Posted by hiphopmama on August 23, 2009
Arsenal 4-1 Portsmouth
1-0 Diaby, 18′
2-0 Diaby, 21′
2-1 Kaboul, 37′
3-1 Gallas, 51′
4-1 Ramsey, 68′
That’s a pretty good return on the first two matches of the season, no? Arsene shuffled the line-up a bit, but the result was essentially the same. Sagna and Clichy were replaced by Eboue and Gibbs at left and right back, respectively, and Abou Diaby started in place of Alex Song in the midfield. Eduardo also joined the front line instead of Nicklas Bendtner, who did see a few minutes as a sub. The formation wasn’t as clear a 4-3-3 as it was in the previous games, seeming to slip into more of the 4-4-2 we’re used to seeing, but the movement always looked good and everything was fluid so it doesn’t really matter.
Diaby played somewhat of a rangy role, popping up here and there and making himself very dangerous for the Portsmouth defense. He scored back-to-back goals in the span of a few minutes to put Arsenal 2-0 up, the first on a beautiful move by Eduardo to get past his defender before playing the square ball back to Diaby. Fabregas and Eboue provided the set-up for his second coming down the right flank instead of the left this time. Kaboul’s header pulled Portsmouth within a goal, and Pompey made it a rather nervy affair for a while, raising old questions about Arsenal’s back line. Luckily, Gallas showed up for another goal off a fortuitous bounce to restore the two-goal advantage. An Arshavin free kick pinballed its way around the box before banging off Gallas not once, but twice, and heading for the back of the net. Second-half substitute Aaron Ramsey got in on the action as well, getting in behind the Portsmouth defense and poking one past David James for the Gunners’ fourth.
This was a slightly more unsettling match than the scoreline indicates, at least in parts. After Portsmouth got their goal, Arsenal looked like they might crack and allow Pompey to even the match. Fortunately, they played just tight enough to keep out another goal and then allowed their lovely possession football to salt away the match. I was a tad concerned when Fabregas didn’t start the second half, presumably because of a lingering hamstring issue and also perhaps in preparation for the midweek game against Celtic. It was nothing to worry about in this game, because Ramsey filled in nicely, not only with the goal but also in creative link-up play through the midfield. He’s nowhere near the level of his captain, but at 18 he has plenty of time to work up to that high standard. And what can you say about Gallas? Three goals in three games for the center back? ‘Tis better to be lucky than good, I suppose, although Gallas has looked both this season: good at the back, and lucky in front of goal. I’ll take the combination any day.
One of the more refreshing aspects of this win was the continued high quality of play with the different line-up. There weren’t any wholesale changes, but with four new players in the starting 11 I wondered whether or not the free-flowing chemistry would be the same. It was, and the goals came just as easily. I still have some concerns about the occasional shakiness of the defense, but as long as they can keep the goals pouring in, the possession game should help in that respect. Arshavin is right, though, that squad depth will be important if Arsenal want to contend for the title. Because as amazing as they’ve looked so far – easily as good or better than any other team in the Prem – their continued success comes with a big “if” pertaining to their ability to remain healthy. The season is long and arduous, so it’s not really a question of “if” as “when” the injuries will come. How the team deals with them will determine its fate, and at the moment there isn’t exactly a wealth of riches on the bench, especially backing up the defensive portion of the pitch. But with just a week left till the transfer window closes and the team rolling, I don’t foresee any new additions to the squad. So fingers crossed all around that this group can stay healthy and continue to get the job done.
Of course, as I write this, I’m reading about Fabregas’ hamstring injury possibly keeping him out for the next three weeks, effectively ruling him out for the Manchester United match next weekend. I’m not even going to comment. Just get well, Cesc.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: aaron ramsey, andrei arshavin, arsenal, arsene wenger, clichy, david james, diaby, eboue, epl, fabregas, kieran gibbs, portsmouth, sagna, william gallas, younes kaboul | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on August 18, 2009
Celtic 0-2 Arsenal
0-1 Gallas, 43′
0-2 Caldwell (0g), 71′
Two games, two wins. Top of the Prem table, in line for Champions League qualification. Yeah it’s early, and neither has much predictive value at this point, but I’ll take what I can get.
