All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘william gallas’

Two Games, Ten Goals, Six Points

Posted by hiphopmama on August 23, 2009

arsenal-portsmouth

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.

Advertisements

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gunners Win In Glasgow

Posted by hiphopmama on August 18, 2009

arsenal-celtic

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Big Wins For Struggling Sides In Champions League

Posted by hiphopmama on November 25, 2008

Arsenal and Real Madrid, both struggling of late, secured much needed 1-0 wins today in their Champions League matches. Madrid has only been “struggling” according to the stratospheric standards of the renowned club, and they were coming off a weekend victory over Recreativo. Arsenal, on the other hand, have been flailing by any reasonable measure, losing to seemingly everyone and gifting goals to teams by the handful. Wenger finally made the hard decision to strip William Gallas of the captaincy, handing it over the Cesc Fabregas for the first time today against Dynamo Kiev. 

Both teams played solid if unspectacular games, controlling possession and doing just enough to win and secure their places in the next round. Madrid went up early on a goal by captain Raul in the 7th minute off a cross from Drenthe, who fueled the Real attack all game. Madrid saw a number of other good chances miss the mark, including another from Raul and a fantastic opportunity for Saviola, but they kept BATE off the scoreboard and got the win.

Arsenal had to wait till the 86th minute for substitute Nicklas Bendtner to score the game winner after lots of skillful, effective build-up play from a young side under heavy scrutiny of late. Fabregas led the Gunners from midfield in his first start as captain, and the change from Gallas – who also played – seemed to have a positive effect on the team, who played with energy throughout. Bendtner made me look like an ass by winning the game for Arsenal after I saw him getting off the bench and muttered to myself, “Oh no, don’t bring HIM in.” He took his time getting his shirt on before entering the game and then ripped it off after scoring his goal, apparently very pleased with his physique in front of plenty of shirtless Arsenal fans at the Emirates. The goal eventually came off a quickly taken free kick from midfield by Fabregas, as Bendtner steadied himself against his defender and fired home the winner. 

It was a good day of Champions League play for me, as Arsenal and Real Madrid both won and moved on, while Juventus and Manchester United were both held to 0-0 draws (the second time in four days for ManU). Tomorrow can be just as good if Chelsea and Barça win while Inter and Liverpool both lose (or at least draw). And yes, I am pulling for both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Spain all the way, even though they are racist bastards.

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fabregas Named Arsenal Captain

Posted by hiphopmama on November 24, 2008

henry-fabregas

Good. Good. Very good. It’s no magic bullet and won’t change the squad’s fortunes overnight, but, like the sacking of Gallas as team captain, it’s a change that has been a long time coming. Cesc has expressed his desire to captain the side in the past, and his commitment to Arsenal is well established. Gallas, on the other hand, never felt like a core member of the team, and his actions on his way out of Chelsea (threatening to score an own goal if not dealt somewhere else) indicate that his selfishness of late is less a fluke than a pattern. 

Fabregas’ form has certainly fallen off a bit from last year, when he was the engine of the Arsenal attack, although much of that is attributable to the myriad changes to the team’s midfield in the off-season. Gilberto saw himself pushed to the side and out of his position as captain. Hleb left to join Barcelona. And, most importantly, Flamini also departed to play for AC Milan, leaving Cesc without his true counterpart in midfield. Playing amongst an extremely young side, Cesc has struggled to regain the level of play he attained last year, but many hope his promotion to captain will motivate him in his effort to return to form. It also can’t hurt Arsenal’s chances to keep him from a slew of Spanish sides who would love to steal him away this summer. At a mere 21 years, he already has a significant amount of experience to back his leadership claims, and I believe the team will rally around him much more than it ever did for Gallas. 

As for the talk of Gallas returning to the squad, I hope it’s just that: talk. Wenger already did the hard part in stripping him of the armband. To bring him back in the fold would seem a replay of old indulgences with the player, and the team doesn’t need that. The back line is severely depleted at the moment, but I still think they should suck it up and try to hold on until Toure comes back and, hopefully, until another player can be bought in the January transfer window. Until then, we’ll take our lumps in the service of future progression. That’s what Arsene has been preaching all along with his youth policy anyway.

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gallas Stripped of Arsenal Captaincy

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: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »