COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Blues lack firepower at the Gunners
In a hard fought game in a crackling atmosphere sparked by a contentious goal for the Blues saw us almost hold on for our first victory on their patch for 15yrs. Just two moments of sloppy defending did for us.
The game started with the Blues spraying the ball around well and threatening to make inroads but Arsenal were in fighting rather than flowing mood and Wilshire was booked within 5 mins and then the odious Fabregas got away with a nasty tackle from behind on Arteta. Slowly Arsenal got more possession and fashioned some chances and Fabregas fired wide and then Walcott broke clear one on one with Howard but his shot was deflected away by the legs of the keeper.
The Blues then came back into it from about the 15min mark with Saha playing as well as he has done for a while and Coleman as industrious as ever but was finding the pace of Clichy a match for his. It was in midfield that we were dominating with Fellaini the master at breaking things up and moving us forward, Arteta seemed to be in better form and Rodwell getting about the place with power. This pressure told on 20mins when Coleman went on a burst forward and the ball found Saha who looked in an offside position but he did what all good players should and played to the whistle and finished with a top strikers goal into the far corner leaving the keeper helpless.
All hell broke loose. The travelling faithful were delirious with joy whilst the home fans and players were incandescent with rage. Whilst the Blues celebrated the Arsenal players surrounded the ref demanding he go to his linesman, he did, they conversed and the Mr Mason pointed for a restart. The game was never the same after that little lot as there seemed a simmering anger from both players and fans of an Arsenal persuasion not helped by the ?goal? being replayed on the big screen. (I thought that was not allowed)
A few digs and sly kicks took place as Arsenal tried to respond but it was the Blues who were looking the more composed but sadly once again just up to that final third. Arsenal fashioned a couple of chances before the break, one from a corner that flashed across goal with no one able to make contact and van Persie got on the end of a lob forward but put the ball over the onrushing keeper and thankfully over the bar whilst the Blues with more forward going pressure could muster one when Bilyaletdinov had one come out off the keeper from point blank range and nothing come of it.
The half-time whistle and the faithful?s applause for our lads was drowned out by a cacophony of boos and jeers as the Arsenal players parlayed with the Ref.
Arsenal were out well before us for the second half and by their demeanour were bristling with indignation, they also had replaced Song with Diaby. No changes for us and we continued to play in the same vein and give as good as we got but as the half progressed Arsenal were getting more and more a share of the territory which caused us to lose a little discipline in mid-field. Where Arteta and Rodwell had been using the one goes the one stays strategy now they were both staying which in turn left Saha stranded and outnumbered. Saha did though put himself about to receive the ball but was fighting a losing battle on his own.
On the hour mark Wenger blinked first and replaced Rosicky with Arshavin as the Arsenals efforts were many but none to trouble us. Some 5mins later the manager took off Bilyaletdinov, who had been guilty of giving the ball away as well as showing flashes of the good stuff , with Osman and sadly nothing changed.
Arsenal kept chipping away and the faithful were getting more restless by the minute but one way or another we managed to thwart them and break a little but the gap between the striker and midfield was giving Arsenal the chance to mop up and get back at us.
We got a warning of things to come when Arshavin chipped on over the top for Van Persie to hit but that went wide and just minutes later Fabregas chipped another up which Rodwell could only stretch for and the ball bounced off his head and fell perfectly for Arshavin to slot passed Howard and it was 1-1.
Arsenal were buoyant now and went for it while the Blues seemed to lose a little confidence and more importantly some concentration when some five minutes after the goal Arsenal gained a corner when Osman gave away a free kick in a dangerous area. Van Persie struck it sweetly toward the top corner, Howard made a great save and pushed it for a corner. Van Persie took, we went to sleep and put no one on the posts, Koscielny made an untracked run and nodded the ball into the net right where someone should have been standing on the post. Dejection all around for the Blue persuasion.
The manager made a double substitution and took off Coleman who was spent and Neville and brought on Jags and Big Vic. I didn?t think the move had much to do with renewed tactics but rather a sort of lets change it and see if we get lucky, we didn?t and lost 2-1.
MotM... Well Fellaini was excellent again but tonight I would give my vote to Saha who looked the class player we know he can be, struck a great goal and was always showing until he ran out of steam in the last 15 mins.
Overall I thought a good performance in a game that was absorbing but the big worry for me was that from memory I counted only two shots at goal on or off target all match, the goal itself and one that hit the keeper from Bilyaletdinov. In many ways this game summed up our season so far. Good approach play and plenty of the ball but very little at the business end as well as a propensity to give away silly goals. I do wonder if our manager might be tempted to move Arteta wide left and Cahill join the Rodwell/Fellaini axis.
There were adverts around for ?The Wizard of Oz? a Bill Kenwright production, come Saturday I hope we have our own ?Wizard of Oz? a David Moyes production. See you there
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 02/02/2011 at 16:35:27
I am seeing some signs of hope though. We need to beat Blackpool and the world will look better. That said I was convinced we would beat West Ham and Wigan at home (and Wolves, and Newcastle...).
2 Posted 02/02/2011 at 17:41:29
3 Posted 02/02/2011 at 19:05:57
Fellaini had another great game - god knows where we'd be without him.
We had a lot of possession last night, especially in the first half, but can't seem to make it pay. Saha, for all his effort, was one of the problems. I lost count of the number of times he got possession but didn't release it to a runner in space going forward - instead he wheeled and passed back or sideways to players already marked.
I also couldn't understand why we didn't bring Beckford on after 60 minutes, to give the Arsenal defence something else to think about. He and Saha may have got the better of an Arsenal centre pairing that doesn't convince, especially after the departure of Song at half time.
As the game wore on, there was an increasing inevitability about an Arsenal fightback. All the usual signs - giving away possession cheaply, being outmuscled too often, and not enough speed in getting forward.
Ah well - I should be used to the frustration by now. Roll on Saturday, for my next "fix".
4 Posted 02/02/2011 at 21:58:53
I was behind the goal last night watching the warm up, aimless crosses for Howard to catch with no one near him... fuckin tell him Moyes to get off his line and either punch or catch the ball, it might even lead to a clean sheet.
5 Posted 02/02/2011 at 23:27:33
From the moment he came on it was noticable that Arsenal took complete control of the area that Leon was in.
6 Posted 03/02/2011 at 02:02:55
7 Posted 03/02/2011 at 06:35:19
But then compare the substitutions:
Arsenal bring on Arshavin, and we bring on..err.. Osman.
Arsenal bring on Diaby, and bring on Anichebe.
The match changed after the subs, didn't it ?
8 Posted 03/02/2011 at 14:37:05
9 Posted 03/02/2011 at 17:52:14
10 Posted 03/02/2011 at 21:49:23
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