While both games witnessed some traditional Arsenal football, they both also featured some atypical goals, and this was especially true today against Celtic. Arsenal are certainly renowned for the flair with which they play and the manner in which they move the ball around the field, but grinding out victories has never been their strong suit. Yet in one of the most hostile environments in Europe, the Gunners walked out with a comfortable win and two crucial away goals in their pocket. And they did it in a rather fortuitous manner, scoring two goals on two deflections. The first came off a Fabregas free kick, which accidentally ricocheted off the back of William Gallas and past the outstretched arms of the keeper. The second resulted from a nice build-up by substitute Diaby and Gael Clichy, whose cross was deflected into the net by Celtic defender Gary Caldwell.
To be fair, Arsenal deserved the two-goal margin they got, dominating possession throughout and creating a multitude of chances besides the two that went in. Celtic did have a few nice opportunities, but they were mostly isolated incidents and the Arsenal defense always looked capable of handling the threat. Gallas, who looked to be on his way out around this time last year, has regained his form remarkably and looks to be a team stalwart at this point. He was partnered well by Vermaelen, who seems to be settling in as nicely as could have been hoped for. Sagna, Fabregas, and Denilson all played despite questionable injury status, and their inclusion surely helped stabilize the line-up by providing consistency from one game to the next. Bendtner was slightly anonymous for most of the night, but the rest of the front line covered the gaps, especially Arshavin in his roaming, creative role. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Alex Song, whose steadiness in the holding midfield role laid the foundation for the team’s forward movement by helping secure the back line. He caught a lot of flack last season from fans, myself included, who felt the team lacked both experience and steel in the center of midfield, but he has really stepped up to the plate this season and proved us all wrong. In my own defense, the team was in need of a wily veteran in the middle of the park last year, and could probably still do with another player in that area, but Song is developing right on pace and fulfilling that role better than I could have imagined. Kudos to him, and may he keep it up all this season and the next.
With the 2-0 victory and two away goals, Arsenal have set themselves up for a relatively straightforward home leg of this tie and are clear favorites to advance. With the extra money that a Champions League spot will ensure, I have some hopes, however mild, that these funds may be reinvested in the squad. With Arsene Wenger, though, and given the stellar start to the season he has enjoyed, I don’t put much stock in them. There’s still a little time left before the transfer window closes, and even just one addition could be key in the team’s push for silverware this year. With both Liverpool and ManU having lost important players, the time could be ripe for Arsenal to sneak in and steal one. Fingers crossed on my end.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: alex song, andrei arshavin, arsenal, arsene wenger, celtic, champions league, clichy, denilson, diaby, fabregas, gary caldwell, nicklas bendtner, sagna, thomas vermaelen, william gallas | 2 Comments »
Posted by hiphopmama on April 7, 2009
Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal
1-0 Senna, 10′
1-1 Adebayor, 66′
As expected, this was a fun game to watch, although as an Arsenal fan the second half was much more fun than the first. Villarreal came out guns blazing and took the early advantage on a brilliant long strike from Marcos Senna, who found himself in too much space and nailed it to the back of the net. Things then went from bad to worse for the Gunners when they lost both Almunia and Gallas to injury in the first half, and they went into the break looking a little worse for wear.
One inspirational halftime speech later, Arsenal were a different team and spent the second half pinning Villarreal back in their own half instead of vice versa. Typically, they had plenty of chances but neglected to finish them, waiting for that most brilliant of opportunities to level the scoreline. Also typical was the fashion in which it arrived, on a silver platter from Fabregas to Adebayor, who corralled with his chest it in the middle of the box, then took it on the volley, whipping a ridiculous scissor-kick past Diego Lopez.
Arsenal looked the likelier to score after that and spurned a few more clear-cut opportunities, and Villarreal almost made them pay for it. Senna hit a couple more whistlers just past the bar and the last few minutes saw the Spanish side pour forward on a number of occasions. As injury time dwindled, Arsenal struck back on the counterattack but the cross from Clichy was blocked out for the corner which ended the game.
So the Gunners take an even scoreline and the critical away goal home to the Emirates for the second leg, and you’d have to think they’re pretty satisfied with that outcome. Having started so poorly, tying it up alone was encouraging, but getting that potential tie-breaker makes the result even more harsh from the Villarreal perspective. The Yellow Submarine (can someone please explain that nickname to me?) played a great first half and seemed poised to take their one-goal cushion with them, but Adebayor’s absurd strike one-upped Senna’s and snatched the moral, if not actual, victory away from the home team. Who would have thought, a couple months ago when Arsenal were in the midst of their slide, that they would be a rejuvenated squad getting their best players back and looking to head to the Champions League semi’s? Not I, for sure, but I will remember not to doubt them again.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: adebayor, arsenal, champions league, clichy, fabregas, marcos senna, villarreal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 21, 2008
It’s making the circuits of blogs (specifically Arseblog and Gunnerblog) and I happen to have a spare moment, so here we go. Gallas has reportedly been stripped of his role as Arsenal captain and supposedly did not travel with the team to Manchester for tomorrow’s game against City. This article is a good overview of all that has gone on with some recent insight into the current situation. Either Almunia or Clichy is expected to wear the armband this weekend, at least with Fabregas and Toure out.
