Celtic 0-2 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Fortune favors Gunners

BBC Sport: Arsenal enjoyed the rub of the green as they established a commanding Champions League play-off lead against Celtic.

My regular reader knows that I usually like to link to ESPN and the Telegraph because those two usually carry the most detailed post-match statistics. However, this match doesn’t have any statistics that I could find, even the UEFA match report has a dead link where their statistics would normally be.

Match Video

Strange, the Arsenalist usually has match videos for you, but not today. So I guess you’ll have to make due with 101 great goals’ coverage.  If you’re an Arsenal TV Online subscriber, you can watch the whole match over again over at the dot com.

Man of the Match

Song, Vermaelen, Song, Vermaelen, Gallas? Hmmm… It’s tough to pick between Song and Vermaelen for this honor, even today, after I made up my mind yesterday to give it to Song.

It’s a tough decision because Vermaelen made some key interceptions and tackles that saved goals while Song was just devastating in the midfield, breaking up play and starting the attack. The other thing that didn’t get on the score sheet is just how assured the defense looks with Vermaelen at back. I’m not ripping Kolo, but there were quite a few times last year when the team just looked shaky and he looked desperate. So far this year, the team has looked absolutely solid and I have to think that’s down to the good relationship between Gallas and TV5.  TV5 has come out today and hailed Gallas as a mentor, which should make Ole Cappy really, erm, happy.

But I have to give it to Song based on one thing and one thing alone; Celtic only managed one shot on goal all game. I feel like it was Song in midfield that kept the Cetic attack at bay. He didn’t do it alone, “Chesk” and Denilson got plenty stuck in, and Bendtner and Arshavin both dropped back to cover the wing play of Celtic, but Song was there in the midfield, doing everything, like a boss. Even the boss seems kind of surprised by this new Song, saying:

In the last two games Song has played extremely well too. He can win the fight, not only with physical strength but he has that sense to nick the ball from his opponent without giving away the foul. That’s a very interesting quality.

So, I’m giving it to Song, feel free to disagree, it won’t hurt my feelings.

The Good

The whole team actually could win “Man” of the match owing to the way that the whole team played such stalwart team defense for nearly the entire 90 minutes. I say nearly because there was a point, after they’d each run about 10k that they took their foot off the gas a bit, but we weren’t hurt by it, so it’s not something to get down about.

Tony Mowbray before the match talked about the pressure defense that Arsenal play and I don’t suppose you’ll see a much better display of what he was talking about than yesterday’s match. Celtic didn’t have much room to breath much less make a pass and you saw the effect of that when they passed the ball out of touch on several occasions, yards from any teammate. If Arsenal can do that to a good passing team like Celtic, I have to wonder what it would be like to be a Pompey player on the weekend. Their forwards are going to spend a long time without seeing much of the ball.

Arsene Wenger put it this way:

I give credit to my team, even at 1-0 we didn’t drop off and we kept playing very high up and put them under pressure. That was a very positive attitude.

A lot has been made about how Arsenal were “lucky” on both goals but I don’t see it that way. I saw a team that worked very, very hard and who got the breaks they deserved. Chesk’s goal, for example, had it not been deflected by Gallas, was headed for the net and Boric was going to have his hands full dealing with it. It was a good strike and it’s not fortune that caused that ball to go in, it’s Talent, Attitude, and Opportunity.

I could easily point to several occasions where I thought the referee bottled a clear free kick in a dangerous position that should have gone Arsenal’s way. Plus, Celtic were very aggressive in the tackle and with a different ref could easily have picked up several yellows or even had players sent off. So, I think it was Celtic who were the fortunate ones, not Arsenal.

So, Arsenal are the first English team to travel to Parkhead and get a win in some 25 years, and they kept a clean sheet! What a night, eh?

The Bad

Remember the other day when Tony Cascarino shot his fool mouth off about how on “a beautiful day”, blah, blah, “I’m a huge cunt” blah blah “I hate Arsenal and they won’t amount to shit unless they but 12 new players?” He was basically saying that old chestnut that Arsenal don’t handle pphysical teams well.

I think last night pretty much proved that wrong.

Celtic were nearly, NEARLY, overly physical with Arsenal and I especially thought their little midfield enforcer, N’Guemo, could easily have gotten sent off for some of his tackles. Fortunately no one was injured but there were several times that that was down to the Arsenal player getting out of the way rather than because of a good tackle on the Celtic player’s part.

Much is being made of Wenger’s statement about this play but the whole quote is much softer and wouldn’t write as many headlines.

I think there were some bad fouls. The referee took some time to intervene but afterwards he did it. We got sometimes some harsh treatment today. I’m very happy with the commitment of my team despite the physical approach of some Celtic players. I can understand that from Celtic’s point of view but what is more interesting for me is how we respond to that. I believe we did that well.

