G4L's Player Ratings v Sparta Prague
Let me start this one with a 'Yippee ki-yay, you dirty ****' aimed at that notorious thug, Tomas Repka. I am stunned that that Spanish tit of a ref allowed this classic scumbag to limp off of the pitch and never come back on his own, without receiving a red card. His 'leadership' was commendable, the rest of the so-called footballers from Prague picked up on his example and made tackles that had 'malice' written all over them. We all have Fat Sam to thank for this, he deserves all the credit for inventing the kind of anti-football that is being adopted by many a team when facing the Arsenal.
Credit to our select 11 fighters who refused to buckle under the severity of the Sparta approach and managed to stay calm and not react to the provoking from the Czech camp, and well done on getting us a step closer to where no spur has ever been before.
And prior to the player ratings, the man of the match:
Team AFC, with special praise for the defensive unit. Elaborated further down:
Lehmann - 7 - After the infamous 'Fulham incident' Jens proved the doubters again, and made a save that resembled the one he made early last season at OT when saving a goal-bound Solskjaer effort. This time he turned it onto the post enough to keep the score at 0-0, much to the relief of one Gael Clichy who was AWOL. Instilled confidence in the back 4 and made half an assist for our second goal, releasing quickly and with high precision our new right back who was on the left.
Gael Clichy - 8 - Yes he was positioned badly a few times, but he was positioned perfectly to intercept a pass, cover 30 yards in 0.5 secs while skipping over outstretched limbs of the Prague tacklers and set up a vital first goal. Never afraid to challenge an opponent, Gael was clearly up for it. How good will he really be when he improves his crossing and positioning? Frightening thought.
Baca Sagna - 8 - two assists from two fullbacks. What next? Flamini to start spreading Beckham-like long range passes and crosses? Surely not. Baca was very solid again, and made up for Eboue's (worrying) lack of the mixture idea+effort. Thank you Arsene Wenger.
Kolo Toure and Billy Gallas - 7.5 - A mean unit. Their defence colleagues who operate on the flanks made a slightly more significant impact on the offensive front, hence the difference of 0.5 in the ratings. I am really running out of ideas what to say about King Kolo, that has not been said before. The 6'7'' Sparta forward rarely had a sniff of the ball under to combined 1-2 punch of Kolo+Billy and he also made a couple of what fastly are becoming trademark mazy runs from our no. 5. Billy Gallas played and led like a true captain, was focused and covered for Clichy on a few occasions. More of the same please.
Tom Rosicky - 6 - not doubting his desire and running, but he seemed a bit out of it. Maybe it was a psychological thing, playing at his old club, although that should never be an excuse for a poor performance. His touch was off, and he didn't pose a threat, although his effort was there to be seen. Produced a nice pass for RvP, but never got going. Can only get better. Subbed by Alex Song on 79'.
Manu Eboue - 5.5 - Hardly made anything worth of mentioning. I will not be overly critical of him as this was a great team performance, but he seems to be still adapting to his new role. I believe that him and Sagna can and will function perfectly in due time. I am still expecting to see some more of the stuff he showed against Inter in the pre-season. Same last line as for TR7. Can only get better.
Matty Flamini - 6.5 - I don't care what people say but this boy just does his job. Yes he makes mistakes, but who doesn't? He ran his socks off as usual, was first in the trenches confronting the Sparta hackathon and managed to break up chunks of the 37% possession enjoyed by our very unfriendly hosts.
Cesc Fabregas - 7.5 - A calm finish to give us the lead. He has come a long way since I first saw him playing for Arsenal carrying that no. 57 or smth, and now is one of the many leaders on the pitch. Went in for the 50/50 with the Czech butcher and although he committed a foul (nice one ref) he showed the new Arsenal resilience Gallas has been talking about. Pushovers no more. He distributed as much as he could under severe Prague pressure and made it count when needed. Had another glorious opportunity early in the game but Postulka was up to the task. The boos from the crowd only made him stronger.
Alex Hleb - 8 - If the story of the bet between Alex, Cesc and Tom who will score most this season is true - Alex is well on his course to win it. He just needs to Yesterday he was in the midst of anything and everything: firstly, he probably went close to eclipsing Jose Reyes' record of fouls against, unwillingly achieved against Man United a few years ago. This did not put him off at all, but it seems to have made him stronger. I enjoyed his close encounter with Repka, who mere 35 minutes, was involved in most incidents. Made a darting run at the death and scored cheekily.
RvP - 7.5 - Another one of our players who considers Repka a man of his word as he was kicked from behind in the first minute. Although largely isolated in attack, RvP scrapped and fought for 90 minutes and managed to get on the end of a few. His crosses were always dangerous, although his free-kick targeting system is still being adjusted. Soon some goalie will be picking his ball from the net from a RvP rocket.
Subs: Alex Song - not rated - why? Because I am not cruel. His first touches/contributions to the game were:
1. a misplaced pass that ended out of play
2. A miscued header that landed on the outskirts of our penalty box
3. A dangerous sliding tackle in the box
There were a few more that frightened me. He needs to play a few games from the off (read as Carling Cup) to get his act together. Still whenever he comes on the pitch, he looks unbelievably cool and calm.
Next up, Repka's long lost Welsh cousin Savage! Hopefully we'll get a ref who won't focus on the 'upper body' as our favourite Mr. Poll did last year.