ESPNSoccernet: Arsene Wenger got the response he demanded as Arsenal secured a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Standard Liege at Emirates Stadium.
Telegraph: In the riches of the Champions League, Arsenal progressed once more to the knockout stages. But at a price. Their 20 year-old left-back Kieran Gibbs will be absent for the next three months after fracturing the first metatarsal in his left foot. The injury came in injury-time, and in a wild challenge, with Gibbs due to have an operation later today.
Denilson’s goal was shades of his first goal of the season against Everton, but only shades. That first goal against Everton was an amazing bit of skill, 30 yards out, moving, and he first time curls it into the side netting. Yesterday’s goal was also 30 yards out but in that case Denilson saw the keeper off his line and hit a brilliant, dipping, swerving, shot which just beat the keeper. Some folks might find fault with the keeper, but I’d rather point out that I love the audacity of Denilson to even try the shot. A constant criticism of Arsenal since 2005 is that they want to pass the ball into the net, and so when a young fella has a crack at goal from 30 yards I have to applaud him.
Funnily enough there were these two, erm, well, cunts sitting next to me and one of them, the least cunty, said “I don’t know why Arsenal play Denilson and Song together, they are both the same type of one-dimensional player.” Then Denilson hits the goal and I turn to Lesser Cunt and said, “that sure looked like another dimension to me.”
Meanwhile, there aren’t enough good things to say about Alex Song. I suppose the best way to put it is that almost no one wants Arsene to buy a defensive midfielder, except maybe as cover. He’s added a new dimension to his play and has started marauding forward a bit and with Denilson in the lineup he can do that. Yesterday his passing in the final area was actually very good and it was only mis-communication which robbed him of an assist several times. He’s now able to see the runs that he didn’t last year and that is contributing greatly to his ability to push the attack up the pitch.
Alex Song has become the world class central midfielder we all wanted Arsene to buy this Summer. Congratulations are in order and hopefully the contract he just signed will keep some of the wolves in the press at bay.
I also want to give a shout out to Nasri for a well taken shot.
Man of the Match
Alex Song, completed 86 passes at 91% rate and won three duels in midfield. He’s a rock.
Wenger likes to point to the fact that Arsenal keep their opponent’s chances to a minimum and he’s absolutely right. Arsenal’s brand of possession football keeps their opponents from seeing much of the ball and thus their chances to a minimum. Standard managed only 9 shots all night and only forced 1 save from Almunia, who kept a clean sheet.
The problem is that Standard were a dreadful squad and yet they had two chances that a better team would probably take. The first was an incredible strike by Mbokani that I’m sure Drogba will watch over and over. Mbokani received the ball on the left side, dribbled toward the middle just a bit and had a crack at goal which hit the woodwork. Drogba won’t miss that and it’s a lesson that the defense needs to close down on the opposition striker when they have the ball.
The other shot was even more egregious defending as two Liege players (Witsel and someone else) were left completely unmarked in the 6 yard box on a set play. Arsenal, as we have seen so many times this year, simply switched off and the only thing that saved the goal was Witsel’s lack of class. Chelsea will not miss that opportunity on Sunday, I can assure you.
But I don’t know what to say. I can say Almunia should have claimed the ball, but we’ve all been saying that for 3 years and he still won’t do it, he never will. Arsenal have been susceptible from set pieces for 4 years now, saying that it’s something they need to work on seems pointless. And this year, they have developed a new trick: they turn off in games. But again, how many times can I say it and then sit back and watch as they do it in pretty much every game?
I think it’s better to just say, “ahhh yep, that’s how this Arsenal team play” than to get too worked up over it. They have a good team, they will be pushing for honors this year, but yeah, no team is perfect and this one has some major flaws that everyone can see.
So what? I only care if they are entertaining and have a good shot at winning something.
I think they do.
The way that Standard Liege were tackling, the fact that the ref wasn’t going to call fouls unless they were overtly stupid (Carcela-Gonzalez’ headbutt), and the way that Arsenal were trying to hurt their own players, I’m surprised that only two players came up injured: Cappy Gallas and Kieran I Haven’t Thought Of A Nickname Yet Gibbs.
Gibbs’ knock is the worse of the three since it’s a fracture of his first metatarsal (the bone on the top of his left foot that connects to his big toe) and he’ll be out for three months. The tackle itself by Eliaquim Mangala reminded me of Dan Smith’s tackle on Diaby; it came at the end of the match, was obviously borne of frutstration, injured an Arsenal player, and somehow wasn’t considered a straight red. In fact, Mangala didn’t even get a yellow for that challenge (he was on a yellow already).
If I was Wenger, I’d complain to UEFA.
Fortunately, Arsenal are fully packed to the rim with left backs — and there are two spares left over; Traore and anyone but Silvestre. Digging any deeper than Traore and anyone but Silvestre, I suppose Wenger could play Vermaelen there, or uhhh…. Sagna.
Either way, I am praying to all of the Gods that Wenger doesn’t use Silvestre, he doesn’t have a good track record against Chelsea (see fun facts below) and he’s not really very good anymore.
I’m leaving the speculation over Sunday’s choice of left-back for you all, just remember no matter who you pick there Wenger will probably surprise you.
I expect Gallas and Arshavin to be unhurt from their injuries, unless one of them picked up a concussion: Gallas looked the most likely of those two what with the way he sort of punch-drunk tried to get back on the pitch. Fingers crossed that he didn’t suffer a concussion, if he did, he might not be able to play on Sunday.
Fun fact of the day
Theo Walcott has scored 2 times against Chelsea (in the FA and Carling Cups) and yet Arsenal have never beaten Chelsea when he plays, worse… Arsenal always lose when Theo Walcott plays against Chelsea.
Silvestre is in a similar position, he hasn’t played for a winning side against Chelsea since Nov. 2005 and Arsenal has lost every Chelsea game which Silvestre played.