It’s a big post today as I attempt to catch up on yesterday’s no-show. First up is a quick report of the Celtic game, followed by my thoughts on our Champions League draw before I round things off by previewing the massive game against United. Enjoy!
Arsenal 3-1 Celtic (5-1 agg.) – Talking Points
There’s not much point going back through each and every incident from the Celtic game – you’re likely to be well aware of them by now – so I thought I’d just run through the big talking points from the game before moving onto the Champions League draw Manchester United.
The biggest talking point from what proved to be a comfortable win was of course Eduardo’s dive to win the penalty that lead to the first goal. I mentioned yesterday that I absolutely agree with the notion that it was a dive and that I was very disappointed to see the penalty given. I am very much a purest when it comes to watching football and someone who enjoys the art and spectacle above simply winning, so to see one of our players dive in this manner was a little disappointing. There’s no denying that Eduardo was looking to falsely win the penalty and as much as I like him as a player, I would be furious if Arsenal were on the wrong end of this sort of decision.
But in fairness to Eduardo the media’s reaction to the incident has been utterly, utterly ridiculous. Arseblogger probably summed things up better than anyone yesterday when he said:
“Arsenal scored five goals. Even without the Eduardo penalty we’d have won last night yet they’re bleating on about Eduardo being a ‘cheat’. It’s funny but these are the same people who told you ‘Tiny Taylor’ “isn’t that kind of guy” when he shattered Eduardo’s leg and ankle and put him out of football for over a year. It’s easy to condemn a dive, it’s safe, yet you rarely hear the same condemnation for acts of violence or dangerous tackles.
Eduardo is a cheat yet Michael Owen is ‘clever’ when he wins a penalty against Argentina with a dive. Steven Gerrard is notoriously light on his feet yet he carries no reputation as a diver. You can be sure that Eduardo will after one incident. Jingoism? Xenophobia? Arsenalism? Call it what you want but we all know there are rules that don’t apply to some because of who they play for or what international shirt they pull on.
I’m not trying to excuse him or justify it but a little perspective is needed. Eduardo’s dive was not his finest moment but in the grand scheme of things it meant little and he does not deserve the kind of vilification he’s received from some quarters. It was just a dive. It wasn’t this. It wasn’t this either. Football would be better served if people paid more attention to things that really damaged the game.”
The only thing I would add to Arseblogger’s comments is that something really should be done – most likely with the use of technology – to punish players who dive. Although the tie was essentially over and the penalty effectively had very little impact on the final result, the problem comes when these sort of decisions are made at crucial moments. It is my personal opinion that UEFA or FIFA need to do something to stop diving via the use of technology to punish players regularly and not in the haphazard, ad hoc methods threatening to see Eduardo suspended on this occasion. It is an ugly side of the game, simulation, and something in the rules needs to change to properly deal with it.
Anyway, that’s the diving incident out of the way. Here’s a quick summary of some of the other thoughts and conclusions I made from the game:
- The 4-3-3 continues to work well and even with an essentially second-choice front line (Eduardo, Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue) we created chances. Once again our midfield pressured with intensity and the players continue to look more comfortable in this system than last season’s 4-4-2 or 4-5-1.
- Eboue was superb. It’s clear from these comments he’s settled down since last season and his versatility is going to make him a great squad player throughout the season. Well done to him.
- With the focus on Thomas Vermaelen’s defending and aggression in the opening few games, it’s taken me four games to realise that he is an outstanding passer of the ball. In a defensive sense he has been an improvement over Kolo Toure thus far and it’s becoming quickly apparent that in an offensive sense he is proving extremely valuable.
- Three more goals means we’ve now scored 15 goals in our opening four games. In an attacking sense, Manchester United could not come at a better time.
It was another very decent performance and another strong result even despite the couple of rotations to the team made by Arsene Wenger. We are in the group stages of the Champions League again after cruising through what looked on paper to be a potential banana skin and things really couldn’t be better.
Champions League Draw
AZ Alkmaar, Olympiacos, Standard Liege. They are the three teams that Arsenal will face in the group stages of the Champions League and in all honesty – looking around at the other groups – it couldn’t be more straightforward. Unlike Arsenal all three teams are champions of their respective leagues (Netherlands, Greece and Belgium) but in terms of quality they should really be no match for us.
Both Liege and Alkmaar are Champions League virgins while Olympiacos are perennially quite poor at this stage of the competition, so for us things look good. When the fact that travel time will be exceptionally short with Belgium and Holland just a hop away and this is about the best draw we could have hoped for. Only complacency would see Arsenal fail to qualify and given the way that our boys took care of Celtic this doesn’t look to be much of a concern.
Manchester United preview
It is of course the clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford this weekend and I am getting bloody excited. I absolutely love games against United and am particularly excited about this one for two reasons. One, I get to watch the game at the pub with Panda for the first time and two, Arsenal have a remarkably good chance of winning.
It’s not unheard of for Wenger’s Arsenal to win away against Manchester United (indeed we’ve done so as recently as 2006 when Emmanuel Adebayor scored the only goal) but I can’t remember a time when we’ve gone into a game at Old Trafford in such good shape.
Player-wise things are good with Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie rested and Cesc Fabregas apparently a 50:50 chance of returning to the team. Having the captain back would obviously be a big boost but unlike a lot of people I don’t see his return as being essential to our chances of coming back from Manchester with three points. The new formation means that the attacking responsibility is shared around and with Denilson and Abou Diaby proving effective in the last couple of games the likely front three of Arshavin, van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner should get more than enough support.
I believe the key to tomorrow night’s game will be the performance of our defence and fortunately we will go in at full strength. Vermaelen (who has said he is not at all nervous – how I love that guy), Gallas and Song have each been in superb form and I think a lot will depend on the ‘golden triangle’s’ ability to nullify Manchester United’s attack. If they each play well and our midfield plays at a high tempo then I believe we have every chance of winning tomorrow night. It would be a huge statement of intent if the boys could do it and I just get a little inkling that things are going to turn out very well.
I can’t really think of anything to add to that other than that I am ridiculously excited and can’t wait for the match. I’ll have any late team news for you tomorrow but wherever you are in the world get behind the Arsenal and enjoy the game! And those in Brisbane, make sure you get down to the Pig ‘n’ Whistle to watch the game with myself, Panda and a whole bunch of rowdy Arsenal supporters.
COME ON YOU GUNNERS!!!
PS. For a Manchester United perspective of the game be sure to check out The Republik of Mancunia.
Have your say on Celtic, the Champions League draw or Manchester United by leaving a comment.