Arsenal’s seven-game unbeaten streak extended to eight over the weekend as two late goals from Samir Nasri and Nicklas Bendtner ensured a 3-1 win away to Hull City. Emmanuel Adebayor’s first-half header was cancelled out by another header by Daniel Cousin on 65 minutes before Nasri and Bendtner produced late efforts to win the match.
Arsene Wenger played the identical team that started against Bolton a week ago with Kolo Toure partnering Johan Djourou at the back and Abou Diaby and Denilson paired together in the middle. Nicklas Bendtner again started on the bench with the first-choice pairing of Adebayor and van Persie keeping their places up front. It was a strong team and they gave a strong overall performance.
Our boys bossed the game in the opening hour and had two very close van Persie free-kicks to show for their dominance. The first was deflected just wide of the goal while the second brought a top save out of Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill, as his fingertips pushed the ball onto the bar. Djourou, who had pushed forward for the kick, was unable to force the rebound home as his shot was excellently blocked by a defender.
With Denilson looking slick in the middle and Adebayor and van Persie causing problems for the defence we took the lead on 30 minutes. Arsenal have been criticised in the past for their failure to make set-pieces count but they had no problems in making Hull pay as Adebayor powered home a perfect corner by strike partner van Persie. With delivery like that Adebayor is as hard to stop as any player in the world in the air and he knew exactly who to thank for the goal, running thirty yards across the field to celebrate with the Dutchman.
The boys grew in confidence after the goal and should have gone into the break with a two-goal advantage. Some smart interplay allowed Adebayor to cross for Emmanuel Eboue in the centre but the right-midfielder made a hash of a relatively simple volley, slicing the ball horribly wide. He seems to lose his head whenever he gets near the goal, Eboue, and this was another really poor short to add to a growing tally this season.
At a goal up at the break I was confident that we would kick on and secure the win. So confident, in fact, that I fell asleep* during half-time and did not wake up again until the 60th minute. According to my younger brother, Panda Bear, it was the best spell of football we put together in the entire match as the Diaby and Denilson took control in the middle and we kept Hull pegged back onto the edge of their own penalty area. We might have been a little fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty when Djourou clattered into substitute Alberto Manucho but aside from things were comfortable.
However, things changed drastically as soon as I woke. Bernard Mendy was afforded far too much space by Gael Clichy on the right and his cross deflected to Cousin who headed home. It was peculiar defending by Clichy, who seemed confused by the flight of the ball, and the sort of which has been a little too common this season. The Clichy of last campaign would never of let that happen and although the Frenchman remains an integral part of our side it’s clear that he’s going through a bit of a dip in form at the moment.
With the rain pouring down, the wind gusting and an equaliser going in I must admit to having had feelings of “here we go again”. But the substitution of Bendtner for Eboue, who had been well below-par, galvanised the side. The big Dane was put onto the right wing in a 4-3-3 formation and immediately troubled Hull with some excellent touches and hard running.
Bendtner had a half chance blocked by Myhill before a good pass to van Persie allowed the Dutchman to wriggle free of two markers to slide a pass through to the excellent Nasri on the left. The little wizard took one touch with his right before dispatching a clinical left-footed strike across the Hull ‘keeper and into the bottom corner of the net. It was the sort of chance that few players would take and another example of Nasri’s ability to provide defining moments for Arsenal this season.
At 2-1 up Hull were psychologically beaten and a third was almost inevitable. Bendtner was again involved as he fed van Persie, who in turn set up the big Dane with the opportunity to fire home. He duly obliged and almost added a fourth moments later as his excellent close-range header struck the base of the post. It mattered little though as Arsenal past a tough test with flying colours at the KC Stadium.
From an attacking sense Van Persie is on the top of his game, Nasri showed again what a good little player he is while both Adebayor and Diaby registered “return to form” performances. Defensively we continue to look decently solid, with Clichy’s walkabout and Djourou’s moment of madness the only real concerns. Even Denilson looked decent in the middle as he stakes his claim to be considered as the first-choice defensive-midfielder at the club.
With Andrei Arshavin seemingly on his way this week (read these quotes from agent Dennis Lachter) and the side starting to find some form and consistency it’s not a bad time to be an Arsenal supporter. Enjoy it.
* Bare in mind that the game started at 3.30am Brisbane local time. You could hardly blame me for having a snooze, especially with some of the ads that were on at half-time in the stream that I was watching.
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