What would the press write about if they didn’t have “Arsenal need to buy,” “Arsenal too inexperienced,” and “Wenger the whinger?”

The Ugly

Before the match, I had the misfortune of watching Fox’s pre-match warmup with two chumps and Warren Barton and I have come to the conclusion that Warren Barton should shut his mouth. First off, the former Wimbledon great never won a single medal in his entire career. None. So why he’s thought of as an expert in anything, except losing, I have no idea.

Second, his “analysis” of Arsenal seems to be culled from other people’s reports and contains not one shred of interesting or new information. In fact, you could just as easily read newspaper headlines about Arsenal and get the same level of “analysis” that Warren Barton mails in every week.

And third, he seems to actually have some sort of vendetta against Arsenal and Wenger despite being born in Islington. It makes me wonder if he isn’t a Spurs supporter. He’s always wrong about the team, and he’s always very negative, are you Tottenham in disguise?

I’m going to email him and find out.

Conclusion

It was a good team game against another good opponent. Celtic’s movement was good, their ball control was good, and their fight in the midfield was good (even though I didn’t like some of their tackles). And despite that, Arsenal were better, much better. Arsenal have now scored 8 goals and conceded just 1 in two matches and the whole team is flying high right now. Of course, as Wenger pointed out before the Celtic match, that could turn cloudy at a moment’s notice, like the English weather, but for now, the sun is out and the team is working like a, well, like a team.

Saturday is Pompey and after that we host Celtic and travel to Man U to show them what we’re up to this year. It’s a busy time for the lads, and with players like Carlos Vela out with injury (among others), it’s going to be a rough few weeks. But like I’ve said before this team looks the real deal and I think they can do it. Hell, they just scored 8 goals in two games and virtually all of them came from the midfield or defenders, imagine if the offense starts clicking!

That would be a sight to behold, wouldn’t it?

42 Comments on Celtic 0-2 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

  1. I say Song for man of the match as he was a beast. Plus, given all the crap he’s gotten over the last year from people, let’s keep giving him the edge. I, for one, still had questions about Song going into the year while acknowledging his clearly seen improvement the back half of last year. While two games doesn’t a season make, he’s looked even better than he did at his best last year. As for Vermaelen, we’re all loving how he attacks the ball and doesn’t sit back. Has Wenger unearthed another relatively affordable gem? It’s looking like it. The good chemistry between Vermaelen and Gallas thus far might indeed be attributable to some understanding between the two of them that TV will be the guy to run out front to meet the ball/attacker, while Willie stays back. Perhaps when Kolo and Willie were paired there was a confusion about this? I can’t profess to know enough about life and times in the back four to fully comprehend this. Another shout out has to go to Denilson, who despite a few errant passes yesterday, was again flying all over the field and disrupting the other side as well. Clearly a more confident kid this season. Again, which is exactly what we all mean when we were saying how we felt this side was improved going into this season. Lastly, a quick shout out to Diaby for making things happen immediately upon entering the match, and for the new do. Abou, I hardly recognized you on multiple levels yesterday.

    What’s amazing at this point? The number of injuries we have and the fact that our striking 3 have not done much of anything yet. Definitely want to see Robin, Nic and little Drago start getting on the same page. All in all, a great day for us Gunners.

    • @ArseChicago, As a PSV fan I thought I’d comment.

      Originally scouted by Piet de Visser, the guy who scouted Romario, the Brazilian Ronaldo, Adriano, Alex, Obi Mikel, Kalou, etc.

      Very, very good player. Good pace, skills, passing range, vision, movement. Good eye for the goal and deadly from a free-kick. Classy winger, who can also play as a forward if necessary.

      Shouldn’t have any trouble fitting in, as PSV play a pretty flowing, attacking style. Definitely one of my favourite PSV players, (although Afellay takes that prize xD)

  2. Song should get woman of the match after the way he continually went down like a nancy boy and tried to get Celtic players booked. Van Persie & Fabregas weren’t far behind him in the diving stakes!

  3. Paul you’re full of shit mate I was there last night and the Celtic thugs were doing it all night, the ref was a joke, the Arsenal fans were fantastic and what atmosphere, we were shit hot, “That’s why you’re SPL”, and when Arsenal were passing the ball we were singing”Have you ever seen football played like that, have you ever seen football played that, have you fuck” “We’re all going on an European tour European tour”
    So mate you are just a big baby

  4. I was delighted with the performance last night of the team as a whole. I’m still of the opinion our forwards are not yet hitting their stride. Perhaps that’s down to personal form, it’s too early to tell or they’re still getting used to the new formation (i.e. the fact that they play so deep and defend more).

