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‘Walking Along, Singing a Song’… Arsenal FC 1 – 0 West Ham United

October 31, 2010

We have seen days like this before, and will surely see them again: we huff and we puff, and struggle to breach the opponents’ defence. Arsene said afterwards he was relieved, as it looked like we would have to settle for a point, at best – and I can certainly agree with him. Despite a plethora of below-par showings in this Arsenal side, we stuck with it and finally made the breakthrough two minutes from time. I have been critical of Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong in recent matches, for getting too far forward, and (I felt) neglecting his defensive duties. Today, he – and perhaps Arsene – showed me just why he does this, and why I need to cut him some slack. Without him being on hand to head Clichy’s cross past Rob Green, we almost certainly settle for the solitary point.

I would characterize the match as more tense than exciting. This was due, understandably, to the minutes ticking by without an Arsenal goal. Watching on TV here in the metro DC area, I could still feel the tension in the stands at the Emirates. We certainly started with intent, and Arshavin forced Green into a fine save within a couple of minutes after the start. I felt he (Arshavin) had a good game – he worked hard throughout, at both ends of the pitch, and created chances both he and his teammates contrived to waste. The bright start did not last long, however. Our pace quickly dropped, and we settled for a gear or two lower than we should have. As a result, we did not cause West Ham too many problems, and they started to come into the match. They had only a couple of shots on goal, both from free kicks I think. They did not really look like scoring, but still caused us a few nervous moments from corners and free kicks. Mark Noble was particularly accurate with his deliveries, but they weren’t really able to get anyone on the end of them to convert.

We stepped on the gas towards the end of the first half, but that fizzled out. We started energetically in the second half, but West Ham put in a few hefty challenges, particularly their Captain Scott Parker, who got Cesc’s nose a bit out of joint. For the record, I did not have a big problem with what West Ham were doing – they held out for the first half, certainly believed they were going to get something from this game, and so decided to put us off our game. If our players didn’t appreciate what Parker was doing, the correct response should have been to give some back – and not direct retaliation, either, as the second man is always the one whistled.

Anyways, Boa Morte (remember him from Arsene’s early years here?) was booked for a shirt tug/shove on Denilson, and that was the last significant foul/player incident, until Chamakh was booked late on. Cesc, by the way, did get payback on his opposite number, smashing a shot directly off Parker’s face, which laid the latter out for a couple of minutes.

We upped the tempo and took almost complete control. Boa Morte’s foul on Denilson was punished by the booking and (almost by) a sweetheart of a free kick from Nasri. From 35 yards out, he beat Green all ends up, only to smash against the crossbar and over. From a goalmouth scramble, Green saved a Cesc first-time point-blank shot and despite getting the ball back several times, we couldn’t get another shot off and West Ham cleared.

I had hoped Arsene would change things up earlier than his customary hour mark, but he waited until almost 70 minutes (partially due to a stoppage while the prostrate Parker was attended to) to bring Theo on for Denilson. Within a couple of minutes, Cesc set him away, and Theo hit it well, beating Green easily. This time, the ball crashed against the post and bounced directly into Green’s arms.

When it’s not your day……..

With ten minutes to go, Arsene brought Bendtner on for Arshavin, and by now we had virtually all of the play, without looking like we would break through. With just a couple of minutes left, Clichy made a good run down the left, cut inside and curled a fine cross into the box.

For once, someone – Song – was on hand to head home. FINALLY!!!

The sense of relief was palpable, and despite two more minutes of regulation and five of added time, we held on comfortably. Extra time featured Arsenal passes all around the pitch, keep-ball at its finest. Last season, we were not able to hold the ball – when necessary – as effectively as this. Perhaps further evidence of a more mature and experienced side.

Another positive is winning without being nearly at our best. Our best players were clearly in defence – Clichy, Koscielny and Fabianski. West Ham may not exactly have put us under tremendous pressure, but they did cause us some problems. Clichy and Sagna defended our flanks quite well, Koscielny and Squillaci were both solid in the centre, and Fabianski was commanding and decisive again. This is what confidence does. Denilson did not have particularly good game. I imagine that injury (Diaby) and suspension (Jack) forced Arsene to pick the midfield he did, but I think it was still too defensive, considering we were playing the bottom-of-the-table side.

