Good result. Poor overall performance.

April 12, 2009

A big result for the team yesterday against Wigan at the JJB stadium. I gave a detailed match report yesterday so I won’t go into that at all now but, suffice to say, the team did what was needed and got the all-important three points. It seemed that the result would not go in our favour after an hour gone but all credit to the team for managing to get back into it by not playing at all well in the opening hour. We were very poor for large parts of the game and the defining moment came in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time when the referee was very lenient by only showing Gibbs a yellow card after hauling Valencia down outside the box. Truth be told it was a red card offence as he was the last man back as Silvestre would not have been able to get back to make a challenge.

 

Luckily the resulting free-kick struck the inside of Fabianski’s left-hand post and rebounded out. If we had gone two goals down on the stroke of half-time then it would have been game over, ball burst. But, it didn’t and I have to say that it is nice to get a big slice of luck for a change. After all of the injuries and bad decisions that have gone our way over the last two seasons maybe this was a bit of karma. We were a lot better after the second goal and were in complete control as Wigan tired.

 

Afterwards, the boss had this to say:

“I feel we have shown great character again. This young team has a lot of mental strength. We have shown some qualities that make it very interesting for the future. Wigan were very strong and committed in the first-half. We had problems with their man-to-man marking. But I felt in the second-half our technique took over. We looked dangerous every time we had the ball.”

 

It is good to see that the team can play woefully but still get a result, especially away from home. This should fill them with confidence for the remainder of the season and for the future. Not that they should be happy with their contribution in the opening hour or so, but they kept plugging away and made the most of the few chances they did eventually create. I’m delighted with the result and it gives us a nine point lead over fifth-placed Villa who will play Everton later today. I suppose a 0-0 draw would be the best result for us in that game.

 

Wigan boss Elephant Man had this to say:

“The disappointing thing for me was the second and third goals. It was comical stuff really. We have gifted Arsenal goals after a great hour when we worked so hard to deny Arsenal space. We are a bit shell-shocked. It would be difficult to say it was schoolboy stuff as that would be disrespectful to schoolboys.”

 

We weren’t at our best and maybe we were lucky that Wigan seemed to be on a mission to out-shit us with some really laughable defending. I don’t feel any sympathy for them, oh no, not with the Elephant Man as their manager. Unusually for a player/manager with ManUre connections, his team didn’t get the rub of the green at the end of the first half. I’m assuming that is the ‘shell-shocked’ feeling that the Elephant Man was referring to… I think Alan Wiley is a bit of a cock, but he certainly did us a favour yesterday. This may sound a bit of Patsy Palmer-esque hyperbole, but that result yesterday could be a defining moment of our season. Had we lost, we would have gone into the game against Villarreal with dented confidence. As it stands, the team will go into the game on a high and we will have Van Persie available and, hopefully, Eduardo too.

 

Early team news ahead of the 2nd leg against Villarreal is that their scorer from the first leg, Marcos Senna, is a big doubt for the game having picked up a hamstring injury during their weekend 0-2 home defeat against Málaga. Let’s hope that it is serious enough to keep him out of that game. They also have doubts over Mati Fernández (left ankle) and Cani (thigh). Santi Cazorla, of course, is out until next season with a broken leg.

 

Kudos to Alex Song for getting on the score-sheet with a well taken goal. I’ve hammered him a bit lately so it’s just right to give credit where it’s due for his run and finish.

song_wigan      arsenal_players_wigan

 

Gunnerblog has some very interesting quotes from Wenger about our early season woes here. Read it. It shows that his faith wasn’t as un-blinkered as his media comments suggested. We had all hoped that he didn’t really believe everything that he was saying publicly at the time, that surely his faith couldn’t be so unconditional and unwavering. Now we know. Arsene knows, he just doesn’t always tell us.

 

Walcott has had this to say:

“It is such a young team but we have that experience from last season and I think it has definitely paid off this year. We had our bad spell in mid-season but there are some absolutely brilliant players in that dressing room. We dig in when we go 1-0 down, we just need to keep a clean sheet, but we are scoring goals from different positions which helps the team and we just want to get in the Champions League spots.”

 

He makes a good point that it isn’t only the strikers getting the goals. we are now scoring from attack, midfield and defence and that bodes well for our chances of silverware this season. Let’s hope we don’t pick up any more injuries from here on out as we are now beyond bare bones in defence following the injury to Djourou yesterday. Hopefully his injury won’t be too bad and he can return to the squad sooner rather than later.