It’s a long time coming now. He had been stretching Wenger’s faith in him quite thin already, and apparently it finally passed the breaking point. About time if you ask me.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: almunia, arsenal, clichy, epl, fabregas, kolo toure, william gallas | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 15, 2008
- 0-1 Gael Clichy (og), 70′
- 0-2 Gabriel Agbonlahor, 80′
How many times can we witness this same exact story line? A struggling Arsenal team pulls off a big win against a quality opponent, the youngsters throw in an impressive victory in Carling Cup play, and this renewed confidence and spirit is dashed with a horrible showing against a team they should beat. In this case, the opponent was one of some quality – Aston Villa were sitting at fifth in the table and had had a very good start to the season. They had, however, coming off disappointing losses to Newcastle and, last week, Middlesbrough in a game that, had it been won, would have moved them into a coveted top four position. Arsenal were, as always, using a depleted line-up, with Van Persie out due to suspension and Adebayor only just brought back on the bench after coming back from injury. They did have Sagna back as well as Gallas, both of whom had missed time recently.
None of that accounted for the result, though. For as good as they looked against Man Utd last week, they looked ragged and sloppy today. Villa was clearly the stronger of the two teams in the first half, despite missing a poorly taken penalty, which was saved by Almunia and kicked out by a charging Gallas. Ashley Young especially stormed forward in the early going, creating and receiving numerous opportunities and only being held off by some excellent goalkeeping by Almunia. Agbonlahor wasn’t much of a factor in the first half, but he made up for it in the second half, making piercing runs and killing Arsenal with his speed. He was partially responsible for the first goal, forcing Clichy to make the play that resulted in an own goal. Ten minutes later, he scored one for real, securing a long ball around Gallas and striking it past Almunia to secure three points.
Arsenal easily dominated possession, nearing 70%, but they were much less threatening than Villa and created fewer chances. Bendtner was essentially invisible playing up front by himself. Walcott gave his defenders some trouble but it never amounted to anything. Nasri wasn’t nearly as dangerous as he has been in recent weeks. And Fabregas continued his run of indifferent form. At one point in the second half, a long ball over the top that was mishandled by Bendtner practically screamed out for Adebayor, and sure enough, a few minutes later he was subbed in for Diaby. Vela was also brought on for Bendtner, and that two man combination seemed to work much better although to similar (no) effect. The biggest blow, aside from the loss itself, was losing Sagna to a serious looking injury in the build-up to the first goal. He had only recently come back from another injury, and Wenger said in his post-match press conference that he will miss a few weeks with this new ankle injury.
It’s almost impossible to figure out what to make of this Arsenal team. Two steps forward one step back would almost be a blessing at this point, as every victory – moral or actual – is countered with at least one disappointment. The team seems to need some moderately drastic shaking up – tinkering with the established formula just isn’t enough now. I can’t pretend to know as much as Wenger, but I would hope that picking someone up in the winter transfer window wouldn’t be ruled out. Then again, with Eduardo potentially returning in a few weeks and Rosicky making his return around the new year, they might get the equivalent of some new players without having to spend the money. Whatever the case, the current tack isn’t working, no matter how many isolated bright spots it produces. Beating Manchester United is all well and good, but it’s worthless if you can’t replicate that performance against teams like Fulham, Hull, and Stoke. Aston Villa is no pushover, but they should at least elicit a more inspired effort than what the Gunners gave today.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: adebayor, agbonlahor, almunia, arsenal, arsene wenger, ashley young, aston villa, clichy, eduardo, epl, fabregas, rosicky, sagna, scores, theo walcott | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 2, 2008
things that make you go hmm...
