With a vitally important trip to Rome later in the week, yesterday’s comfortable 3-0 win over Burnley in the FA Cup was just what the doctor ordered.
Rarely in the same will you see three goals of such gorgeous technical quality. Yet Carlos Vela’s scintillating run and delightful chip, Emmanuel Eboue’s fine low finish and Eduardo’s ridiculously inventive side-of-the-foot volley are some of the best goals you will see all season and another stark indication of what this Arsenal team are capable of when they put their minds to it.
Arsene Wenger took the option to reshuffle his pack with the mid-week trip to Rome in mind, surprisingly giving starts to Eduardo and Carlos Vela up front and Kieran Gibbs at left-back. Less surprising was the selection of cup ‘keeper Lukasz Fabianski and Johan Djourou to partner William Gallas at the back and the pairing of Alex Song and Abou Diaby in central midfield. Andrey Arshavin took up a place on the left with a rejuvenated Emmanuel Eboue completing the line-up on the right.
On paper it was far from our strongest side but the performance suggested anything but. Eduardo and Vela caused the Burnley defence trouble all afternoon with their clever movement and neat touches, both rewarded with outrageous goals for their contribution. The Mexican’s opener – a wonderful lobbed finish after an electric burst from halfway – came at just the right time to relieve the pressure on our team, while the Croatian’s outrageous volley essentially sealed the contest with just under 40 minutes left to play.
The two strikers received excellent support from the midfield. Arshavin was again effervescent and energetic, showing his class on the ball and rarely misplacing a pass. Eboue continued his steady improvement since the sending-off at Tottenham, pushing forward with great pace and verve at times and putting the icing on the cake with an uncharacteristically cool finish in the 85th minute.
Diaby put in another strong performance but was his partner, the much-criticised Alex Song who was the real star of the show. The Cameroon midfield is often criticised for his lack of quality going forward but his performance against Burnley indicated there may be more to his game than was previously perceived. It was his lovely chipped pass that allowed Eduardo to fire home, his lovely backheel that set up Eboue for the final and those critical interventions as well as his defensive efforts impressed my immensely.
In the lead-up to the Roma game I think Song has posed some very interesting questions about our midfield. I would say that I am among the minority with my suggestion that the Cameroon midfielder is an all-round better fit in the side than the man that was rested and will no doubt start in Rome, Denilson. The changing shape of the team in Cesc Fabregas’ absence means for the games that really matter it is very much one or the other of Song or Denilson to partner Diaby in the middle, a contest that the Brazilian appears to be winning in the mind of the manager.
But I just can’t see how this is the case. People will always point to the statistics when it comes to Denilson but for me it is Song’s defensive mindset and general willingness to actually get stuck in and tackle that puts him ahead of the Brazilian and makes him a better fit for the side. The decisiveness he showed going forward against Burnley suggests that his confidence is on the rise and I do hope that a few more performances of this quality will push him ahead of Denilson in the manager’s pecking order.
The other player who I think deserves a mention for his general performances of late is William Gallas. Once again he was faultless at the back against Burnley and his ability to put his head down and focus since being stripped of the captaincy has been the key factor in our new-found stability at the back. We still look a little shaky in defence at times but I must say that I don’t have that crapping-myself-every-time-the-opposition-team-attacks feeling I used to get about three months ago and the Frenchman has been a massive part of improving that area of our game.
All-in-all, I have to say that things are looking pretty good with Roma just around the corner. From a situation where we just couldn’t buy a goal we’ve now scored eleven goals in our last four games and are starting to move the ball forward with much more pace and purpose than in previous weeks. When you consider that a goal on Wednesday night will leave Roma with the task of having to score three to avoid elimination it’s hard not to feel just a little bit confident about our chances of progression in that competition.
Anyway, that’s it for today. I’m off to watch Eduardo’s goal again…
Have your say on Arsenal’s win over Burnley or the midfield situation by leaving a comment.