Arsenal 1-0 Roma; The Could-a, Would-a, Should-a

la-persieata

Match Reports

Telegraph.co.uk:  Arsenal were the only victors in Europe last night but while they won the battle, the war of this Champions League tie is far from over after their profligate attack squandered what may prove to be crucial chances.

ESPNSoccernet: The misfiring Gunners should have put the tie beyond the hosts – with Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eb*ue both spurning golden chances as Arsenal’s recent trend of poor finishing continued.

Match Video

The Arsenalist has both the hits and the misses.

Man of the Match

Rather than do player ratings, I’m just doing a man of the match: these blogs are already too damn long and don’t need me pontificating on every single player. With that said, with at least 6 takeaways and a breathtaking 73 passes (with an 85% completion rate) yesterday’s man of the match was Denilson. You could point to the formation that Wenger employed, you could point to the obvious paucity of match fitness on the part of Roma, you could point to a lot of things, but whatever the cause Denilson easily had his most effective match since I’ve been watching him.

Playing the purely defensive midfielder in Arsene’s brilliant 4-2-3-1, Denilson moved the ball from defense into attack, slowed the Roma attack very effectively, and patrolled the midfield cleaning up and distributing as needed. His effect in this role allowed the more creative Diaby to get forward and get the ball to Nasri who occupied the purely attacking midfield role.

It wasn’t all roses and lace, I did find myself yelling at him to track back once, but that could be forgiven since Roma didn’t punish Arsenal for that particular bit of play.

Plus, he had been fucking brilliant up till that point.

The Coulda

I’ll admit it: I was wrong, dead wrong. Wenger’s tactics have been transparent and predictable this season and I sincerely thought Wenger would play this match the way he’s played pretty much every other. So, huge kudos to Arsene Wenger for being brave enough to change the lineup and play Liverpool’s favored 4-2-3-1 formation. Can you imagine what Arsenal would look like if he played that formation and Cesc was in Diaby’s slot, Arshavin in Nasri’s slot, Nasri on the left, and Walcott on the right?

Indefensible!

Kudos too to van Persie who’s craft up front, tireless work rate tracking back, and incisive runs nearly shredded the Roma defense and Coulda resulted in more goals. His goal off the penalty kick was no less that he deserved.

The Woulda

As good as Arsenal was in the first half, they nearly threw away the match with a bit of insanity to start the second. As it turns out, Gallas was late getting back to the pitch because he was getting some treatment to his shin for the knock he took in the 10th minute.  Fair enough, we need our best defender patched up.

But what isn’t acceptable is that Arsenal’s captain let superstition garner him a yellow card. Toure has a match ritual where he is always the last one out on to the pitch and since the referee had decided (wrongly) to restart the match when Arsenal had only 9 men on the pitch Toure felt like he could just run out onto the pitch without checking in with the 4th official. Between the ref, the late treatment, and the Arsenal captain’s superstitions it was like amateur hour out there and Arsenal nearly let Roma equalize during the confusion.

How, the fuck, does Arsenal start the second half with no central defenders?

Comical, but thankfully it didn’t cost us.

Another Woulda goes to Bendtner and uhhh, whatshisname, who both contrived to miss chances that my 10 month old daughter would have put in the auld uniun bhag. Bendtner had a horrible match all around and I have to wonder if he isn’t on his way out in the off season. To be fair, the first ball Nasri played in to him (hard and behind him a bit) was difficult to control and I forgave him that bit of profligacy, but there’s just no forgiving him when his touch constantly lets him down. That performance yesterday solidified him as “Adebayor Lite” in my mind.

The other dude, ole whatshisname, he who cannot be named, The Pass Master, whatever you want to call him, actually had a tremendous match and had he scored that open goal would easily have been MotM for me. More than once his dribbles and vigor going forward gave Roma fits but in his typical style he missed an easy chance to put Arsenal safely through to the next round. Proof positive that he will never be an effective midfielder.

And a final Woulda to Alex Song, who came on for Diaby and immediately put the Arsenal attack in neutral. I think I see what the boss likes about him; he’s a bit of a “hard man” and did put himself about effectively. He also wins balls in the air which is almost a novelty on this particular team but that said, going forward he is crap.

More than any other player Song is the one guilty of passing sideways rather than picking out an attacker. Is it any wonder that he has never gotten an assist for the Arsenal? Past Arsenal hard men (Copping, Storey, Young, Adams, Petit and Vieira) all had some craft to them and more than once spurred Arsenal’s attack but Song seems incapable of looking forward.

Unfortunately I think this is what the boss likes about him.