Theo should have been introduced at halftime, in my opinion. Some would say Chamakh had a stinker; I prefer to characterize his afternoon as a fine player having an off-match. In his defence, he did work hard throughout the match, and the service he got was generally poor. But I also felt he was slow of thought and reaction today – when the ball did come to him, he either lost it, or was slow to react, allowing the West Ham defence to mop up. When the team does not play particularly well, Arsene likes to say we “lacked sharpness”. Chamakh personified that term today. I just felt he was not sharp, not quick enough to react to what his teammates were trying to do. All players have matches like this, so it is nothing to get worried about. If this becomes a trend, then we have a problem, but I do not expect it to be such. As with the Theo substitution, I thought Arsene waited too long to bring Bendtner on, and Chamakh should have been the player to make way.

Cesc was rather subdued today as well, and Arsene said afterwards that our captain felt his troublesome hammy again, and that he considered subbing him at halftime. Cesc made it through the entire match, and as long as we were deadlocked, there was no way Arsene would bring him off. We got the win, but the question now becomes at what cost? We have a long flight to the Ukraine for Wednesday’s CL tie in Donetsk – a minimum of a point should virtually ensure progress to the knockout round, and three will do it, so this is a match we should have our strongest side for. But if Cesc’s hammy is still bothering him, it may be prudent to keep him behind for the trip. Fortunately, a rested Jack will be available for selection, and he should be an able deputy.

Even though this is Arsenal-focused, I try and say a word or two about the opponents. West Ham played well today, and I certainly would not have begrudged them a hard-earned point, if they had managed to hold out for the entire match. They were solid and organized, and admirably stuck to their plan of trying to avoid conceding, and perhaps hit us on the break. Similar to Chamakh, Piquionne got very little service up front, but still worked hard while he was on (Cole came on for him late on), and made a nuisance of himself. They may have had some poor recent results, but they can take plenty of positives from the performance and effort today, regardless of not bringing any points back across London.

So we won without playing particularly well. Another Highbury House regular is a fellow New York Giants (National Football League) fan, and when we previewed their game against the Detroit Lions a couple of weeks ago, I characterized it as a classic “Trap Game”. In the NFL, we call that a game where a good, top-of-the-table team (in this case, the NY Giants) plays a lowly, downtrodden team (Detroit) they are expected to easily beat, with a much more significant and difficult match (at the Dallas Cowboys) looming. We call it a “trap” because the favorites sometimes fall into the trap of looking too far ahead and then get turned over. For Arsenal, this afternoon’s fixture was a “Trap Game” for them, one which they thankfully got through. Let’s try and make this the exception (not playing well, that is) rather than the rule.

It is good we got three points here, as we are set for a pretty demanding upcoming six weeks. We have the remaining three group CL ties (two away), and a series of tough away fixtures (Everton, Wolves, Villa), a couple of should-not-be-so difficult home fixtures versus Newcastle and Fulham (not that I want to see Mark Hughes), the League Cup quarterfinal tie versus Wigan, and a home derby versus the Spuddies. It culminates with a mid-December trip to Old Trafford. This will not necessarily make or break our season, but will go a long way towards telling what we really have with this side. Whatever happens in these matches, we should see some old friends who have been gone, but certainly not forgotten. Robin should be back by or for the Spuddies, and hopefully Tommy V will be back soon as well.

For me and for many of us I am sure, the best moment will undoubtedly be when Aaron Ramsey runs out on the pitch for the first time since the Britannia.

Written by Oliver

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Two to sign soon – don’t let the bubble burst today!

October 30, 2010

Games like this are often the toughest to play. Last weekend we beat the Northern Chavs on their own turf, followed that with a very good away win at Newcastle in the Carling Cup with many a changed side, so confidence has to be high.

But not too high I hope, every players feet must be firmly on the ground otherwise we could slip up. Yes we are at home, The Emirates is where we all expect us to win but as yet it’s not our Fortress. Winning games like todays will help it one day become that, just like it used to be at Highbury.

We all know what happened after our 4-1 drubbing of the Tiny Totts, we were all so elated after beating our most bitter rivals, we took the next game for granted. West Bromwich Albion taught us a big lesson that day didn’t they?

West Ham earned themselves a good win in the week, a 3-1 home victory against Stoke City so they will have a little more confidence than of late but as already said, we are firing on all cylinders and scoring for fun which is what is needed again today.

West Hams last league game was a home defeat to Newcastle and this was their starting eleven.

Robert Green
Matthew Upson
Lars Jacobsen
Danny Gabbidon
Manuel Da Costa
Valon Behrami
Scott Parker
Mark Noble
Frederic Piquionne
Victor Obinna
Carlton Cole

We all know Scott Parker is a wonderful player and Carlton Cole on his day can cause any defence problems. Robert Green is ‘one of those keepers’ who you just never know which side of his game will turn up. He can be outstanding one match and then the next he can be as bad as Almunia and Fabianski put together. By that I mean the Fabianski of old, not the one of the present!

Talking of which, Fabianski needs another solid display, he’s got real competition for the number 1 shirt now and I don’t mean Almunia. Our young Pole, who is now in talks about a new contract, showed us all in the week that he’s ready to take over between the sticks. This can only be good for the club, before then it just looked as if Almunia and Fabianski would just thrash it out between themselves.

Jack Wilshere sits this one out, the last match of his suspension and Kieran Gibbs is out too, other than that there are no new injuries from last weekend or the mid-week game.

What is there to be said really about today’s game, other than more of the same please boys and I hope Arsene Wenger is thinking only of West Ham as he picks his side to face the Hammers, Wednesdays team will take care of itself!

West Ham sit bottom of the English Premier League, we need to make sure they stay there today. After that, I hope they go on a winning run, beating all the sides who sit around us in the league!

Other news is Jack Wilshere is also in talks about a new contract extension which Arsene Wenger believes him to sign very soon and the same goes for Szczesny. Those two could turn out to be two of the most important signings Wenger has made in a long while!

So, back to today. I can’t see many changes from the side that won in the City of Manchester start today’s game, maybe Johan Djourou will make way for the fit again Laurent Koscielny. 

It’s not going to be easy, games against London sides never are but it’s in our hands, play well and the rest will follow…

West Ham may sing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’, but lets not let ours be burst today!!

Have a great day all, only a win will make mine that!

New summer signing already sorted? Defender to sign in January?

October 29, 2010

Back in 2008, reports were rife about Giles Grimandi keeping tabs on Blaise Matuidi, a defensive midfielder who plays for St Etienne. The player had three years left to run on his contract back then and his club refused to negotiate a sale.

Matuidi has kept his head down, played his football which has since earned him his first call up for France under Laurent Blanc.

Now, this story has popped up again and again it’s us that Matuidi is being linked to and the player himself says the Premier League is where he wants to move to . He’s also being ‘watched’ by Liverpool, Everton, Juventus and a few other clubs but it’s suggested that he wants to hold out for a move to us.

He has recently had this to say:

‘It is nice to know a club like Juventus is following you or asking about you,’ he said. ‘But the league that would suit me best is the Premier League. ‘This is due to tactical, cultural and physical reasons, and the atmosphere in the stadiums.’

Two years ago reports suggest we were offering £8 million for a player who had three years left on his contact. My maths are not the best but even I can work out that two years later means he now has one year left on the same contract and according to reports he is not open to any discussions about renewing this contract.

So in the summer of next year he could walk for free from St Etienne. Maybe his club will sell him cheaply in January, who knows? We all know the way Arsene Wenger works though and he loves a bargain. I wouldn’t bet against Wenger getting him in the summer of 2011, for nothing, just like Chamakh. One to watch in January?

Another player linked to us this morning is the 22-year-old German defender Benedikt Höwedes who currently plays for FC Schalke 04. He has played for his country at all age groups and rumours are that we are to offer £8 million for him in January. Höwedes plays either full back or Centre Half.

Finally some ‘real’ news, mixed news.

Kieran Gibbs will be out for “a few weeks” with the medial knee ligament injury following Wednesdays game but we should know more today after his scan..

Aaron Ramsey and Robin van Persie are pencilled in to begin full training by the end of next week but Arsene Wenger has advised fans not to expect too much too soon, especially from Ramsey.

Manuel Almunia, Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby will all miss Saturdays game through injury, Jack Wilshere will also be missing as he sits out the last game of his suspension.