- 1-0 Ricardo Fuller, 11′
- 2-0 Seyi George Olofinjana, 73′
- 2-1 Gael Clichy, 90′
Is this really how it’s gonna go down? Arsenal alternately tearing ’em down and stinking it up, with more of the latter of late? I don’t get it. I love Arsene Wenger and his style of play and philosophy and haircut…but I’m starting to think the EPL isn’t the place for it. I know he’s had incredible success and I absolutely love him, but if he can’t get these guys to lock down when necessary it’s all for nothing. Then again, with his track record, it also might just come down to the players, although you could still say that this is his team and he has hand-picked these guys. I know I missed watching the whole Unbeatables season thing, but every year I’ve watched since then has been the same thing: almost, so close, but not quite. Not that I have a clue what the solution is. Going in a different direction would be tantamount to heresy, and I wouldn’t really want to see it, at least not right now. I would have thought last year would be the “transitional” year with Henry’s departure, but everyone seemed to settle in quite nicely and be poised for a good run this season. And it’s not just lack of experience. The midfield is a little shaky there, to be sure, but the biggest problems have come from positions of considerable age and renown (El Capitan, anyone?).
Stupid Rory Delap and his damn long throws were our undoing today, creating both goals for Stoke and making Arsenal look as clueless as always defending (quasi-) set pieces – the first to Ricardo Fuller at the back post in the 11th, and the second by Olofinjana off the pass from Ryan Shawcross. Clichy scored a deflected goal at the very end but to no avail.
Wenger was true to his word in changing the line-up after the midweek Tottenham debacle. Toure was back in the starting eleven and back in the role of captain, while Van Persie, Walcott, and Nasri got the axe in favor of Song, Diaby, and Bendtner. He eventually relented enough to bring on both Van Persie and Walcott, but all he got in return was a Van Persie red card and a Walcott injury.
It’s so bad that even the Liverpool loss to Spurs doesn’t dampen it. Well, maybe just a little.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: arsenal, arsene wenger, clichy, epl, kolo toure, olofinjana, ricardo fuller, scores, stoke, theo walcott, van persie | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 21, 2008
Sunderland 2 – 0 Middlesbrough
- Sunderland started the game dismally, but after Stewart Downing sent a penalty kick over the cross bar, Sunderland were re-energized and Chopra scored both goals in the last ten minutes to give them the win.
West Ham 3 – 1 Newcastle
- West Ham’s new manager Gianfranco Zola got a win with two goals and an assist from David Di Michele. Owen scored Newcastle’s goal, but it wasn’t nearly enough. The Magpies continue to look awful.
Blackburn 1 – 0 Fulham
- This hard-nosed battle wasn’t won until the 84th minute. Carlos Villanueva sent in a nice cross from the left side which Roque Santa Cruz headed down into dangerous territory, and Matt Derbyshire knocked it home. Blackburn manager Ince looked good for bringing in both Villanueva and Derbyshire as subs late in the game.
Liverpool 0 – 0 Stoke City
- Steven Gerrard struck one in off a direct kick from the left side, but the goal was disallowed for an apparent “off side” call. Kuyt was near the goal line, but the call was dubious, even according to the Stoke manager after the game. Liverpool kept the pressure on, but they just couldn’t pull the trigger, especially Torres. It was a disappointing draw that let Arsenal slip by them into first place.
Bolton 1 – 3 Arsenal
- Arsenal played pretty impressively in this one, especially in the first half. They had myriad chances to score early goals, but Bolton grabbed the lead first on a header by Kevin Davies off a corner kick in the 14th minute. It was weak defending on the set piece, but Arsenal immediately turned around and put them under pressure. They saw a couple go off the woodwork, but eventually (three minutes later) Eboue put one in from the left side off a pass from Bendtner. It was Eboue’s first Premier League goal, and he played aggressively the rest of the way, looking to duplicate it. Bendtner then scored one himself off some nice, Arsenal style build-up play. Bolton upped the pressure in the second half, but Almunia especially played well, taking balls decisively and making some nice saves, and Arsenal added a third goal by Denilson which was set up by a blazing run by Theo Walcott. I suppose they could have played some stouter defense in the second half, but all around it was a good win for Arsenal, and it put them back at the top of the table. The low point of the match was a harsh foul (which only earned a yellow card) by Kevin Davies which sent Clichy out of the game with a bad-looking leg injury. (Update: Clichy suffered only bruising to his shin, with no fracture. Whew.)
Posted in soccer, Uncategorized | Tagged: almunia, arsenal, bendtner, blackburn, bolton, carlos villanueva, clichy, david di michele, denilson, dirk kuyt, eboue, epl, fernando torres, fulham, gianfranco zola, kevin davies, liverpool, matt derbyshire, michael chopra, michael owen, middlesbrough, newcastle, roque santa cruz, steven gerrard, stewart downing, stoke city, sunderland, theo walcott, west ham | Leave a Comment »