Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rambo II and the comeback of Arsenal's self-belief

Arsenal 1 - 0 Manchester United
Ramsey 56

Finally, Arsene has outwitted Sir Alex tactically. Cesc was ruled out of the game because of a possible dead-leg-kind-a situation which brought Aaron Ramsey in the midfield. In the first 20 minutes it was a typical Arsenal performance, lots of possession and industry without any shots on goal. But the intensity was high and we looked like a wounded lion out to take down his opponent. We have suffered much at the hands of Manure recently and it was heartwarming to see that the team was playing for pride. It made Sir Alex get out of his seat and deliver instructions to his half-brained minions right from the beginning.

Without Cesc, Arsene opted to play Jack and Rambo alternating between the advance and the holding role. It was a refreshing approach which had a huge impact on the game. Arsenal bossed the midfield and went forward at will only to be let down in the final third sometimes by lack of creativity, shooting or a crowded defense. But amidst all this frenzy, Theo crossed peach of a ball with Robin and Vidic going for it in the box. Vidic realizing that he will miss the ball, used his hand to clear and deny Robin from thumping it in the back of the goal. The linesman should have made the easy call of a penalty but somehow chose to ignore the foul. That was probably the only flashing point of the first half but we definitely ended it on a high.

Nasri picked up a knock, from I think Evra, in the first half and the Russian giant started the second in his place. We started the next forty-five very much from where we had left but were once again not able to pry open United's defense. Then Ferguson made a decisive change which eventually changed the course of the game. Probably thinking that our Russian will be slow on the wing, he went for Valencia in place of Anderson. Owing to that tactical change, we found more space in the midfield and the goal came right in the next minute. Robin held up the ball on the right in their box and three of our players charged in for the cut-back, yes, I repeat three players. That left space for Rambo to charge in and score through the defender's legs with the ball kissing the far post. It was a beautiful first time finish from more or less the same position from where Jack has miscued his shot in the first half. The goal clearly rattled Manure's cage and they came at us like hungry racoons.

Commentators expected a typical Arsenal meltdown which has been a regular feature this season but thankfully it never happened. We were solid at the back with Sagna owning Nani and Song keeping Rooney quiet. Another outstanding performance was to come from Shava who tracked by like a hero putting in great defensive tackles. It was a brilliant game for him and he nullified any threat which could have possibly come from average Valencia. I would say Clichy had a good game as well barring that one cock-up where he tried to dribble past a striker, nothing just the usual Clichy-stuff. United didn't particularly create impressive moves but they shot on goal with purpose only for Chesney to make couple of brilliant saves. There were few nervous moments when Shittaci came on for the injured Djourou but others ensured that he doesn't end up pooping the party. Overall we defended as a unit and were solid as a rock. If we had put in such a performance week-in week-out, then the Emirates would have been a better place but then we are Arsenal.

Our 1-0 win over the champion-elect United says a lot about our game yesterday. Cesc's exclusion proved to be a boon and forced Arsene to shift tactically. It brought something new to the table and Sir Alex was outwitted by him. The performance would have restored Ramsey's self-belief and will fuel him to excel in the remaining games. I think we will see a lot of him in our last 3. Arsene couldn't have asked for a better victory and the lads were finally able to deliver. If we win all our next three games anything can happen so keep believing.

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