Remind you of anyone, other than Theo of course….

That’s it folks, have a good day.

Newcastle v Arsenal: Panto time at St James Park!!

October 28, 2010

The most important thing about last night was we got a win at St James Park and we are in the next round of the Carling Cup but last night, watching Emmanuel Eboue perform his theatrics was embarrassing to say the least. I know it’s getting near Panto Time of the year but he really needs to stop falling over as if he has been shot, learn to stay on his feet and grow up. What made it worse was not too long into the game, Nile Ranger could have easily done ‘an Eboue’ and got our goal keeper sent off, he didn’t, he stayed on his feet and thankfully Kos was there to mop up the danger.

From then on, Chesney showed us all why Arsene Wenger will probably not need to buy a goal keeper in January, if of course he can convince the young Pole to sign a new deal.

One sad sight during the game was seeing Kieran Gibbs suffer yet another injury, this time to his knee which resulted in him being substituted on 19 minutes into the game. I got my wish, Sagna came on but I had hoped it would be in place Eboue.

The only other substitutions of the night was made on 70 minutes when Cesc Fabregas replaced Carlos Vela and JET replaced Nikki.

So we lined up in our usual 4-3-3

Eboué  Djourou  Koscielny Gibbs
Denilson Rosicky Eastmond
Walcott Bendtner Vela

I was surprised to see Eastmond and Vela in the starting line-up, not because I think they are poor but just because Arsene Wenger had been giving such high praise to both Henri Lansbury and JET the day before.

Within minutes of the kick off, we really should have been a goal or two up. Vela and Bendtner both missed chances. We really were all over Newcastle in the first ten minutes, the home side couldn’t settle but we could make it count in front of goal.

Newcastle came into the game and Niel Ranger had a chance after a mad moment from Chesney but Kos cleared, then Alan Smith unleashed a thunderous strike which thankfully hit the bar, mind you I thought it was helped on is way by a wonderful save from Chesney. We were creating chances on the break but sadly some woeful finishing was still on display from our forwards.

Nikki had a couple more good chances and Eboue showed a bit of selfishness when having done all the hard work to get into the box, fired a shot into the side netting when a cross to one of the three players waiting for the ball would have had a better chance to open the scoring.

Then, just before the half-time whistle would blow, it was comedy time and we would benefit. Theo Walcott’s corner was poorly cleared by Nile Ranger, Rosicky headed the ball back in to the box, Bendtner then headed towards goal, Ryan Taylor then tried to head the ball clear but all he managed to do was hit the Newcastle keeper on the head and the ball flew into the net. Life can be so Krul!!

1-0 at half-time, we needed more goals, that must have been on the mind of every Arsenal Fan!

The second half got under away and it wasn’t long before Theo Walcott got his first of the night, with a little help from Nikki – the home fans were incensed that Nikki’s body-check on their player went unpunished just as Theo collected a perfect ball from Djourou to slot home a well taken goal. I am unsure how Nikki got away with that too!

By now Cesc had come on to replace Carlos Vela, the latter didn’t have the best of nights again. He needs a run of games but I just can’t see when he’s going to get them.

The Pole in goal then continued to show us all just why he thinks he’s so good, making a few great saves. He showed little fear diving at the feet of the Newcastle forwards as they searched for a goal and then made another fine save to keep out a Carroll free kick.

Nikki Bendtner made it three following a through ball from our captain and Cesc was the provider again for the fourth, this time releasing Theo Walcott, who again finished well to get his second of the night.

So, 4-0 to The Mighty Arsenal, a great result on what could have been a difficult night in Newcastle….

So who was your Man of the Match?

We are the worst team… says old hero!! Chesney, Theo and Kos all start tonight.

October 27, 2010

Following our fine win at the weekend it’s good to listen to a real ‘Mr Arsenal’ talk about his old club and speak from his heart. Ray Parlour isn’t one of those ex-players who have an axe to grind, nor does he feel the need to ever praise us up when we all know things are not good. He reckons that we are the worst team to play against when a side is down to ten men.

For anyone who doesn’t know our very own ‘Romford Pele’, take a peep at the ‘ It’s only Ray Parlour’ day.

Oh to have him back twenty years younger…


But following our win, he tells it as he see’s it and he’s pretty much spot on in my opinion.

It was a brilliant performance, they passed the ball very well and I know City had a man sent off early in the game, but Arsenal were excellent and Arsene Wenger must have been delighted. I think Arsenal are the worst team to go down to 10 men against because they move so well. You really need 10 outfield players on the pitch to be able to compete with them.

It was always going to be very difficult for Man City after that but you’ve still got to go and score the goals and Arsenal scored three great ones through Nasri, Song and Bendtner, who came back and looked very sharp. It was a really pleasing performance for all Arsenal supporters.

On Fabianski -

He’s playing with a lot more confidence since he saved that penalty against Partizan Belgrade in the Champions League. The save from Adebayor was brilliant and I think he’s learning the game. I know he’s had his mistakes but he’s playing a lot better than Almunia at the moment and I think when Almunia gets fit Fabianski deserves to keep his position.

But he knows as we all do that for all Arsene Wenger and the club are doing behind the scenes to ensure we are a well run club, it’s also important to start winning something.He believes with a fully fit squad we could be in a great position to do that this season.

They’ve got a very good squad this year that can challenge Chelsea and with Walcott back and Vermaelen hopefully fit in a few weeks, I’m very optimistic. It’s vital that they try to win something this season. I was really pleased that Wenger put out a strong team against Tottenham in the Carling Cup and they’ve got every opportunity to win that. Wenger’s done a wonderful job with the training ground, and he runs the club the right way, but what the fans really want is trophies.

He’ right about the Carling Cup, we all hoped for a strong side to face the Tiny Totts and we got what we hoped for, tonight we all want the same, I’m sure. With the Chavs, Northern Chavs, Liverpool all out of the competition, this really is one of our best chances yet to win the Carling Cup.

This is what it means, just look at Lansbury and Gibbs….

Tonight though will be no walk over, can’t see it being a high scoring romp to victory for us but if we show the spirit and determination we showed on Sunday we can win. St James Park isn’t a friendly place to go, the home fans will be right behind their team.

Since Newcastle knocked out the Chavs, they have had a dip in form, I suspect a lot of that is to do with losing Ben Arfa through injury and the Andy Carroll antics off field.  They have lost in the league to Stoke and Manchester City and were held at home 2-2 with Wigan. On Saturday though they beat West Ham away so a bit of confidence could be creeping back into the side.

Confidence should be with us though too, we won well in the Champions League, picked up a great result at the weekend and should be up for this game tonight.

Tonight is another big test for Arsene Wenger and his team selection should tell us all just how seriously he is taking this competition. He has confirmed that Chesney, Kos and Walcott will all start and no doubt Gibbs will come in for Clichy. Wenger has been ‘bigging up’  JET on the Arsenal website so no doubt he will start too. Chamakh needs a rest so I fully expect Nikki B to step in for him and I think  Lansbury  deserves another start.  It’s anyones guess who starts really, I just hope it’s a side that can win! I also hope that we see a very strong bench, we did at the Tiny Totts, we need one tonight too.

So come on Arsene, do it again, play a strong side tonight, get us into the next round and then we will start to believe that you really want a trophy this season as much as we fans do.

You say you do, now prove you do!

Arsene is a Very, Very, Naughty Boy

October 26, 2010

The Arsenal AGM was held this Thursday just gone, and Arsene surprised even some of his fiercest critics by fielding all questions hurled at him.  The normal format at the AGM is for attendees to submit questions, in advance, for Board members to answer. Except our potential future owner surly Silent Stan, he apparently just sat looking sullen and said bugger all. Nice!  

Arsene had a rough ride last year at the AGM, and was expected to provide only ready-made answers this year, but not a bit of it. He is a knowledgeable, decent man and treats all questioners with candour and humour, sometimes to his own detriment.

For instance, earlier in the week, Arsene had admitted, at his regular press conference, that he had sometimes been economical with the truth.  Wow, can’t you just hear the media and opposition fans sharpening their pens, or in this digital age, making sure Microsoft Word is set to automatically check their spelling and their grammar!
Arsene has recently admitted to telling little white lies, to questions asked by the press boys! Oh my goodness, that’s appalling, the “Meedja” would never, ever tell porkies. They are as pure as the driven snow, and that goes without saying. Yeah, right!

