Arsenal 4-1 Pompey; the Midfield, the Strikers, and the Goalkeeper

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Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Gunners fire on sorry Pompey

The Telegraph: It would be brave just now to bet on Portsmouth to win any football match but the fixture computer had seemed particularly cruel to present them with a trip to the Emirates this weekend.

Like I said last weekend, if you’re new here you’ll notice that I like linking to ESPN and The Telegraph for match reports. This is because each of those services provide a lovely bit of statistical data along with their regular match report. For ESPN, it’s the link called “Match Action” which will bring up a little graphical pitch and then you can select things like “heat map” or average position and take a look at how Arsenal lined up and where players generally played — it’s cool. Similar data, plus a player rater and other statistical info., is found in the Telegraph link — on the right hand side. So, for example, if you mouse over Abou Diaby you’ll get his stats: 3 shots, 2 goals, 96% passing rate, 71 total passes, 0 assists, and 4 balls won.

Match Video

The Arsenalist is up and running today, enjoy!

Man of the Match

Abou Diaby is today’s MotM and it’s an easy decision. Even Wenger is talking about nothing but Diaby at the moment:

He has been out for nine months. He has been here three years and I have seen that today he played his 100th game so that means he has been out for a long, long time. He has had little problems and he worked very hard this summer. This could be Abou’s year, it could be his season because he prepared well, he looks very sharp, very strong, he has all you dream to have to play in the Premier League.

Abou is a more offensive player but if he decides to play defensively he is exactly like Vieira. At some stage when Gallas moved out I put Denilson centre back and put Diaby central midfield in a defensive role. And he looks completely similar to Patrick to win the ball back. But he is a guy who has a quick transition from defence to offence, from box to box, that is his fantastic strength, to change quickly. Nobody can go with him when he has that, when we are on the counter-attack. He is fantastic.

That’s some really high praise there.

Giving Diaby MotM isn’t taking anything away from Cesc or Denilson or Robin van Persie, who all worked very hard and looked very good, it’s just that Diaby was better. I almost never pick the same man of the match as the Telegraph but I don’t think there’s much controversy in this pick today; two goals, and a plethora of good work in the midfield, that’s all it takes.

The Midfield

Jeebus… the midfield for Arsenal is buzzing right now, isn’t it? Arsenal have scored 10 goals in two league matches, winning by an average of +4 goals per match and 9 of those 10 goals have come from midfield and defensive players. Cesc has 2, Diaby 2, Gallas 2, and then Ramsey, Denilson, Vermaelen, and Eduardo round out the remainder with 1 each. That’s 60% of Arsenal’s league goals coming from the midfield.

The work rate in the middle of the park is excellent as well. I think you could say that after Diaby’s second goal, Arsenal sort of took their foot off the gas a bit, and that’s probably to be expected, what with 3 matches coming up in the next 7 days. But I never thought that they lacked for class or work in the midfield, even when Cesc came off at half-time with a tight hamstring and was replaced by Aaron Ramsey. You always knew that if they needed it, this team could kick into another gear and the midfield could take over the game.

The other aspect of the midfield game that has changed, and even the commentators mentioned this, is that Cesc in particular, but the whole midfield in general, looks much more powerful, much quicker, and much more assured with and without the ball. Cesc looks to be in the best shape of his career, strong, fast, and willing to shoot from outside. Diaby, who’s ponderousness with the ball is frustrating at times, was able to use his new found strength to hold the ball up and win challenges which we haven’t seen from him much in his career so far. It’s a long season and there’s 57 more games to go, but with Song adding power to the midfield as well as the others, we could easily terrorize opponents for years to come… if we stay healthy.

At the back, there were a few shaky moments like when Gallas seemed to be beaten by Utaka and the big Pompey winger went down. That appeal was waved off by the linesman and as long as the linesman keeps his flag down it’s good defense, right? Pompey for their part had a game plan and tried to execute it. They caught us once or twice with the over the top balls but every Arsenal supporter knows by now that that’s a product of the Arsenal system, especially if the defense stops pressing, which they did at parts of the match today. It was always going to be that type of defensive match and I have to give credit to the back four who would have kept a clean sheet except for Almunia’s insanity.

I almost wonder if Wenger didn’t tell the midfield to back off a bit and let Pompey test out the defense.  Nah, that would be crazy, right?

The Strikers

The one cause for worry, and I’m not suggesting that we should worry what with a +4 goal differential in 2 matches and Arsenal sitting atop the league table. But, the one cause for worry is that without Eduardo’s single poached goal no one else in the strike force is scoring and they are putting in a metric shitload of work for it.

Robin van Persie was clearly frustrated today, which is unfortunate because he put in so much work and really had it not been for two brilliant saves from James, would have gotten on the score sheet himself. He needs to just revel in the huge margins we’re generating, keep working, and you have to think that the goals will come.

If not, well, maybe we’ll be like United were last year? With a midfielder leading the team in scoring?

The other thing that made me uncomfortable was when Gallas was off the pitch getting a contact put back in, then Vermaelen went marauding forward, and Denilson (correctly) went back to fill in as center back. Look I love Denilson, and he was good as a sort of holding midfielder today, but I really don’t see him as a center back and it made me very uncomfortable to see him floating back there. TV5 needs to recognize and not make that run forward there, I think. Song, on the other had, I’m very comfortable with in that role, Denilson, not to much.

And I love the kid!

The Goalkeeper

With Fabio Capello looking on Manuel Almunia made his best case yet to be England number one. I mean, if England’s number one is supposed to make huge gaffes and allow a team who has one shot on goal to score, then Manuel Almunia is your man!

