I get asked this a lot by my American Football watching friends. “How can you watch a 0-0 draw and get excited.” There’s 0-0 and then there’s 0-0. Sure, this ended 0-0 but there was excitement with the shots on goal and the almost constant pressure and there was drama with the old story of youth versus experience.
It may have ended 0-0 but I am proud of Arsenal; they controlled the midfield against the reigning champions who are supposed to have the two best midfield players in the world, they played extraordinary defense, and they showed great resilience in the face of having just lost a match 4-0. I couldn’t have asked for more. Well, I did sort of pray to God that Gattuso caught the virus that’s keeping Almunia from playing. And just to go off on a tangent for a second, what is actually wrong with Almunia? Is it a virus? Is it his thumb? Is it ghosts? Is it some virulent, heretofore unclassified ghostly virus that only infects his thumb? Why isn’t England’s future #1 playing? I mean, I’ve seen people with Ebola recover faster than Almunia.
Oh yes, the match. It was a good match, despite the fact that Arsenal should have scored at least one goal. Those things happen and when they do, you have to look at the intagibles. Like, how did Cesc play? Brilliantly. He out ran everyone on the Milan side, beat people to the ball, tackled well, won the ball constantly, and played the ball in to the forwards with a relentless pace. At one point Milan had a tiny bit of pressure on Arsenal and the guy watching the match next to me groaned and said plaintively “come on Arsenal” bemoaning the fact that for once in the match Arsenal didn’t have the ball. And that was Cesc, he made Milan look sloppy and old (insert “your momma” joke here). But then what of Flamini? Easy: man of the match. What Cesc didn’t win, Flamini did. He went forward when needed, he went back when needed, and most importantly, he was assigned to Kaka who had no shots on goal and not even a single shot until the 70th minute or so. He was everywhere and was no doubt the engine for an energetic and persistent Arsenal team.
Also singled out for consideration are Senderos, Clichy, and Sagna. Power, pace, and drive forward, in addition to rounding up and containing the 18 year old phenom Pato and providing cover for Flamini on Kaka. Senderos is one of those players that Arsenal supporters love to hate and I think it’s time people should let him be. He provides great stability and size at the back. Sure, he’s not Kolo, but without Kolo for the next 6 weeks or whatever he’s what we’ve got and he’s a damn fine replacement.
On the other side, Kolo injured his calfkneevirusgroin and is set to be out for threefoursixweeksforever. Another aside, in that article, Wenger says “The injury was a consequence of the African Nations Cup.” Which is kinda odd because to me it looked like the injury was a consequence of the ball being shot into Kolo’s knee at high velocity by Pato but what do I know, right?
On the other other side I found myself marveling at Eboue; as in “how does he get to play after he got a red card in his last match?” And “how does he get to play at all?” And “is he world’s most genuflecting footballer?” And “if I begged Arsene Wenger on MY hands and knees whilst praising Allah or whomever Eboue prays to when begging not to get a card would he not play Eboue?” I really don’t care if the card was deserved or not, he shouldn’t have been on the pitch at all, much less in a position that allowed him to dive and miss shots and play poor passes in. Maybe if he’s such fun to have around, make him the waterboy or something.
And then in the great middle of the team Adebayor and Eduardo and Hleb each had moments of brilliance but were halted by bad luck, offsides, poor passing, poor touch, good defense, dirty cheating shirt grabbing defense, the Ebola virus from Almunia, or a combination of all of the above. But no need to get down on them, Ade looked like a beast up front and I cannot see AC Milan keeping him out of goal on the return trip. They could put the whole back four on him and we’ll just keep pounding the ball forward — route one football, he has to score. Unless the refs allow more shirt pulling:
Here’s the photographic evidence, you decide why Adebayor didn’t score that header…
So there you have it. A well fought, undeserved 0-0 draw that I think sees a bit of a shift in world football. At the very least this match should leave us all hopeful that the boys can take the game to Milan at the San Siro and secure a 1-1 draw or better. I know, “no English team has ever beaten AC Milan at the San Siro” but as the English would be quick to point out: Arsenal are no English team.