Zonal Marking — red card holds back City, but Arsenal impress in important win
ESPNSoccernet — Gunners claim valuable City scalp
Quote of the Day
Even if they were 15 and we were 11 we would still go and win. We always want to go forward and create chances but the way we played today, we were very difficult to stop. I think we were fantastic.
Man of the Match
I don’t want to take anything away from Nasri, who nabbed the opener in a perfectly Arsenal manner and then went on to set up Bendtner for the third which put City to bed. Nasri provided Arsenal much needed width, pace, and attacking prowess, and also did a great job defending. So, I’m not taking anything from Nasri by saying this, it’s just that Fabianski was slightly more critical to the win.
In the first 10 minutes, Arsenal were sort of coasting; Arshavin was not tracking back and the midfield of Song (3 of Song’s 4 misplaced passes came in the first half) and Denilson looked like they were having a nightmare. So, while the rest of the team looked like they were daydreaming about nodding off in Fields of the Nephilim, Fabianski was clear and alert. His save off Silva’s shot was top class and he went on to make several others very early in the game.
Giving his defense early confidence was crucial to the win. Think about how many times Djourou had a poor showing but the team rallied to clear the cross or shut down the attack, that comes directly from your number one making good saves.
More importantly, I think the team kept the clean sheet for Fabianski at the end of the game in order to reward him for his solid performance. Every time they cleared, he saved or made a strong high claim (the one over everyone game me chills), each feeding the other and making each other better. I even saw Arshavin make a tackle in the Arsenal half.
He wasn’t perfect. Most notably when Adebayor had a wide open header and he was left flapping but just like every other player keepers are going to make mistakes. I guarantee between now and the end of the season he will even make a mistake that costs us a goal, but then so too will Cesc, Song, Denilson, Bendtner, Chamakh or whomever else you want to point at if you are going to be honest.
It’s his third solid performance in a row and even better he showed up in a title-challenging match. The facts are that Fabianski is playing at a high level right now and we should support him by retiring the “flappyhandski” insult.
So, even without the emotion of me wanting to stick it to his detractors it was a man of the match performance.
Top of the Table, baby!
(Tottenham included to 1. make United 5th and 2. show what a farce the whole idea is. I probably should have used West Brom)
Most of the top four teams are only two games in and Man U is conspicuous in the absence of matches but since Arsenal and Chelsea are level on points and goal differential, based on goals scored, Arsenal’s win against City takes them to the top of the mini-league.
For those of you who don’t know what the mini-league is, it’s basically been a bat that reporters can beat Arsenal with. They’ll say “sure Arsenal beat the small teams, but look at their record against the other top four and you’ll see why Arsenal haven’t won the League in so long.”
Never mind that total points are what actually determine League position on the final whistle of the 38th game. Nor pay any attention to the fact that plenty of teams have won the League without winning the so-called mini League. Forget all that, it’s the mini-League that counts.
So, it’s a running gag here on 7amkickoff and one that I will gleefully continue to highlight. Because as it stands Arsenal are in 2nd in the real League table, but 1st in the mini-League. Clearly, this means we are the strongest team in England.
On a serious note, the mini-league does show us that while Arsenal lost to Chelsea 2-0, Chelsea lost to City 1-0, and of course, City lost to us 3-0. All of the real title challengers have won one and lost one to each other. If that continues, it won’t be the games between us that count but the games against the lower teams.
And… uhhh… Arsenal lost one of those… at home… against West Brom.*
Arsenal most fouled, most fouling.
Arsenal picked up 4 yellow cards yesterday and now with a total of 18 yellow cards and 3 red cards, Arsenal are tied with Bolton for the 2nd worst disciplinary record in the League. The Gooners are now averaging a crazy 2 yellow cards a game and a red card every 3 games — up from last season’s 1.47 YPG and 1 total red card. Collectively, our opponents this season are just above Arsenal in the disciplinary table with 15 yellow cards and now four (!) red cards. But strangely, in what’s nearly a reversal Arsenal’s opponents are getting a mere 1.67 YPG where they averaged 2.13 last season.
