August 30, 2009
Arsenal's luck was well and truly out at Old Trafford yesterday. Despite looking the far better team for most of the ninety minutes, they hit the bar, had a goal disallowed, were on the wrong end of some rough refereeing decisions and, essentially, gifted United the game with two stupid mistakes.
We were looking for a sign from this team that they are ready to take a step up and prove themselves to be true contenders this season and, for the most part, we got it. Without Cesc Fabregas, the squad's single-most influential player, the Gunners turned in an outstanding performance. They took the game to United, passed the ball better than their hosts and, overall, looked the far more fluent side.
August 27, 2009
Goals from Eduardo, Emmanuel Eboue and Andrey Arshavin helped Arsenal to a straight-forward 3-1 victory at Ashburton Grove last night and booked the team's ticket into the Champions League group stage. It was a long way from being the most accomplished performance from the Gunners that we have witnessed this season. They were not at their best - and they didn't need to be to beat a Celtic team that barely created three meaningful chances over the two legs.
The main talking point of last night's match surrounded the awarding of the penalty which led to Arsenal's first goal when Eduardo was adjudged to have been brought down by goalkeeper Artur Boruc. The Croatian got back to his feet to convert the resultant spot-kick and effectively ended the tie as a contest with Celtic players still remonstrating with the referee long after the ball had hit the back of the net. Viewing the incident in real time at the stadium, it did not look a clear-cut penalty and not many Arsenal fans were appealing when Eduardo went down. Replays have since shown that any contact was very minimal and the Arsenal striker had made the most of the situation.
August 23, 2009
Arsenal's early-season goal-rush continued as they ran out comfortable 4-1 winners over Portsmouth at Ashburton Grove yesterday. The victory was achieved with relative ease and saw the Gunners maintain their impressive start to the campaign.
After a somewhat lethargic opening to the match, the home team took control midway through the first half thanks to two goals in quick succession from Abou Diaby. Portsmouth replied just before the break when Younis Kaboul easily out-jumped Manuel Almunia to head home. It was poor goalkeeping from the Spaniard who appeared to be just waiting for the ball to come to him rather than proactively attacking the cross. Still, it was not an error that proved costly and the goalkeeping clanger was absolved by four goals at the other end.
August 19, 2009
Arsenal hold the upper-hand going into the second leg of the Champions League play-off after beating Celtic 2-0 at Parkhead last night. Both goals were somewhat fortuitous - the first came from a deflection off William Gallas's back and the second was an own goal - but the overall performance was both comfortable and commanding.
After Saturday's romp at Goodison Park, it would have been too much to expect the Gunners to go to Glasgow and repeat that kind of showing. What they did produce though was a highly professional display that got the job done with the minimum of fuss.
Celtic were far more competitive and stronger in the tackle than Everton had been at the weekend but an unchanged Arsenal side coped with their physicality and dominated possession; controlling the tempo of the match and moving the ball with fluency. It was a measure of their supremacy that home support, who had cranked up the decibels inside the stadium around kick-off-time, quickly became subdued and were given very little to sing about for the entire match.
August 16, 2009
Arsenal began their season in scintillating style with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park. The players turned what looked to be a potentially tricky opening fixture into a cakewalk and sent out a message of intent to their doubters.
The game was effectively over by half-time courtesy of three goals before the break and the Gunners put the Toffeemen well and truly to the sword with three further strikes in the second half. Louis Saha's injury time reply was barely consolation for the home fans, most of whom had left the stadium long before the final whistle.
Last week, I suggested that the players needed to hit the ground running in the early games of the season. Yesterday, they did just that. It was a magnificent performance. The team attacked with fluency and style and they defended in numbers. The new formation that had been trialled during the pre-season looked to be highly effective as Everton were simply cut to ribbons by wave after wave of crisp, incisive passes and tireless Arsenal running.
August 12, 2009
With the new season now within touching distance, clubs are making their final preparations for the big kick-off on Saturday - or, rather, they would be if FIFA had not organised a round of international matches just three days before the opening weekend. Even for an organisation that is renowned for making ludicrous self-interested decisions, this one is right out of their top-drawer of stupid ideas. Admittedly, there are a few World Cup qualifiers being played but the vast majority of fixtures are pointless friendlies that take players away from their clubs just at the time when their managers need them to be focussing on the start of another campaign.
From Arsenal’s point of view, Arsene Wenger has been deprived of 13 of his players - only four of whom are participating in meaningful fixtures. The Frenchman will be sitting at London Colney wondering how many injured players will return on Thursday and will undoubtedly be frustrated at only having one day to work with his full squad in preparation for the team’s opening match at Everton on Saturday. Already Johan Djourou has been sent home from Switzerland with an inflamed knee and, consequently, will be a doubt for the trip to Goodison Park.
August 3, 2009
Ashburton Grove got its first taste of football for the season as Arsenal hosted the Emirates Cup pre-season tournament. The Gunners took on Athletico Madrid and Glasgow Rangers in this semi-round-robin competition and took the trophy after notching up victories in both their games over the weekend. Whilst these matches tell us next to nothing about how the season will eventually turn out, there were a few interesting pointers and individual cameos for supporters to chew on.
On Saturday, it was fantastic to see Tomas Rosicky taking his place in the starting eleven and playing his first full half of football in front of his home crowd for what has seemed like an age. In fact, it has been an age. January 2008 was the last time Arsenal fans saw him in first-team action and it has been a long wait for both the player and the supporters to see him make his comeback.