A News of the World reporter saw half a dozen kids standing in a circle with a dog on a string. Worried they intended to hurt the dog, he asked them what they were going to do with it. “Oh, he’s a stray and we all want to keep him, so we are going to have a competition, and the one who can tell the biggest lie, gets to keep him”. Horrified, the reporter said, “Don’t you know it’s wrong to lie. When I was your age I never told a lie.” There was a minute’s silence, until the youngest boy said, “Alright, give him the dog”.

Out of the mouths of the innocents ………..

Arsene said he always consulted with the player concerned, before telling the media the agreed story. So, do his fibs come into the usual category, with which we are all familiar? You know; “Don’t worry……. I’m sterile” or “Of course I love you” or “She means nothing to me”. Or are they something more serious?

So what could be more serious you ask? Well how about something like this.

Young Johnny was taken to school by his dad, who told his new teacher he was worried about his son’s lying and gambling. When he returned in the afternoon to pick Johnny up, he asked the teacher how things had gone. The teacher said, “I think I have broken his gambling habit”, “How did you do that?” asked the dad. “Johnny bet me £2 that I had a mole on my bum”, said the teacher, “so I pulled down my knickers and won the bet by showing him I did not. He then said he would never gamble again”. “Damn”, said the dad, “the lying sod bet me £50 this morning that he would see his teacher’s bum, before I picked him up from school today”.
Darn it, I think I just mislead you, but was it important? No, I don’t think any harm was done. And that’s the point. If a lie is spoken to deceive for gain, or to harm someone, that is serious, but I doubt that any fib perpetrated by Arsene falls into this category. He clearly said what he did to protect the player, and not for any wicked purpose.

So what would I classify as “wicked”? That, of course, is very subjective, as one person’s wicked is another person’s funny. What do you think of the following?

A bus filled with politicians was taking a remote country road, on its way to the next political venue, when the driver became distracted and crashed the bus into a ditch, turning it over.
A farmer rushed over to the scene and because of the remote location, decided to bury all the bodies.
The next day the police showed up and questioned the farmer. “So you decided to bury all the politicians? Were they all dead?”. “Well” said the farmer “some of them said they weren’t, but you know how politicians lie!”

If you have stayed with me up to here, you are probably aware by now, I don’t have much time for the stupid feeding frenzy, encouraged by certain journalists, whenever Arsene Wenger opens his mouth.

So I leave you with this thought;

Sport of choice; for Fleet Street maintenance workers. Basketball
Sport of choice; for Fleet Street Office Cleaners. Rugby
Sport of choice; for Fleet Street Secretaries and Office Workers. Volley Ball
Sport of choice; for Fleet Street Receptionists. Cricket
Sport of choice; for People who hate Arsene. Golf
Sport of choice; for Fleet Street Journalists. Table Tennis

The moral of this is that Journalists play with the smallest balls.

Written by Red Arse

New keeper already in? and putting it all together (Nearly)

October 25, 2010

Only time will tell just how significant this afternoon’s away victory at Eastlands is. Will these three points convince our players that they can compete with the big-spending sides? Will it give them confidence to consistently play well away from home? Will these three points be the difference between Premiership Champions and Premiership not-Champions? We’ll know at the end of this season. For now, we can enjoy the win, look ahead to upcoming fixtures and concentrate on overhauling Chelsea for top spot in the table, while holding off sides still nipping at our heels.

In his post-match comments, City manager Roberto Mancini stated that (Centre-back) Boyata’s fifth minute sending off – for bringing Chamakh down as the latter was through on goal – was the “decisive moment” in the match. No great insight there – anytime a team is down a man with virtually the entire match still to play, it is a significant handicap. Mancini’s assertion that his side would have won eleven versus eleven is less so. I – or Arsene – could just as easily claim that Arsenal would have won 6-0 with the numbers even; who is to tell us with any certainty that we would be wrong? Nobody knows how it would have turned out. Mancini can be pleased that his side battled hard the whole match while at a numerical disadvantage, but today it was not enough. Perhaps it will be different another time, against another side. This was Arsenal’s day, and we fully deserved the win.