    Not because they haven’t scored goals yet, but more because they seem a bit off in the final third. Bendtner I think is enjoying his new role, he seems to enjoy the combativiness of fighting down the wing. Van Persie hasn’t yet gotten into his striking stride, he seems to be fluffing strikes and his first touch and looks a bit frustrated, saying that his passing is still sublime and if nothing else has improved.

    Arshavin is not enjoying himself at all in my opinion, I don’t think he expected to be tracking back as much as he’s required to do now, he seems much more comfortable floating around at the front waiting for a defensive clearance that he can latch onto and attack with. He’s a genius and I think Wenger should just organize it so that he’s not required to track back as often. Plus I have him on my fantasy football team so I need more assists and goals from him 😉

    I love this combative one touch pass game we’re playing, it’s working very well and the midfield partnership of Denilson and Song plus our centre backs, gives license for Fabregas to burst forward more often and gives him a lot more freedom, seeing as man-marking him is no longer a wise option for opposing teams, given the vast improvement in both Song and Denilsons passing.

    A lot of Arsenal blogs I’ve read today are ripping into diaby and basically calling him a liablity etc. WTF? He didn’t play much at all last night, idiots.

    I must say though, I’m wearing my denilson replica kit now proudly and am enjoying all these song/denilson doubters/haters eat their words, so satisfying to see the players I defended all last season prove me right. I love to say “I told you so”.

    • @Bongo, Diaby tends to be ponderous with the ball and that led to at least one dangerous turnover. Also, sometimes he just looks like he’s not really interested in a game and I think that was the case last night.

      That said, I don’t feel like ripping anyone on this team and it’s a bit strange to see us barnstorming the league and have people rip any player.

      Some people will never be happy. We could win the quad and some Arsenal fans will feel the need to share their keen insight into how so and so could have played better.

    • @Bongo, You, and everyone of us who supported Denilson & Song deserve our happiness. The doubters are eating their words big time. Wonder! Wonder!! Even le-grove IKBs (I Know Better), who call everyone else AKBs (Arsene Knows Best), are basking in the glory of these 2 wins. I thought they wanted Wenger sacked pre-season? Fickle minded lot of them. I think we should call them IDKZs (I don’t Know Zilch); What do you think?

  5. When we have multiple players qualifying for MOM honors, there is no reason it can’t be shared. Vermaelen and Song stood out, but it took a 90 minute team effort to secure the 3 points!

    Tim, yes Warren has his shortcomings. But he did pick Arsenal over Celtic, while Bobby McMahon (another questionable authority) selected Celtic. Warren has criticized Wenger for not addressing the obvious weaknesses from last season: CB & holding midfielder.

    As I see it, the UK media are heavily brainwashed on ManU & Pool – the clubs with greater history of successes. Also, broadcasting in the USA is light years behind the established soccer world.
    When the USA soccer broadcasts can attract major advertisers, the networks will see a need to spend bigger dollars for announcers with credentials.

  6. Song is my MOTM with the condition that next time its close it would go to Vermaelen 🙂

    I am not sure I agree with Celtic being thugs. They were strong in the tackle but I don’t remember any dangerous studs up or two footed lunges. We are going to face far worse in the EPL for sure. But it was a good performance against a strong team.

  7. It was a good game which we controlled much of. The goals were a bit lucky, but in football, sometimes you make your own luck and we deserved the win. I still think we’re thin at the back and we seem to be getting thin at the front with injuries coming left anf right. Celtic tried to kick us off the park but we prevailed but it’s a long season and there’s quite alot more kicks coming Arsneal’s way so I hope we can get some depth to deal with that on top of the injuries we seem to forever be getting. Vermaelen looks very much better than Toure in the way we need a defender to be – Gallas i the brain and Vermaelen is the brawn – it’s a tried and true formula to defensive success. However, aside from the starters, Djourou and Silvestre cannot fill Vermaelen’s boots should he take a knock.

    Arshavin and RVP seem a bit off but I hope they can turn it around soon and find some of that last season form.

    • @WC, there are 2 concerns of everyone.
      when either Gallas or Vermaelen are out – who will maintain the standard?

      Who will fill Song’s shoes?

      DEPTH IN THE SPINE – lets spend some of the $40m on two good back ups.

  8. Flukey goals? Nah!
    Gallas and the team have been practising that move for weeks.

    Set up free kick, Gallas bursts accross the box, distracting the goalkeeper, and its ‘on me bum son’ and in. Sheer brilliance. Watch out for it again, its hard to defend against that kind of skill.

    Agree with others, RvP definitely looks a bit off the pace, it’s like he’s wearing glass slippers.

