Thursday, August 25, 2011

Arsenal, Arsenal All the Way

When your critics poke you with little stick, it's always good to give them back in the nuts. Arsenal just did that last evening. Lately, Arsene and Arsenal have been slagged off in all corners of the media. The haters, up to some extent, have been successful in turning Gooners against their club. But the manner of our win against Udinese, and the eventual $$$ league qualification has reunited the fans again. Our traveling contingent of supporters had a night to remember at Stadio Fruili and I'm sure the story will be passed onto the forthcoming generations of Gooners.

For a big club like ours, there really shouldn't be such joy and jubilation over a measly qualification match for Champion's League. After all we have been playing in the competition for last 14 years. When Arsene was asked about the importance of last night's game, he said that it was not crucial. Obviously the man knows. But we have been struck by so much bad luck that even the most optimistic Gooners had their apprehensions going into the game. But Arsenal delivered and did that under some testing conditions. With Gibbs injured and Traore not fit enough to start, Sagna was drafted in the LB position and Jenkinson started on the right. Djourou recovered from his injuries to play alongside Vermaelen. As we're one goal up after the first leg, it made sense for Arsene to start with Frimpong and Song in the midfield to provide cushion for Ramsey. With Gerinvho and Walcott on the wings and Robin at the front, we had enough quality on the pitch to get past Udinese.

We were the better side for the first 20 minutes and created some good chances with Gervinho. Theo should have done better when he had an opportunity in front of an open goal but mysteriously chose to hit straight at the goalkeeper. Robin struck on the rebound but it was again stopped by Udinese' goalie who had a pretty good game which is not uncommon for any GK. Udinese gradually found rhythm and attacked our goal with more purpose. In the tail end of the first half the diminutive striker Di Natale, who was denied earlier by the goalpost, scored with a header. Song was caught up ahead on the pitch and one long pass from the centerline found Pinzi on the edge of our box who dinked the ball for Di Natale to beat Chesney at his near post. Udinese's buildup of the goal was so swift that our players were caught out of position. After that goal, all those half chances missed by Arsenal started to look costly.

I was not sure which Arsenal will turn up in the second half and going by our recent performances, I thought that a brooding set of 11 bodies would take on the pitch. But it was the other way round. Arsene substituted Frimpong for Rosicky and that had an instant impact on the game. We passed the ball more fluidly and our pace looked menacing. Gervinho made a glorious run on the left of Udinese goal. He cut outside his marker close to the goal-line and cut back a ball through the legs of three Udinese defenders for Van Persie to tuck the ball neatly in the back of the net. But the match was far from over when Vermaelen looked to have hit on the hand from an Udinese corner. Di Natale took to the spot but was denied a goal by a wonderful save from Chesney. That was a pivotal moment in the tie and it sucked the life out of Udinese. Shortly thereafter, Sagna counter-attacked and laid the ball in the path of surging Walcott who ran past his marker and beat Udinese goalie at the near post. It was a job well done by our No. 14 especially when he had missed a sitter in the first half. Udinese never seemed to recover from the sucker punch and for the last 10 minutes one could clearly hear Arsenal fans chanting at Stadio Fruili.

It was one of the biggest nights in the history of the club. After the departure of Cesc and Nasri, we needed a real positive sign and the win was the sign. But the shortcomings in our performance didn't go unnoticed. It looks like Djourou hasn't recovered in form post the defeat at Bolton during the last season. We need a better centerback who can share the work load with Vermalen and Koscielny. One real area of concern is the left back position. Almost all of Udinese attacks in the first half came through that wing. If Arsene wants to play Russian roulette with Gibbs' and Traore's minutes on the pitch, then we'll be made to pay dearly for it. As I've said many times before, Ramsey has a very long way to go before he's capable to replace Cesc. But then it's harsh to expect a player who has had a different training than Cesc to play tiki taka like him. I feel that Jack is a better candidate for that role as he's a better learner of the game than Ramsey. Whatever be the case, we need to replace Cesc before the transfer window shuts on us. We need more depth in our squad because the mid-season work load could be overwhelming for the current bunch. I don't hope Arsene to make any signing before the last day of the window but I'm sure there will be additions to the squad. Until then, Up the ARSE!

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