Even stranger is that Arsenal have now won 4 penalties in the League (City, Birmingham, Sunderland, and Blackpool) and only given up one (Albion). In all competitions, Arsenal have won 9 penalties in 13 games and our opponents have chipped in with 3 of their own. That’s 12 penalties in 13 games and combined with the 8 red cards that Arsenal games have seen it’s pretty clear that refs are being very tight with fouls in our games.
I think that partially, this is not last year’s Arsenal team. If you need any further encouragement about the turn around this team has made, Zonal Marking pointed out in the end of their post (linked above) that last season Arsenal got zero points from the 4 away games to Blackburn, Sunderland, Chelsea, and Man City and this year we are 2-1-1 with 7 points to the positive.
We are more combative, we are less willing to give up (the WBA match aside) and we are earning more yellow cards (2 per match) because our games are under scrutiny.
Some folks wrongly think that the number of yellow cards shows that we have more grit but I just think we are being more scrutinized. I don’t see much difference between Song’s tackling last year and this. Last year he had 10 yellows and this year he’s on either one or three: it depends on how you count cards, do the two yellows that made a red = 1 red or 2 yellows?
But he’s also much more mature than last year. Listening to the twitterverse (and including myself) Song should have been subbed at half time against City on Sunday because we all thought he was going to pick up a second yellow. But he was very mature in the second half and between him and Denilson they were solid without playing over the top. We all know that Clattenburg wanted to send one of our boys off, but he couldn’t because we didn’t give him a reason.
So, my feeling is that the stats prove we are stronger, less willing to take tackles, and more willing to dish out. I don’t like that we are in the same disciplinary category as Bolton, but if you look at the fact that our opponents are even more indisciplined (at least in red cards for foul play) then I think we are showing strength under scrutiny.
I often highlight Crapenburg as one of the worst officials in the League and while I think he got several calls right, it was clear he held his cards back on several occasions to the benefit of City.
All I want is consistency and while I understand that the home team has an advantage with the refs I have to wonder if Djourou gets a yellow for his foul how the hell de Jong escaped a yellow for his various hard fouls? Or how does Kompany not get a yellow for several fouls which were given but not booked?
De Jong was the worst of the bunch and several of his tackles, which notably went unpunished, even left the announcers exclaiming “I guess I don’t know how to tackle any more.”
So, while Crapenburg was sort of brave to give the red in the 4th minute, he really had a nightmare after that and showed that he still has no clue what a foul is much less a yellow card.
“Just go out and play our game”
And finally, when Arsene Wenger says that Arsenal can win any match as long as we “just go out and play our game” he means “play like we did against City on Sunday.”
The stats show that we were a little nervous in the first half.** Song had a shaky start misplacing 3 passes and collectively Arsenal only completed 86% of their passes.
The players have said that during the halftime talk Arsene told them they weren’t playing their game and that they needed to go out and play Arsenal football. Boy did they respond!
In the second half, Song misplaced just one pass and the team as a whole passed for 347/396 (92%) a 101 pass increase over the first half. Moreover, they attempted more tackles in the second half (13) and had more interceptions (15) than the first (6). All total the boys had a season high 549 passes, blowing away the previous season high of 486 that we notched against Blackpool.
And for the detractors who complain about the number of shots that Arsenal take, despite the fact that City played so defensively that they had only Tevez and Silva up front, Arsenal still managed to have 15 shots, 7 on goal, and score 3.
All of this is directly attributable to Alex Song and Denilson. Song moved into 5th overall place yesterday in the completed passes department and has now scored 3 goals already this season, which is just 1 goal shy of all his previous seasons combined. Both players got forward in a prudent manner and had a couple of shots on goal (Song scored) and both players tracked back and took the yellow card when the team needed it. It was a mature display from Arsenal’s midfield duo.
Oh and just to give you some perspective on what it is this position does when it’s playing at its best: the top two passers in the League are Essien and Mikel for Chelsea. There’s work to be done to get at that level but between Diaby, Denilson, Song, and now Wilshere Arsenal have the makings of something very special in our midfield.
That’s Arsenal football.
*No offense to the three Baggies fans who read this but you know that a top 6 finish would be a dream. Hell, even the greatest English manager in English history, Sam Allardyce, only got a team as high as 6th. What hope do you have?
**All stats from Guardian Chalkboard