Goodplaya: Arsenal pretty good at home right now.
Telegraph: For all the recriminations about Arsenal’s failure to win a trophy since 2005, Arsène Wenger should soon have a rather more favourable statistic to recite to his doubters. Barring a truly extraordinary sequence of results, last night’s resounding 4-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar has ensured that his team have now qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League in each of the past 10 seasons, a record that no other English club can match. Rafael Benítez, for one, will be casting an envious eye just now.
The Arsenalist has started posting match videos as the match is happening. If you need to see the action and can’t get to a feed, try his site.
Quote of the day
Today we had still Bendtner, Walcott, offensive players who were not available. We had Denilson who did not start, Eduardo, Rosicky, that’s why I was always amazed when people told me ‘buy buy buy!’ But to do what with the players you buy? … and Carlos Vela I forget.
Arsene Wenger, describing Arsenal’s team depth, why he didn’t buy in the transfer market, and Carlos Vela.
It was, by all accounts, a superlative performance. Arsenal dominated possession at 55%, dominated the shots tally at 6-3, dominated the goals tally at 4-1, and when they lost the ball everyone, to a man, worked very hard to win it back.
At the back, Arsenal made two changes from the 3-0 drubbing of the Spuds on Saturday with little or no ill effect. Gibbs slotted in beautifully for the injured Clichy going forward with aplomb, bombing in crosses, and at the back his tackling seems in some ways stronger that Clichy’s. A strong performance and the perfect way to kick off his run of matches at left back.
Shielding the back four Alex Song would have been a revelation, if I hadn’t already watched him so closely all season. Last year the bag on Song was that he was too slow, lacked confidence with the ball, and that his passing was too often side to side. If there were any lingering doubts about Song, yesterday certainly put them to bed. He was very strong with the ball and seems to have discovered a dribbling confidence. With Song playing confidently as the lone central midfielder, Cesc and Diaby were able to get forward and help build the attack higher up the pitch. And when Gallas or Vermaelen go forward Song slots into the back line perfectly, every time. Song is not the same player that so many criticized last year, he’s strong in the tackle, he has a good burst of speed when needed, he has a nearly complete understanding of his position, and he can turn, dribble, and pass forward just as well as anyone on this Arsenal squad.
Song’s midfield partner and also oft maligned player, Diaby, must have benefited from Arsene Wenger’s pre-match pep talk because last night he was pretty damn good. My criticism of Diaby is that he has a tendency to hold the ball too long, doesn’t really have any defensive awareness, and the timing of his aerial game is poor. Yesterday he was very tidy with the ball, which showed in his season high 89% passing rate, and he tracked back pretty well, even making an excellent tackle outside the 18 yard box which dispossessed the Alkmaar attacker and started an Arsenal counter. Two out of three ain’t bad.
On the other side of Diaby, Cesc Fabregas has FIGURATIVELY exploded. He’s now scored 8 goals and provided 11 assists in just 13 games in all competitions and his return in the Champions League is a massive 3 goals and 2 assists in just 4 matches. I credit this to the new system and to the strength and confidence that the whole team has in Alex Song. Last season, Cesc seemed reticent to get forward but now there’s no holding him back. All these goals are making him more and more confident as well and he’s taking his chances like an old pro. The one-touch on the second goal last night was something that only an experienced player pulls off.
After a long layoff, it was really special to see Samir Nasri play all 90 minutes and get a goal. He showed yesterday why his dribbling and finishing are crucial to Arsenal breaking down defensive minded teams. Here’s hoping that Nasri stays healthy from here on out, he’ll be perfect to slot in when any of the front three or midfield three need a rest.
Last but not least, Andrei Arshavin has come in for a bit of criticism over the last couple of weeks, from me as well as others, for appearing to be a bit lazy and sometimes not tracking back and helping out in defense. Last night he put all those criticisms to bed as he both surged forward providing three assists with perfect passing and tracked back unafraid to kick at the heels of the Alkmaar wingers. Maybe he was playing with a bot of a knock the last few games, no one is saying, but whatever the reason, Arshavin showed last night why he’s such an important player for Arsenal.
Man of the Match
I’m giving Andrei Arshavin MotM because he was so crucial to 3/4 of Arsenal’s goals yesterday.
The AZ keeper was beaten three times at his near post and I wonder if Arsenal didn’t study video of him and found out that he was vulnerable to near post goals. It was a strange performance from a guy who I rated very highly after the away match.
A bad also has to go to Eboue and Almunia who combined in a lazy display at the end of the match to let AZ get on the sheet. It’s not the end of the world but Eboue could have put in a tackle on Lens, I mean ostensibly, Eboue is a defender, he should know how to tackle, right? And Almunia… sigh. I think he just turned off at the end of the game there. It was eerily similar to a goal he conceded at Citeh and makes me wonder where his head is sometimes.
Right after he scored the first goal, Cesc Fabregas was seen angrily barking at David Mendes da Silva before his teammates surrounded him and pushed him to midfield. I can’t find anything which explains what Cesc’s beef was with Mendes though I did find a photo of Mendes speaking to the press before the match. So, I wonder if he didn’t say something.
It’s also possible that Mendes said something after he scored the goal in the away leg. I don’t know, if you all find an article or a quote, I’m interested in hearing it.
Arsenal’s record in all competitions is now, P18 W14 D2 L2 F51 A19 and their home record is a perfect, P10 W10 D0 L0 F33 A7. There is no doubt that Arsenal are dominating at home, which is great. Moreover, Arsenal are currently scoring at an incredible rate, having put in 51 goals in 18 matches, which is a 2.83 per match scoring rate.
According to Goodplaya, back in 1992, Arsenal set a record by scoring 92 goals in a season and this feat was commemorated with a video called “92 in 92″ or something. At our current rate, we’ll score 107 goals in the Premier League alone, and how many Arsenal can score in all the other competitions will likely be down to how long they stay in each competition. Like I’ve said before, 100 League goals would be an unparalleled feat and in my mind, at least as good, if not better than the Invincibles season — especially if it leads to the League title. Of course, there’s a lot of matches to be played between here on the League title, but Wenger, for one, sees this team really gaining momentum:
I believe that this season, it looks like we get stronger from game to game so it’s important to keep that attitude, to progress, to improve, to play for each other even more, and then we are allowed to believe in our future.
Incredible home form will help, but it’s Arsenal’s away form which needs to be tightened up defensively and opened up offensively. Wenger explains that at well:
We try always to play exactly the same game and the price we have to pay with our game is that anywhere we go teams will organize first not to concede. And when you play away from home, the commitment, that little push, is a bit stronger, and the commitment is a bit higher, and the referee a bit more lenient sometimes. So, it’s a bit more difficult to express yourself than at home.
Having just scored 7 home goals in two matches, Arsenal next travel to the Molineaux to play Wolves on Saturday and perhaps can get that away form rolling.
In the mean time, Arsenal supporters should revel in a great win. The team is clicking and goals are coming in from all over. It’s a good to be a Goonah.