Arsenal full back making a great deal of head way in stopping them coming in. Pilkington found McCombe with a searching ball which he headed inches past the post, whilst Roberts` cross was headed goalwards by Lee, only for Almunia to brilliantly palm the ball away from danger. Joey Gudjonsson hit a first time half volley which again whistled past the post. I was losing count of the amount of times Town saw chances that licked the woodwork on their way out of trouble. Arsenal`s goal was leading a charmed life, but the gypsy heather could work its magic no more. Pilkington swung a right wing corner into the area, Lee rose above Abou Diaby and powered a header into the roof of the net. At this stage, Huddersfield looked the side more likely to go on and win the game than Arsenal. But the away side rather froze after their equaliser and tried to protect the draw. The introduction of Fabregas also pinned them back.

With his first touch, Fabregas found Bendtner with an arcing pass that Bendtner headed down for Koscielny. He connected cleanly on the volley only for Clarke to block. Eboue collected the loose ball and crossed from the right only for Bendtner to head over. Arsenal had not seemed sure whether to stick or twist at 1-0 and a man down, Huddersfield`s equaliser had made their decision for them that they needed to attack and they looked much better for that certainty. Arshavin jinked past Peltier and teed up Bendtner in the area, but the Dane took an unnecessary touch before striking, allowing Peter Clarke to block. Fabregas, using Rosicky as his battering ram, was taking the game by the gonads. He slipped another ball into Bendtner, who fired over. Then another slide rule pass looked to have put him clean through, but Clarke came back with an astonishingly well time last ditch tackle. But the Gunners did eventually get their reward. Fabregas charged down Hunt`s clearance, leaving him to shimmy inside Hunt and pick a pass to Bendtner who had only the keeper to beat. But a shove in the back from Jamie McCombe saw the referee reluctantly give a penalty. That he didn`t send McCombe off is little short of a disgrace and a decision he will surely have to explain to his assessor tomorrow morning. If that doesn`t qualify as a "clear goal scoring opportunity" then let`s do away with the rule altogether shall we?

Fabregas stepped up and dummied twice before slotting his penalty low to Bennett`s right and into the net, much to the relief of a nervy North London crowd. Clattenburg gave further cause for dissention with his brilliant decision to book Fabregas for being kicked with the ball out of play and to give a phantom free kick which mystified even the Terriers fans behind the goal. When you award a decision and nobody in the stadium realises what you have given or why you have given it, you know you`ve had a stinker. Nevertheless, Arsenal held on and the fact that we are through is all that really matters. Huddersfield can be very proud of their approach and given that they forced 17 attempts at goal and finished with 58% possession will give them genuine cause to believe they were harshly done by. As for Arsenal, the red card complicated an already disjointed team, the interim between Nasri going off and Fabregas coming on was a barren period that frustrated. The team`s form of late has been founded on good partnerships throughout the side and you could see that understanding was absent. Even so, we should have had enough to see the game off more comfortably. But they say the luckiest team wins the F.A. Cup and with a couple of last gasp penalties against lower league opposition, Arsenal are certainly using theirs in 2011.LD.

1.ALMUNIA, 27.EBOUE, 6.KOSCIELNY, 18.SQUILLACI, 28.GIBBS, 15.DENILSON, 2.DIABY (4.Fabregas `69), 8.NASRI(c) (7.Rosicky `32), 52.BENDTNER, 23.ARSHAVIN, 29.CHAMAKH (17.Song H/T). Unused: 10.v.Persie, 14.Walcott, 19.Wilshere, 53.Szczesny.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

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

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday January 30 2011

Time: 10:20PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Great writeup LD. We're gonna miss Nasri for sure. Hopefully Rosicky can show the kind of desire and form which made him a firm favorite when he first joined Arsenal.
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30/01/2011 22:58:00

the luckiest its going to be manutd then who will win it
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30/01/2011 23:15:00

I think Cesc was booked for wasting time because grabbed the ball, but your guess is as good as mine.
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30/01/2011 23:23:00

We don't have much luck with the FA cup 61 never again.
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Fair report Tim apart from this line "Whether the ball would have gone in without the ricochet is open to debate" I saw punters by the corner flag initially brace themselves and raise hands before that deflection ;)
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31/01/2011 00:05:00

Far from a vintage performance, but the result is all that matters now. And we're back down to two specialist central defenders for a few games. Maybe we can get Clarke on loan until the end of the season? His tackle on Bendtner clean through in the second half was perfection. If Ryan Shawcross attempted that it would have been a red card, penalty, and a broken leg. My hat goes off to Huddersfield Town- after being overwhelmed in the first 20 minutes, they settled down and tried to win. Unlike Man City, who probably spent more on their team.
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31/01/2011 01:22:00

Cesc's yellow seemed to be for time-wasting when he picked up the ball; except, he appeared to be picking it up to pass it to the Hudd player for the throw in. Hudd player shoves Cesc for not being prompt enough, Cesc gets the yellow. As ridiculous a booking as you'll see.
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31/01/2011 02:33:00