 

***UPDATE: This gives me a nice warm feeling inside. I’m glad we are controlled by people that feel they are custodians of the club and that our debts are serviceable. Happy Easter!

 

Okay, that’s all for today. It’s sunny and warm outside, so it’s time for me to go and enjoy what’s left of the evening heat.

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A game of three thirds.

April 12, 2009

Today’s game was a frustrating one. We were extremely poor, to say the least, in the first half. We just didn’t get into the game at all. Gibbs was given a bit of a rough ride in the opening half hour. The goal, when it came, was a fairly soft one for us to concede and Fabianski will be annoyed with himself that he didn’t get enough on the ball to turn it around his left post rather than into the left corner.

 

Things went from bad to worse when our injury crisis was heightened after the half-hour mark when Djourou collapsed in the box and it looked like his left knee just gave way and he fell in a heap. That was his final contribution to the game. Let’s hope that it isn’t anything serious as we are now down to the barest of bare bones in defence. Silvestre came on to replace him and he had one of our best chances of the half soon afterwards. He really ought to have done better with it. The other good chance we had came when Gibbs crossed into the box and Bendtner rose unmarked but couldn’t get his header on target.

 

Right at the end of the first half, in the fourth minute of injury time, Valencia was put through on goal and Gibbs hauled him down just outside the box. He was really lucky to get away with just a yellow card for the foul as the referee obviously deemed that Silvestre was covering him and that he wasn’t the last man back. Personally, I feel that Silvestre wouldn’t have been able to get back to make a challenge and that Gibbs should have gone. Luckily the referee was unusually lenient and the resultant free-kick hit the inside of the left-hand post and bounced clear. A very, very lucky escape. Overall, a truly woeful first half from The Arsenal.

 

In the 51st minute we did some Keystone cops defending of a simple high ball which the defence allowed to bounce, then an onrushing Fabianski got nowhere near it and it took a goal-line clearance by Gibbs to stop Mido’s header going in. Yet again, really poor stuff by Arsenal. You got the feeling that this game just wasn’t going to go our way and, to be honest, the way we played for the first fifty-one minutes we didn’t deserve to take anything from the game.

 

The goal for us came totally against the run of play, a goal out of nothing. Bendtner flicked the ball on to Walcott, who somehow managed to play it to Arshavin (accidental or not), Arshavin couldn’t keep his balance and as he fell he managed to get the ball to Walcott who tucked it into the bottom right corner of the net. Against all odds, we were back in the game.

 

Van Persie replaced Denilson in the 63rd minute to give us a bit more attacking impetus and to try and take advantage of our somehow getting ourselves back into the game. Adebayor then replaced Walcott in the 68th minute. Personally I would have taken Bendtner off instead, but maybe Arsene wanted to save Walcott for the second leg of the Villarreal game.

 

Michael Brown needless gave away a free-kick outside the box for a foul on Cesc in the 71st minute and from the resulting free-kick Cesc made himself some space, received the ball and slid it into the six yard box where Silvestre stuck it in the back of the net. Unbelievable. We had somehow managed to come from a goal down to lead two-one and hadn’t played at close to anything that you could describe as good. The goal definitely lifted us though, as you would expect and Arshavin was unlucky not to get on the score sheet when his 77th minute shot hit the inside of the left post and came back out to Van Persie who put the ball in the back of the net, but he was in an offside position and the goal was disallowed.

 

I must say that Adebayor did very well when he came on. He had some great touches and it looks like he is a changed man since getting his three goals after his injury comeback. Long may it continue. Van Persie gave away a silly free-kick just outside the box for a foul on Valencia in the 83rd minute, for which he picked up a yellow card. The resulting free-kick was easily saved by Fabianski.

 

Our third goal, I know I couldn’t believe it either, came after a Wigan free-kick was cleared to Adebayor who played a poor ball to Van Persie that was intercepted by Koumas. However, having made the interception he then went to sleep and played the ball straight to Arshavin who smashed the ball home from around the edge of the box.

 

Our FOURTH goal, if there was a word for super, super, ridiculously unbelievable I would use it now, came after a marauding run by Song into the box and he finished it with aplomb. Final score, Wigan 1 – 4 Arsenal, the most unlikely of score-lines that you will see for a long time.

 

For two thirds of the game we were simply woeful, there’s no other way to put it. For the final third we played with confidence going forward and looked dangerous as Wigan had visibly tired. We got the three points we needed, but we will need to play much better in our next two games, against Villarreal and Chelsea, in order to avert a trouncing.

 

That’ll do for now. Time for bed. More reaction tomorrow.