If someone had offered you a 3-0 win for Arsenal over Hull you would have bitten his hand off.
If someone had offered you a 3-0 win for Arsenal over Hull with Denilson scoring a peach of a free-kick, Eduardo getting a much-needed goal, Abou Diaby starring as Man of the Match and getting an excellent third of his own and under-fire goalkeeper Manuel Almunia making a confidence-boosting penalty save – you would have bitten his entire arm off.
And if someone offered you the 3-0 win described above along with Chelsea dropping two points at second from bottom West Ham, Liverpool losing 2-0 at bottom-place Portsmouth and Manchester United crashing 3-0 at Fulham and Mark Hughes getting sacked directly after winning- well… let’s just say you would have been quite well fed that day.
Now I don’t know who that ‘someone’ is exactly but what I’m trying to say is that it was a bloody good weekend for the Arsenal.
There were a couple of changes to the Arsenal team that drew with Burnley midweek with Denilson returning in place of Fabregas, Emmanuel Eboue slotting in for Bacary Sagna and Eduardo returning to the team at the expense of Theo Walcott. Diaby took up the most advanced position of the midfield three while Andrey Arshavin was surprisingly maintained as the lone striker with Eduardo and Samir Nasri providing support down the flanks.
After an turgid opening 40 minutes which saw Hull resort to long-ball tactics and defensive football and our boys struggling to break through the game exploded into life. After a clear foul on Arshavin Nasri cheekily stepped on the foot of Australian Richard Garcia – an incident that sparked an all-in pushing match that brought the crowd alive and saw Nasri and that annoying little Irish man Stephen Hunt booked.
While I’m on the topic my favourite moment of the fight had to be Song’s “don’t argue” on Hunt. The Cameroon man appeared out of nowhere, went straight for Hunt and pushed him out of the melee of players. Hunt tried to push Song back but as you can see in the video he got absolutely nowhere as Song held him off with his German of Africa strength. Alas, I digress.
Nasri’s little game of footsie looked to be intentionally done to put the Hull players off their game and you get the feeling that without his provocation we would not have gone into the break with the lead. As it was, Diaby’s surging run saw another foul committed on the edge of the are and Denilson of all people stepped up to curl a beautiful effort into the bottom of the corner. He ran off to celebrate with the fans that had been nearest the fight incident just a couple of minutes earlier and they looked like the were loving it.
There was a bit more niggle in the tunnel at the half-time break before the Arsenal players emerged to put on an extremely composed second-half show. The exceptions were an early miss by Eduardo after a supreme turn on the edge of the area and a preposterous penalty awarded against Mikael Silvestre on Fagan. Just how the referee Steve Bennett pulled a foul out of their contest I will never know but in the end it mattered little as Almunia guessed the right way and pulled off a save that will do his confidence the world of good.
Once Hull blew their chance you just knew it would be Arsenal’s day. It proved to be true as the best player on pitch up until that point, Diaby, made his mark with a superb assist for Eduardo and an excellent goal of his own. Both strikes were the product of clever inter-passing and movement and left Wenger with a huge smile on his face on the bench.
There were a flurry of substitutions in the final third of the match as Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Carlos Vela were given valuable playing time. Walcott and Ramsey both had chances in the final minutes to add a fourth but it wasn’t to be as Arsenal ran out the game comfortable 3-0 winners.
I thought the contribution made by Diaby and Denilson in the absence of captain Fabregas was encouraging.
Diaby always seems to play better when giving the more attacking role and Hull was no exception – his constant movement with and without the ball was impossible to contain and he played an important part in all three goals. Diaby has a unique ability to be unpredictable with the ball at his feet and wait until just the right time to release and move, making him very hard to stop when he’s on song. All he has to do now is add consistancy to his game and I feel he will grow into a very good player for Arsenal.
Meanwhile Denilson put in the sort of physical, tough-tackling performance that many will be hoping to see when he sits in for Song during the African Cup of Nations. The Brazilian’s style means efforts often goes unseen for Arsenal but this was one of the few times I have visibly noticed his contribution to the cause. As well as the very special opener Denilson made some superb tackles and worked exceptionally hard to cover for the absence of Cesc Fabregas in midfield. Excellent stuff.
So that’s it really. It’s bound to be a faily quiet week what with Christmas and all, so I’ll look to discuss the Champions League draw as well as the crucial game with Aston Villa as the week progresses.
It’s great to be back. Go Arsenal.
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