I will agree with Mancini in that City started well and full of intent – Silva forcing an excellent save from Fabianski. But that storm quickly blew itself out when his side went down a man. Arshavin set Nasri up for our opening goal on 20 minutes, and when Kompany brought Cesc down in the area for a penalty, we had a chance to double the lead. Hart did well to save Cesc’s penalty and we went into the break only 1-0, some of us no doubt feeling we would pay for not making more of our advantage. Not to worry, as the second goal did arrive shortly after the hour with Song cleaning up a loose ball in the City area, and Bendtner rounding out the scoring after Nasri put him through two minutes from time.

So….A handsome win, one away at a side that is expected to be a fellow title challenger – when is that last time that happened? We should not go overboard and suggest that we are the finished article – we are not. We still have plenty of work to, and one thing that has already bitten us this season is getting too high after a big win. I refer to the league cup win at the Spuds – we beat them pretty thoroughly, only to follow it up with a sloppy, undisciplined “effort” four days later against West Brom. So this time, let us keep focused, keep our feet on the ground and look ahead to the next match, taking nothing for granted.

A quick word on Lukasz Fabianski: He continues to impress and had what I think was his best game for us, in a difficult atmosphere against a quality side. So much of the goal keeping position is confidence and he seems to have it now. When he is in this form, the position is no longer a weakness, he looks like a ‘new keeper’.  Let us hope this continues, and that he is able to shake of the mistake(s) that will inevitably come – as they do for any goalkeeper, no matter who he is. If Fabianski can rebound from adversity – which he has failed to do in the past – then we will know we are set. His late save from Balotelli – when the match was already won – showed a determination not to allow a goal which has been lacking recently. On that note, let me also add a word of praise for the entire team for keeping a clean sheet: Those are not exactly our forte, and we had instances where we most certainly bent, but did not break. City created some good chances as expected but the team defended well and kept them off the score sheet. Part of this was standing up for ourselves – four yellows and plenty of fouls from Arsenal players – which showed we were not going to be pushed around. This is something we need to do against Chelsea, as well.

Not to neglect Alexandre Song Billong, who got another goal and had a very good all-around game. Nasri continued to impress, and has our best or second best (Wilshere the other) player over the past month. If Arsene wants to revisit the question of vice-captains, I would argue that Nasri’s outstanding form deserves consideration. Cesc continued to show just how important he is to our side, and not only as playmaker, but also showing a nasty streak that I think will be necessary in the weeks and months ahead. And finally, it was fantastic to see Bendtner get his first goal of this season – hopefully he is set for a sustained run in the side, we will definitely need him fit and in-form. I think the overall team performance corroborated Arsene’s post-match assertion that we are a more mature side. We need to build on this, not rest on our laurels and drop points to sides we shouldn’t. Or fold against Chelsea and Man United. We are only as good as our last match, and our players will do well to remember that.

A quick word on Man City: Some may not agree, and while I do not think that Mancini is necessarily the right man for this side, I expect them to be thereabouts at the end of the season, securing at least a Champions League slot. Playing with a man down for almost the entire match, they stayed with it, did not give up at any point, and caused Arsenal several nervous moments. As I stated earlier, I do not agree with Mancini that they would have won with eleven men, but I do feel they would have at least scored but for Fabianski’s exceptional form. A lot has been said about the expensive collection of players, mercenaries lacking spirit, but I saw plenty of spirit from City on display here. It is starting to look as though they have Chelsea’s number – as Chelsea has ours – and if this collection of players can beat the other Manchester side in the league this season, then they will be on their way.

In summary, a good away win against a very good side. As I am viewing this from the Arsenal perspective, I am very pleased with the overall performance and result. Last year – and against Mark Hughes’ Man City side – I do not think we would have gotten three goals, perhaps we would have struggled to get three points. But on this occasion we did, which suggests there is more substance, experience, and toughness to this Arsenal side than recently. The first trophy is often the most difficult to win, so hopefully we are on that path. Another difficult away fixture – Newcastle United in the League Cup – awaits us midweek. I would be very happy to finally win that trophy. Not only is it the only domestic trophy Arsene has not lifted, but I expect winning it to serve as springboard to greater future honors. Mind you, that will only happen if we keep focused, and provide the required effort, skill, and maturity in each match. Enjoy this win now, and be ready to do it again at St. James Park in a few more days.

Written by Oliver




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