I love these types of games; wide open, both teams attacking, pulsating play and me screaming “HOW THE F*CK DID THAT NOT GO IN??!??!?” every 12 minutes.
The first half was a keepers game, no doubt, with both keepers making some spectacular saves but Robert Green edged out Almunia in that first half having done more for his team to keep them in the game. This is not to say that Almunia had a bad first half, au contraire, that was easily the best performance I have ever seen from Almunia, simply a recognition that Green had more to do at the back than Manny and did it against much stiffer odds.
Theo was the victim of some of that, erm, Green-ery and had an ordinary keeper been in the sticks for West Ham we could have easily been talking about Theo for MotM. But we aren’t… Theo shots were saved by Green and he ended the match sacrificed along with Nasri so that Arsene could bring on Adebayor and Diaby: the men who broke open the game.
I was kind of surprised to see that neither man was included in the starting lineup but heading into the congested fixtures list Wenger felt they needed a rest. It was a good bit of managing and refreshing to see Arsenal with some super subs on the bench for once. How many times have we seen Chelsea get into one of these tense 0-0 affairs only to bring on some multi-million dollar sub and win the match?
Adebayor repaid his manager and made up for his foolish remarks of the other day by simply doing all the things that have made him indispensable for this team. No other player in this club terrifies defenses like Adebayor; he can dribble around most defenders, he can run under a lofted ball, he’s a decent header on set plays, he can take the ball high or low, and he’s Arsenal’s only true target man. He showed all of that off yesterday and thus is MotM for this blog.
Oh yeah, and for the first time in his career, he had 0 (zero, nil, zip, nada, none) offsides.
Alex Song on the other hand, looked like a completely changed player from the game on Tuesday. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that he played next to Cesc instead of in the middle of the defense; where one slip is devastating compared to the other. But more than just his assuredness, he also seemed to relish the task of running his lungs out and policing the midfield compared to the sprint and panic that characterizes the Arsenal defense right now. I know it’s just this one game but he did a great job out there and I’d like to see him get a few more chances.
I can’t really complain about the match, our defense looked more assured than they have recently, the team responded well to the physicality of West Ham, they kept possession and harassed the opposition, Almunia had a great game, they put two past them, and kept a clean sheet — what’s to complain about?
I guess I kind of got tired of seeing the West Ham complain about hand(s) ball(s). The only one handling his balls was Robert Green in the 24th minute. And lesee… Was it just me or did William Gallas look super extra sweaty? Like he was playing while nursing a hangover? Have a good fried breakfast, a zip fizz, plenty of coffee and some water next time Bill!
I’m not a fan of that shade of green that Almunia was wearing, that was ugly.
The other thing that was ugly was the fact that Robert Green was clearly outside the box, and clearly intentionally handled the ball outside the box and clearly should have been sent off and the officials got it dead wrong. Graham “three yellow cards” Poll thinks it’s a case where instant replay would have made a difference but I’m not sure: first, someone on the pitch would have to have seen it and I’m not convinced that even Bendtner truly saw it as there was almost no complaint after the incident. Second, I’m not sure this is one of the things that we want managers challenging.
My friend Alex’s idea is that you try to rule out challenges that occur during the run of play and keep the disruptions to a minimum. So, you would be able to challenge a disallowed goal, yellow cards, red cards, and penalties. I like this idea a lot because it minimizes disruptions and gets big calls right (I’d like to throw in that if a penalty is falsely awarded AND the player is judged to have pulled a Drogba in order to win the penalty the referee could give a retroactive red card to the cheater — by that’s just the axe that I grind).
Where were we? Uhhh, yes, would instant replay have fixed the Green call? I don’t know, what do you all think?
Ok, that’s it for today, Harry’s Hot Spuds are up on Wednesday and given that the squad is riding high now that a “good Englishman” is in charge I fear that we could be in for a raucous North London derby. 7-6 to the Arsenal, that’s today’s prediction! More on that later this week.