    Song and Denilson, what a revelation this season. Think Le Boss has practised some clever man management. i.e. I wont buy a DM but you boys must prove me right, and return my faith and confidence in you, and how.

    Diaby gives me the jitters, one minute he looks like he could stride through any defence, the next he’s fumbling and getting caught in possession. Jekyll and Hyde, no jokes about two players for the price of one, thanks.

    But for all that a great performance, well done the team, and well done the travelling supporters.

    Bring on Pompey.

    Viva!

  9. Very good blog today and I’m in agreement with just about everything….

    I would say this about people who nit-pick when the going is good….For me it’s about keeping our head on straight. We shouldn’t get too carried away with any one result AND, no matter what, we can always play better. As fans, when the chips are down we need to rally around the team and when we’re cruising (and face it, Arsenal are one of the handful of truly class clubs in the world and we will win a lot of games) I still think it’s worthwhile to think about how we ought to tinker to make things even better.

    So, with that said, I’m quite impressed with the general toughness and the speed of the team. I thought the ref waited waaay too long to pull out the cards and I wonder if that had to do with knowing who was carrying yellows from the previous round. I don’t understand the suspension rules in the CL but it seems a huge advantage to come into the match without any suspensions or yellows as we did yesterday. If anybody could clue me in, I’d be grateful.

    Regarding Song and his nancy boy ways…He seems fairly brave to me, standing up and picking the ball cleanly–over and over again–so when somebody just takes him out it seems reasonable that he might cry out for some protection. All told we were lucky no one got hurt, though RVP looked a good deal worse after his early beating. I kept hoping Dudu would sub in for him but I guess he’s hurt too?

    And our central defense—wow….TV5 is the poop. My only worry is that he might be so fast and a hair over-aggressive in the box and the more “established” strikers will start diving when he makes challenges, conning the refs into penalties.

    All told, very nice…

  10. Why does Fox Sports have to use these types of “pundits” (and i use that very very loosely) in the Pre-game and the voice over after the match is done. I used to like setanta’s pre-match show I’d watch with Pat Dolan. Why not get some real ex-players and managers. Not some Canadian hacks and ex-Wimbledon players who are so biasis. god i’d love to see the boys from WSD get on there. Kenny is a gooner in disguise.

  11. Lescott has been dropped by Everton for both training and their Euro league game. Now that is some serious sh*t. Clearly the next time we face Everton we can expect a ‘different’ team although w/ Lescott benched they are short in defense until Jagielka comes back.

    Why do I have to go to USA Today of all news sources to find out that Vela is injured. Where TF is the British media on this ‘sensational’ news that Arsenal have another injured player.

    I really hope that Walcott and Eduardo are available for Portsmouth (who are struggling against Birmingham City at the moment)in case we need to drop a striker to shake up the front line.

    • @Matt, Yeah, but they only lost 1-nil while our Carling Cup team lost 2-nil last year… :’)

      Their keeper (Jensen) is about as close to a wall (in shape) as they come.

      Suddenly our visit to Manchester in 10 days is a “high pressure” match…..for the defending champions!

    • @ctpa, I’ll give a damn when they do it to a team that wasn’t on the brink of relegation last season. Hull is going down and we won’t have to see the tanned wonder Phil Brown anymore thankfully.

  12. Good new blog, and nice to see thoughts from across the pond. Just so you know, Warren Barton is and always havs been a gooner. He’s just probably, like Alan Smith etc, trying to prove his objectivity too much. That and the fact he is old school, and probably misses it when football was more physical etc. And last year, his comments would be valid, and its too early to say that our soft centre is gone. However, team spirit seems visibly better this year. I think Gallas’s captaincy and the unhappiness of toure and adebayor had an impact early last year, along with the shock of losing the seemingly popular hleb and particularly flamini. That, the blow of blow the title the year before and all the injuries really uspet the balance of the squad. Greater squad consistancy this year should help.

  13. Other than dude, none of our strikers haven’t gotten on the scoreboard yet. I can’t wait for our offense to start clicking. So far we have scored on set plays and against the run of play so I think we have yet some ways to go which is great news for us fans. The other thing which I realized that we suddenly have this year is depth. This is a completely new feeling for me. Even with 6 injured first teamers, we still have an excellent team out there. Remember how not too long ago how we would be struggling if we had a couple of injuries? The kids have matured and while they are yet to prove themselves, they look pretty good this year.

  14. WarreN Barton says he is an Arsenal supporter and his nephew is in the Arsenal schoolboys set up, don’t know his name but remember Barton saying it on SKY about a year ago

  15. Arsene sent a very clear message to his young but, experience team…toe the line or be shipped out. Not even the fans’ hero nor the 30 goal striker were spared. I think they got the message big time and the game at the intimidating atmosphere of Parkhead shows their commitment.

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