Half a dozen or so mixed Arsenal and Liverpool fans stood beers in hand, food cooking in the kitchen of Doyle’s Public House as publican Russ fiddled with the computer in order to get ESPN 360 to cough up a feed for us to watch. It reminded me of the days when I was a kid and I would watch television on an old black and white set, where you’d dial in the channel, tune it by moving the rabbit ears around a bit (maybe they had tin-foil on them) and then adjust the fine-tuning knob to get the best possible grainy picture and broken, static filled sound.
The picture was in color but the broadcast wasn’t much better than if we had dialed it in with rabbit ears. I’m not complaining, because I remember when I was a kid and living in Germany, we watched Superbowl XII on tape delayed broadcasts on AFN on a black and white television. I’m just saying that there were time jumps, breaks in continuity, and a general, erm, ‘blobbiness’ to the whole endeavor. So much so that while I’d love to write an actual match report I honestly had a hard time telling a lot of players apart. For example, I couldn’t tell if that white-dude-ish looking blob going forward was Aaron Ramsey or Nicklas Bendtner! Meanwhile, the midfield was just a jumble of folks for me as it was hard to pick out when it was Gibbs or Eastmond or Silvestre making a tackle or putting in a pass.
Like I said, I’m not complaining. Despite the picture quality and general choppiness, it was the best match I’ve seen all season. I’m just saying that I can’t give a proper match report because I didn’t really see enough of the game, so I’ll leave that to the pros:
Telegraph: It is part of the lexicon in north London that ‘Arsène knows’ and Wednesday night will have done little to dissuade disciples of Arsenal. With all eyes on the arrival in English football of Alberto Aquilani for Liverpool, it was another, rather cheaper, midfielder – Fran Mérida – whose presence lit up the Emirates and tipped the scales in favour of Arsenal.
Goodplaya (actually at the match): IN A nutshell, this was great fun for a tenner.
The Arsenalist found some Chinese stream to tape and it’s pretty funny. I love when both Merida and Insua hits their wonder strikes and the Chinese announcers go, “WHOA.” Good stuff.
Man of the Match
Merida got his first ever goal for Arsenal and capped the performance by setting Bendtner up for the game winning goal, so for that alone I have to give him the MotM. But to hit the goal the way he hit it was even more spectacular and so despite the hard work of Bendtner and the eye-popping performance of Eastmond in the holding role, I really have to give it to the Spaniard.
I realize that a lot of folks will have a different opinion here so feel free to disagree with me in the comments.
What a night: end-to-end football, played at a torrid pace, by two teams who are playing football “the right way,” replete with incisive passing, wondrous goals, and the Arsenal comes out on top. It doesn’t get much better that.
In goal, I thought Fabby had a good night and showed why he should be considered for number 1 on Saturday. His high claims were spot on all night, his saves were good though he wasn’t really tested, and his mobility off the goal line in order to help out as a sweeperkeeper was excellent. The only blight on his game is that his distribution was a bit spotty and he should have been one or two inches further back when Insua hit that shot.
I’m kidding about the positioning thing, though with David Bentley trying to get a crack in the Tottenham first team for Saturday he will need to pay special attention to positioning.
Bendtner worked hard and the goal he nabbed was very Torres-esque. It took a good deal of strength to get past his marker and keep enough balance to drive the goal into the top of the net. Kudos to Bendtner.
Nasri looked lively to start and showed Thomas Rosicky why he will be pushing him for a spot this season. He flagged a bit at the end, but give the guy a break he’s just now coming back from injury!
Eduardo also played the full 90 and was unlucky not to have a goal or two last night as he prowled around the Liverpool goal. There was one mad scramble in particular where he challenged very hard for the ball and just missed by inches — I think, I couldn’t really tell! — and it was really good to see him diving in for a goal challenge fearlessly. Arsenal will need Eduardo at 100% if they’re going to win something this year.
I did notice that Insua was Bendtner’s marker and that after Babel nodded the ball down, Bendy basically gave up on the play. Teams will be looking to exploit that exact type of thing in Arsenal’s new look 4-3-3. Everyone, to a man, must track back and defend. Now, obviously, you can’t expect that every player will hit an Insua-like goal but I still don’t like the sight of an open opponent getting any shot. In fact, Arsenal seem to have a lot of these types of wonder goals from midfield scored on them. I can think of 4 off the top of my head: Essien, Bentley, Giovanni, and Insua.
Clearly, closing down on players in the attacking 3rd is vital.
Similarly, just before Insua got the ball I was going to say to Russ that it looked like Liverpool’s tactic was counter attack and long ball, mostly played through Babel up front. Which, I was going to say, means that Arsenal need to put pressure on the defenders who were delivering those long passes and make Liverpool play through the middle. Just as my mouth was opening to spit out this gem of wisdom, a long ball was played to Babel, who nodded to Insua, who left Bendtner standing in his Wellingtons, and dipped a ball past the outstretched arm of Fabby. Damnit boys, pressure!
Robbie Keane is a huge cunt, but here, let me remind him of the last time he played for a team in the top four:
Arsenal are now through to the quarter finals and it’s a quarter finals which will feature all Premier League teams and 6 of the 8 are all fighting for the League title. The final 8 teams look like this:
2. Aston Villa
3. Blackburn Cloggers
5. Man City
The best possible draw is Pompey but even if you get Pompey (which will no doubt go to Chelsea) if you’re going to win the League Cup this year, you’re going to have to play against more than one of the top sides. Frankly, I don’t care which side we draw because I have a bone to pick with them all, I’m just hoping for home field advantage. Oh and for the record, I didn’t put them in that order, the Football League did, and it looks to be alphabetical — though I do like the fact that Arsenal are #1!
This competition has been seen as a bit of a dog these last few years and yet these same top sides have met in the Champions League semi-finals and even finals over that same period. So, in a sense, what we’re seeing is a sort of Champions League lite which is producing terrific football for bargain basement prices. As the boss said about last night’s match:
I felt it was more of a European cup quality tonight, than ‘Carling Cup.’ With what we have seen, combinations on both sides, the speed of the game, was outstanding, it was an outstanding game tonight!
All that and tickets were available for £10! Amazing.
The draw is on Saturday, right as we kickoff against Tottenham and I’d put money on us drawing Spuds again this year. It seems like we always get Spuds. Which could set up a delicious early Christmas present as Arsenal face a Carling Cup quarter final on December 2nd and Stoke on the 5th. I might just look into getting a plane ticket over for that. I mean, if we get home field advantage on Saturday that is.
Anyway, that’s it for today, I’m thinking of doing a player by player analysis of Tottenham v. Arsenal tomorrow, in order to give you all some ammunition to use against any Spuds who want to talk shit about their supposed 4th place aspirations. If I were to do such a thing, I might look at something like this Actim index and maybe a couple other factors. We’ll see tomorrow!