Thought Diaby did ok yesterday. Still, I wonder what happened to the Diaby who had a thumping shot from outside the box, and could glide past defenders to get into dangerous positions. It seems as if by coaching him to be more of a defensive player, he has lost confidence in his own attacking prowess. Ironically, Song has added the Diaby skill-set to his repertoire this season. I think he had a better game than Denilson though, who was indirectly culpable for Squillaci's sending-off. Denilson's best asset has normally been his accurate short passing, but even that has been sloppy this season.
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31/01/2011 02:41:00

January Player of the month: koscielny
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31/01/2011 05:07:00

Well written LD; but tutt tutt PC lines person please (male linesmen, does that mean there where two males?). Really thought Arshavin seems to be coming back from the wilderness; with Nasri going off for short will be great if he now turns the corner and starts putting in his best displays. Give Diaby a chance he has only just returned.
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31/01/2011 07:25:00

Gives Diaby a chance? He freaking beter then Denny last night... And that comes from me, who probably the last few Denny's fans left in the world ._.
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31/01/2011 07:34:00

I thought Diaby was sloppier than Denilson with the ball (Denilson completed 98 of his 102 passes), but Diaby was better in the tackle. But basically, neither did both things well.
Little Dutch
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31/01/2011 07:52:00

It's entirely predictable that Denilson's role in Squillaci's red card can be highlighted for a 'powder puff tackle' which was no worse than Koscielny's subsequent 'powder puff tackle' in the same incident and that Denilson can be 'indirectly culpable for Squillaci's sending off' without any mention that Arshavin meekly surrendering the ball while Gibbs was in advance of him was what really set it up. Also interesting to see that apparently Denilson has lost his short passing game and that the 98 of 102 passes he completed in yesterday's game was evidence of him 'not doing it well'. When your card is marked it's well and truly marked. It's all just a laugh really.
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31/01/2011 08:29:00

Denilson's attempt at the tackle was really quite pathetic. Koscielny was behind his man, Denilson was in front and not only showed Hunt inside onto the largest area of the pitch, instead of shunting him down the touchline, but the lazy leg hang out was really quite awful and I can't see how anyone could make a case to say any different. The match report mentions Gibbs' poor performance several times. Arshavin did lose the ball trying to take on his full back. But generally, a winger doesn't lose a ball trying to beat a full back and think, "*****, he's 80 yards from our goal, I've really put us in trouble now!" I like to think I've given Denilson enough credit in the past (indeed, I just did in my last post) to be able to say I thought he did something badly. It is frustrating when supporters mark a player's card, but it can be just as annoying to have your opinion dismissed as "marking someone's card" when it's genuinely not the case.
Little Dutch
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31/01/2011 08:36:00

Good report, already said enough I feel on not being able to criticise players withouth being labled this or that. Thought you may've mentioned Denilson pulling up like Nasri, then running back as if nothing had happened! Don't get me wrong i'm not a professional athlete, but i've done my hammy before and when it goes, it goes - you can't get back up and spring straight back -we were down to 10 men ffs and he clearly hadn't learnt from Everton the other year, still though, I suppose his card's marked as if anyone else did that they wouldn't be criticised . . . at least we're through, Arshavin's playing through this bad form admirably, he still created a couple of clear cut chances yesterday.
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31/01/2011 08:54:00

When your card is marked its well and truly marked, I mean Arshavin getting singled out for taking on a full back in the final third.......
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31/01/2011 08:54:00

Was just about to mention the same thing SW - Denilson went down when he was yards from goal, if he's not squaring the ball before getting treatment he's got to be injured and out for at least three weeks. The fact he got back on and played some more was quite shocking to me. How ever ill-advised it was Cesc played 5-10 minutes vs Barca with a broken leg, and Denilson going down when he was yards from goal and not being so injured he has to leave the field of play right there .... I don't even know what to say about that.

As for the rest of the game, there's not much to say. Dire performance. I'll mention Arshavin again though, at least he is trying to play himself back into some form though, it's just not happening for him. And when he made that tackle I was mystified to who it was, I was counting players trying to work out who it was, I thought we must have made a sub when I wasn;t looking, it was an amazing tackle.

The ref was absolutely shocking. The Cesc booking was just as disgraceful a decision as the one not to send the Huddersfield player after he decided it was a pen. All Cesc did was pick the ball up to pass it back (usually in the old tradition of throwing it over his head) and got pushed to the floor. I've seen many things in my time, but bookings for getting pushed over is not one of them. Nice write up Tim.
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31/01/2011 09:22:00

it seems our players are over-reliant on cesc to beat teams. No disrespect but we should be able to beat teams like Huddersfield comfortable even without Cesc. Yet time and again, we have to bring the skipper in.
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31/01/2011 09:25:00

The difference Cesc made as soon as he stepped on the pitch was tangilble. It was quite amazing to see. We have to do everything possible to convince him to stay (though my own opinion is that he's decided to stay for a couple of more years at least .... wild speculation, but his body language suggests he's bang up for being a Gooner a little longer).
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31/01/2011 09:30:00

I believe Colin Lewin fixed Denilson's hammy with some Mr Miyagi type wizardry and screamed "Daniel Larusso's gonna fight" which then allowed Denilson to continue.
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31/01/2011 10:40:00

I think Denilson definitely has his card marked from some of our 'supporters', but don't think LD is one of them. Somewhat obvious, but he definitely plays better when there's a better team around him - he's not one to dominate a game ever. But we've seen a few times where he's made mistakes you wouldn't expect at that level. Anyway, I am gutted about Nasri. Just when it was a joy to watch him and Cesc dovetail together, this happens. Also, his workrate at helping Clichy was great. If Arshavin comes in, I'm sure we'll be exposed again.
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31/01/2011 10:52:00

OT - definitely think we should sign Alex Chamberlain-Oxlade!
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31/01/2011 10:53:00

Thank good Clichy and Sagna have good fitness records, both Gibbs and Enoue have lookd utterly **** all season long. Fitness issues or not, neither are even close to the quality of ourfirst choice fullbacks. HGow many tuimes have we said, these last two seasons, about how someone breezes past a Denilson tackle as he saunters back and cannot be bothered to make the effort in getting in a proper challenge. I count atleast 6 or 7 times (conservatively), the guy needs to be sold ASAP, he's a general liability and his last real top game for us was coming on as a substitute against Everton earlier this season. This isn't a kneejerk reaction, he has been ***** poor this season and hasn't justified the managers clearly misplaced faith in him.
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31/01/2011 11:00:00

@ Amos: while the stats may say that Denilson passed brilliantly, one of those missed passes was an awful blind backpass which went straight to an opponent and nearly led to a goal. One reason Diaby looked sloppy on the ball at times was that Denilson kept passing to him when he was being tightly marked. I like Denilson in a midfield 3 alongside Cesc and Song, but he's proven recently that he can't cut it as a proper DM, and he's not creative enough as an AM. Once Diaby, Ramsey and Frimpong are fit, it's hard to see where Denilson will fit in. While he doesn't make that many errors, the ones he does make have a habit of being costly.
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31/01/2011 12:37:00

Interesting variation in possession stats quoted by the BBC which gives 58% in favour of Huddersfield and the Opta stats which gives a tad over 70% in our favour.
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31/01/2011 13:13:00

Just quickly Amos. Do you watch the games on Tele or do you have a season ticket?
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31/01/2011 13:14:00

I have a mate who works for opta. Given what he has said about some of their collection of data, I'd go with auntie on this occasion. It certainly didn't seem like we had anything close to 70%. Maybe in the first 20 mins.
Little Dutch
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31/01/2011 13:15:00

I don't have a season ticket but I have silver membership and get to most but not all home games. The point being what though?
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31/01/2011 13:18:00

Sorry, i was seeing what perspective you had of the game. The TV just follows the ball and a lot of what a player does off the ball is more important. I thought Denilson getting into positon was too lazy for much of the game, not tracking runners etc. At one stage i remember him chasing a runner when he was 10 yards infront of Gibbs for Gibbs to then overtake him and be 20 yards ahead of him with Denilson gently jogging back. A weak flailing leg which lead to the sending off, a similar powedery challenge which gave away a penalty against Leeds, weak attempt to stop the guy against stoke last year etc. His decline seems to be rapid and i am not saying this just because he is this months target guy, he has just been poor with no signs of improvement.
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31/01/2011 15:31:00

I'm sure there are just as many different perspectives among those inside the ground as there are among those watching games on TV. There's a tendency for all folk to see the things they expect to see however it is being looked at.
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31/01/2011 16:34:00

I feel the same way paul_ownz you cite plenty of evidence to suggest that there is justification in the doubts over Denilson. He seems to be involved in too many of these incidents for it to be a coincidence. His pass completion rate may be very good but it is a statistic that doesn’t really show very much. We’ve seen the lazy/weak tackle before and the poor decision making which, contextually, has a big (negative) impact on a game regardless of whether he can pass the ball successfully over 10 yards. This is apparent from whatever view you have, including the TV. His phantom hamstring injury was really odd as well.
Sir Henry
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31/01/2011 17:48:00

As has been said Denilson does have some previous with regard to lazy tackling hence Cesc's rant about it after the Leeds game. As LD stated all he had to do was to change his body position and shunt his opponent to the touchline. Generally Denilson is a good squad player but needs the big players around him as he will not turn a game himself , and he is at the moment neither DM or AM. Let's hope that everyone's legs recover for tomorrow night.
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31/01/2011 21:14:00

While I think Den definitely has regressed this year, it's most likely a function of reduced playing time. A couple of years back when he was an ever-present in the starting line-up, he was also displaying his best form - obviously this is circular because he hasn't shown the form to demand a bigger role. But this year so many of his appearances have been as a replacement for Song, which has given him greater defensive responsibility and thus exposed the weaknesses in his game that weren't so apparent anymore.
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01/02/2011 01:14:00


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