I kid of course. It’s the third game in to the season and he’s only made one mistake, he’s got miles to go before he can rise to the gaffe-tastic level that is the hallmark of English goalkeeping. It’s just that Pompey was so poor and hadn’t scored an away goal in like 23 years or something, so it’s a bit harsh to have that nut broken against my beloved Arsenal. You have to admit, that was some pretty piss poor goalkeeping on Money’s part, and he’s probably kicking himself in the dressing room as I write this. It’s ok, it didn’t hurt us, so it’s just something that the boss needs work on with him. I don’t know how, maybe a motivational speaker or something.

I’d gladly do it!

“Ok, Mooney, here’s the thing. You’re the only guy on the pitch who, in the supposed act of ‘punching the ball away,’ has the right to punch a cunt like Younes Kaboul in the throat! The team’s countin’ on you to do your duty in this regard and not puss out. Now, get out there and punch some f*ckers for the Gipper!”


Well, we won. But then again, we also lost. Lost Cesc to the dreaded hamstring tightness and Arsenal have been hit with more injury news in the form of Carlos Vela being ruled out for a month, another victim of the Gods damned international duty.  Why can’t some international opponents kick the shiat out of c*nts like Frank Lampard?

The Cesc injury is worrying, but lets hope that Wenger removed him as a precaution, we don’t know yet, the post match interview was all about how Abou Diaby is going to be Patrick Vieira plus Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp or something. Good for Diaby and I suppose we should be talking about the positives that came out of the game but still, all Gooners the world over are nervous over Cesc getting pulled at half time.

UPDATE: Wenger is saying we need to wait 48 hours before we will know if Cesc has “tightness” or a hammy pull. If the former, we may see him play against Celtic. If the latter, he’ll be out three weeks.

Wenger is also admitting that Theo Walcott won’t be available until at least next month and he’s blaming the internationals for that as well.

This team is really clicking right now and playing brilliantly, it would be a real shame if all that work was undone by injuries.

Oh well, not much that can be done about injuries, I guess, and I’m sure the boss is well aware of those problems at the moment. For me, I keep coming back to how deep this team is as a source of hope. I mean how many other teams in the EPL could lose their captain, put on an 18 year old, and have him come on and increase their lead against a defensively minded team? I can only think of one and they won 4-1 today.


  1. Cesc, Rosicky, Vela, Nasri, Theo. Add Diaby , Eduardo and van Persie who are no strangers to injury and one can see dark clouds looming. Keeping fingers crossed, but this flying start could be derailed in a heartbeat. Certainly our chances of beating ManU and Citeh on the road decreases significantly without Cesc. I hate to state the obvious but a large squad on paper does us no good if half are in the trainer’s room for half the season.

  2. I think Cesc was pulled as a precaution and was always going to be subbed. Perhaps that came 15 minutes or so before it otherwise would have but I am not too worried about it. He appearanty had this injury going into and after the Celtic game so if it was really something to worry about I doubt he would have played. Arsene will rest him in midweek and he will be fit and good to go to beat the Cunts up north.

  3. At this point, I am not too worried about Cesc. The same scenario happened before the 1st Celtic match. I won’t be surprised to see him play against Celtic again. Against ManUre is another matter though.

  4. Diaby is looking like a new man this season and that’s a very positive sign. Let’s hope he can keep it up! It was always frustrating for me to see him dribble the ball into a bad position before ultimately losing it. Seems like he has weeded out that part of his game and instead he made quick, intelligent decisions throughout the game today. Definite MOTM performance and I hope he can prove his doubters wrong, me being one of them.

    What a difference one season makes. Thinking back to how bad Denilson, Diaby and Song looked at the beginning of last season and these guys have made huge strides in their game. Nothing’s guaranteed and there will be some stern tests but at least there is a lot more confidence in the players this year. However, we need Cesc to stay fit if we are to launch any sort of meaningful title challenge.

  5. Wenger will have a tough call to make: rest Fabregas at Celtic if it’s minor and get him ready for Man U or play him if the injury is no worse than before the Portsmouth game. I peronally would have sat him for today’s game since Portsmouth was not expected to mount a challenge. It’s all very well and good to decry Walcott being idiotically played by the U21s then we go out and play Fabregas w/ a hamstring injury before a CL qualifier.

    Well Everton finally sold Lescott for 24m to Man City.

  6. I am troubled at the negative focus directed toward the national team regarding Walcott when the man himself is highly open to criticism. He should have taken the national team spot and cherished it, but to add the U-21 role on top of that is a disrespect to his employer. Maybe the boss has voiced this privately, but I feel Walcott himself is to blame for being run flat before playing a single match for his club side.

  7. The Telegraph match report got it dead wrong. The replay on Match of The Day clearly shows Utaka trip over his own feet. Not many are giving Arsenal credit for their two victories. Instead they point to poor competition, favorable calls, and lucky bounces. Yes, it is still very early in the season but a lot will be revealed after the next league match. I am full of hope and optimism.

  8. Terrific start! Arsenal are playing with verve. Everyone is giving 100%.

    However, last year’s criticism’s may still manifest.

    Fleetstreet is so right. Each week (maybe I should say match) – another significant player queues up to the trainer’s room.

    Our roster on paper lacks EXPERIENCED depth for CB and holding midfielder and for the moment, a backup for Cesc.

    Last year’s frustrations were not with the players, but the manager’s decision about our roster depth. Parity in the EPL is obvious, as Pool and ManU have lost already. Each week every team has casualties on the battlefield.

    Let’s hope Cesc’s niggle responds immediately to treatment AND that Arsene has an epiphany – for adding experience to the roster!

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