The Shoulda

Claus Bo Larsen (the ref) Shoulda been substituted at half time. Hell, he shoulda been subbed after the first 10 minutes when he inexplicably played an “advantage” to Arsenal after Mexes upended The Pass Master 2 yards outside the box and the ball found its way to Sagna — at midfield. It was an atrocious decision, but it wasn’t his worst. How the hell does Mexes (on a yellow already) stay in the match after cynically hauling down van Persie in the box? And how in the name of Collina does he start the match when Arsenal have only 9 players on the pitch? Give a yellow to Wenger for delaying the match or something but you don’t kick off with less than 22 players on the pitch. It was a shocking display of refereeing and Arsenal were lucky he didn’t cost us the match.

Conclusions

A fifth consecutive clean sheet, the 14th match in the unbeaten run, and the manager flexing his mind a bit and shuffling the formation to what Shoulda been great effect all means that in a fortnight Arsenal travel to Roma and need another performance like yesterday to see them through to the next round. Regardless my negativity earlier, it was a magnificent performance and the kind of stuff that Arsenal supporters dream of.

Similar creativity will be needed on Saturday when Arsenal host a Fulham squad who have allowed fewer league goals than Arsenal and have beaten us already once this season using the tried and true “park the bus in front of the goal and hit them on the break” technique.

Until then, let’s just bask in the glory of our one-nil to the Arsenal.

I'm back, baby

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday but, not to be too emo, I just didn’t feel like writing about Arsenal.

I spent Sunday walking around the southern part of Hyde Park, went to Harrods, went to the Natural History Museum, and generally spent Sunday just relaxing. No drink, no smoke, just chill.

Outside the museum I saw a metric tonne (metric tonnes are spelled differently) of high end sports cars: Lotus, Ferarri, Maserati. It looked like a “best of”  episode of Top Gear. Must be the posh end of town.

Harrods is, well, ostentatious. It’s the place to go if you absolutely need to get a $100 pizza, or if you find yourself out of caviar and just need to get a single dollop, well bust out the check book and head down to Harrods! I settled for the $5 “Scotch Egg” and wandered down the street to the museum.

I honestly didn’t know what a Scotch Egg was before I bit into it, so imagine my surprise when I bit into an actual egg!  I had looked at the ingredients and saw sausage, but somehow missed the fact that it contains an egg. It was a pretty tasty, if not a fatty, hand held lunch. And it had the added bonus of sticking around all day: every time I’d burp I’d get a little Scotch Egg!

The Natural History museum was neat, of course, but I couldn’t get into either of the special exhibits (Darwin) because they were sold out. Ummm, that sucked. I really wanted to see the Darwin exhibit. Oh well, I settled for dinosaurs and sloths and ickthyosaurs, which were pretty damn cool.

I’ll spare you the boring description of Monday because I mostly hung out at the airport doing Calculus homework and no one really cares about that. I will say though that I’m pretty pissed off about the chick who sat behind me on the plane coughing the entire flight because my throat hurts today. Also, if you ever find yourself stuck somewhere for several hours and there’s a copy of Gordon Ramsay’s “Humble Pie” available in audiobook you absolutely MUST listen to it. If that man had a human sized ego he would look back on that book and feel a deep humiliation and shame. Let me just put it this way: this man’s hubris eclipses King Lear. He spends the entire first half of the book describing how hard life was for him and the entire second half how hard he’s making life for his kids while bragging constantly about what a great businessman he is. What a donkey.

Anyway, I made it home and back to my girls, and I didn’t even mind that Aveline cried almost the entire car trip home. Poor little thing has the sniffles after all.

In football news, Arsenal play Roma today and the Boss has filled his pre-match interview with all kinds of goodies. Just wander over to the dot com and click on a link, gems will drop out like candy from a pinata.

For the match, the big story is away goals. Arsenal absolutely need to keep a clean sheet here today, failing to do so will pile pressure on them in the return leg and make Roma’s job so much easier in a fortnight. So, more important than just extending their 13 match unbeaten run (they last lost to Porto on Dec. 10th, in this very competition) Arsenal need to increase their 4 match clean sheet run; just one more game.

With that in mind and given the dearth of real strike options I suspect Arsene will play a 4-5-1 with Bendtner playing the Center Forward, van Persie playing the #10 slot and Diaby (he’s “healthy”) in the #8 spot. Nasri will play wide left, Denilson will mark Totti, Eboue will play wide right, and the back 4 will pick itself.

Did I mention that Denilson will mark Totti? This will be one of the most important games Denilson plays in his entire career and we shall see how he responds to the pressure of marking a Roma legend, with the added pressure of needing to keep a clean sheet, and the added pressure of marking a Roma legend, and needing to keep a clean sheet.

I remember when Cesc played his first champions league match against Juventus and went head to head with Patrick Vieira. It was his job on Vieira in that match that really solidified Cesc’s reputation with Arsenal supporters and I’m willing to go on a limb and say that Denilson could do the same today against Totti. No pressure young fella!

