Friday, November 6, 2009

Arsenal 4-1 AZ Alkmaar

The Liverpool match held a bit more intrigue, so I didn't really watch this properly. But I was switching channels so frequently that I didn't miss one of Arsenal's four goals.

The first came when Fabregas, possibly the world's best midfielder on current form, beat their suspect keeper at the near post, after one of those familiar forays upfield by Big Willy Gallas. It was a clever effort but one that should really have been reached by Romero. I guess at the moment cesc is having one of those runs where everything he touches turns to goals, reminiscent of his start to 07/08. Back then, his form was a big part of the springboard for a title challenge. He's surely having his best run of form since that time, and all after I questioned him only a month or so ago. I've gotta stop making these snap judgements.

Anyway, the game was pretty much up for AZ before half time, when Nasri shimmied beyond the last defender from the impressive Arshavin's slide-rule pass, and placed the ball beyond the exposed keeper. Arhavin was again the architect for Fabregas' second, which really illustrated his confidence in front of goal at the moment. Released on the left side of the penalty area, he opened his body out as if to line up a shot across the goal (copyright Thierry Henry 2000) but instead swung his shot high into the net at the near post.

This allowed for a couple of handy changes. I think Wenger's doing well with taking Fabregas off when the opportunity presents itself, not overworking him. He missed out, then, on any chance for a hat-trick, but there was a hat-trick of sorts. Before being replaced himself, Arshavin set up Diaby at the end of a champagne breakaway, which involved Eduardo finding the Russian with a brilliant back-heel. Diaby, I read some fan say somewhere, had a great game. I recorded it so I might watch the whole thing, just so I can destroy that assertion. Or eat a slice of bitter humble pie. He took his goal well anyway.

I must add, for all the flowing football, I thought the midfield was again looking a little too open. Too often that area in front of our back four looked undermanned, and while the Dutch side never really opened Arsenal up, they had a fair few moments that they could have made more of.

Ok, I know, we were in control of the game, and I'm being contrary, but when we come up against the top sides these are the things that simply have to be right. Otherwise your pretty football will be no real comfort. And I'll be disappointed on those days, but I'm a very petty man so I'll also be clinging to the petty comfort of saying "I told you so".

A case in point was their consolation goal. You can say, "it doesn't matter, we're winning 4-0", but to the best, all the pieces matter (I love throwing in little quotes from The Wire). You could argue, maybe, that Almunia is a decent keeper who switches off at times, and what better time than at 4-0 up. But those who've endured his "reign" as number one will know that he does it a lot, at different moments, often very costly moments. So that, allied to his general lack of saves that make you go "Wow", well, it makes him.... shite, doesn't it?

Now, he did make a good save at 3-0, so a pat on his silly peroxide head for that. And I am glad he's back in the team (despite him being kinda shite- I reserve the right to contradict myself). I think it might be good for the team's stability not to be relying on the rookie Mannone. But I think we should buy an experienced keeper in January. Because to me, that seemingly insignificant goal on Wednesday night held the promise of future horror.

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