Right, that’s about it. The match is being shown live locally at Doyle’s and several of my readers are heading down to watch so, if you get a chance, join Travis and Alex for a pint. I cannot make it to the live showing as I have a metric tonne of work to catch up on and a class to attend. However, I have asked Russ to replay the match when I get off work and will be down there to watch the replay some time after 4pm local time. Leave a note in the comments if you want to make it a communal event or just want to come out and see my new away strip.

That’s it for today, got to get to work, see you all tomorrow for The Good, Bad, and Ugly.

UP THE ARSE!

I’m back, baby

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday but, not to be too emo, I just didn’t feel like writing about Arsenal.

I spent Sunday walking around the southern part of Hyde Park, went to Harrods, went to the Natural History Museum, and generally spent Sunday just relaxing. No drink, no smoke, just chill.

Outside the museum I saw a metric tonne (metric tonnes are spelled differently) of high end sports cars: Lotus, Ferarri, Maserati. It looked like a “best of”  episode of Top Gear. Must be the posh end of town.

Harrods is, well, ostentatious. It’s the place to go if you absolutely need to get a $100 pizza, or if you find yourself out of caviar and just need to get a single dollop, well bust out the check book and head down to Harrods! I settled for the $5 “Scotch Egg” and wandered down the street to the museum.

I honestly didn’t know what a Scotch Egg was before I bit into it, so imagine my surprise when I bit into an actual egg!  I had looked at the ingredients and saw sausage, but somehow missed the fact that it contains an egg. It was a pretty tasty, if not a fatty, hand held lunch. And it had the added bonus of sticking around all day: every time I’d burp I’d get a little Scotch Egg!

The Natural History museum was neat, of course, but I couldn’t get into either of the special exhibits (Darwin) because they were sold out. Ummm, that sucked. I really wanted to see the Darwin exhibit. Oh well, I settled for dinosaurs and sloths and ickthyosaurs, which were pretty damn cool.

I’ll spare you the boring description of Monday because I mostly hung out at the airport doing Calculus homework and no one really cares about that. I will say though that I’m pretty pissed off about the chick who sat behind me on the plane coughing the entire flight because my throat hurts today. Also, if you ever find yourself stuck somewhere for several hours and there’s a copy of Gordon Ramsay’s “Humble Pie” available in audiobook you absolutely MUST listen to it. If that man had a human sized ego he would look back on that book and feel a deep humiliation and shame. Let me just put it this way: this man’s hubris eclipses King Lear. He spends the entire first half of the book describing how hard life was for him and the entire second half how hard he’s making life for his kids while bragging constantly about what a great businessman he is. What a donkey.

Anyway, I made it home and back to my girls, and I didn’t even mind that Aveline cried almost the entire car trip home. Poor little thing has the sniffles after all.

In football news, Arsenal play Roma today and the Boss has filled his pre-match interview with all kinds of goodies. Just wander over to the dot com and click on a link, gems will drop out like candy from a pinata.

For the match, the big story is away goals. Arsenal absolutely need to keep a clean sheet here today, failing to do so will pile pressure on them in the return leg and make Roma’s job so much easier in a fortnight. So, more important than just extending their 13 match unbeaten run (they last lost to Porto on Dec. 10th, in this very competition) Arsenal need to increase their 4 match clean sheet run; just one more game.

With that in mind and given the dearth of real strike options I suspect Arsene will play a 4-5-1 with Bendtner playing the Center Forward, van Persie playing the #10 slot and Diaby (he’s “healthy”) in the #8 spot. Nasri will play wide left, Denilson will mark Totti, Eboue will play wide right, and the back 4 will pick itself.

Did I mention that Denilson will mark Totti? This will be one of the most important games Denilson plays in his entire career and we shall see how he responds to the pressure of marking a Roma legend, with the added pressure of needing to keep a clean sheet, and the added pressure of marking a Roma legend, and needing to keep a clean sheet.

I remember when Cesc played his first champions league match against Juventus and went head to head with Patrick Vieira. It was his job on Vieira in that match that really solidified Cesc’s reputation with Arsenal supporters and I’m willing to go on a limb and say that Denilson could do the same today against Totti. No pressure young fella!

Right, that’s about it. The match is being shown live locally at Doyle’s and several of my readers are heading down to watch so, if you get a chance, join Travis and Alex for a pint. I cannot make it to the live showing as I have a metric tonne of work to catch up on and a class to attend. However, I have asked Russ to replay the match when I get off work and will be down there to watch the replay some time after 4pm local time. Leave a note in the comments if you want to make it a communal event or just want to come out and see my new away strip.

That’s it for today, got to get to work, see you all tomorrow for The Good, Bad, and Ugly.

UP THE ARSE!