It’s been a big weekend for the Arsenal with a terrific win over West Ham and the exciting news of drawing Barcelona in the Champions League.
I’ve been a little bit out of it over the past week so I thought I’d do some catching up today with a detailed post on my opinion of us winning with ten men, the club’s decision to appeal Thomas Vermaelen’s one-game ban and our chances of stopping Barcelona and an unbelievable Lionel Messi.
Winning with ten men
The boys win over West Ham on Saturday was terrific.
This was the third win in the last four league games that has been completed in dramatic style and under difficult circumstances. First it was Aaron Ramsey’s leg break and Cesc and Vermaelen’s late goals against Stoke, then it was Nicklas Bendtner’s crucial late winner against Hull. And now this.
We started the game superbly with Denilson scoring a beautiful goal after just 5 minutes. It was the earliest league goal we had scored this season, Bendtner linking well to allow Denilson to fire home a crisp, perfect finish into the bottom corner.
We cruised the rest of the first half but just like at Hull were pegged back by a poor penalty decision. Similar to Sol Campbell’s “foul” a week earlier, Vermaelen was unfairly punished for a perfectly legal attempt to play the ball and Guillermo Franco went down far too easily.
Under instruction from the linesman the referee who was fifty yards away awarded a penalty. Even worse, he sent Vermaelen off.
Manuel Almunia made a great stop to prevent Alessandro Diamanti from doing what he did at Upton Park. It was the second big penalty save the Spaniard has made in games that were perched at 1-0 and drastically altered the complexion of the second half by maintaining our lead.
Arsene Wenger made a number of astute tactical alterations as the game progressed and the ability of our boys to flawlessly integrate these changes was another indication (if we needed it) of how far this team have come and how much further they can still go.
Song turned his 9/10 game into a 10/10 by flawlessly covering for Vermaelen at the back. Denilson was terrific in the centre of the pitch, building on his early goal by dominating the Song position. Abou Diaby’s powerful running from midfield added a unique attacking threat from the middle of the park. Arshavin played on the left, then up front, then the left again. Emmanuel Eboue had a marauding game from right-back, then pushed further forward to cause West Ham havoc as Bacary Sagna provided more stability off the bench.
The Arsenal team that started the game, particularly the attacking unit, was barely recognisable from the one that started it. Take into account the weather conditions and it was like we were playing a completely different game.
While West Ham almost scored when Carlton Cole hit the post, Cesc’s penalty sealed an impressive 2-0 win.
Every player deserves credit not only for their physical contributions but also because of their mental application. They boys stuck to their roles and were rewarded with a victory that keeps our title charge alive.
It would have been easy for our boys to panic with Vermaelen, our best defender, out of the game for so long. But Almunia stepped up to make a crucial intervention, the team sorted themselves out and made sure we left the game clutching three valuable points.
All in all, a very proud day to be a Gooner.
The red card appeal
I don’t believe that Thomas Vermaelen’s challenge on Guillerme Franco was penalty let alone a red card, yet I have to say I’m a little bit worried about the club’s decision to appeal this decision.
As things stand the Belgian will miss one match, this weekend’s trip to Birmingham, which will be played just four days before the huge Champions League game against Barcelona at The Emirates.
If the appeal is successful he will have that suspension wiped out however, if it is not, it may be extended to include the league game against Wolves a week later on the grounds of a frivolous appeal.
Obviously this is what I am worried about and given the incompetent and inconsistent nature of the FA’s judicial system I feel this is a valid concern.
My observation is that the club’s desire to appeal Vermaelen’s decision is less about having the Belgian available and more about being able to rest Sol Campbell against Birmingham with Barcelona around the corner.
The manager has already indicated that Campbell cannot play more than one game per week and if Vermaelen’s appeal is unsuccessful I believe it will be Alex Song and Mikael Silvestre who start the next game. If Vermaelen is cleared then the manager will have options, either one of Song or Silvestre will play there and Campbell can return to partner Vermaelen against Barcelona.
With the club already having lodged an appeal this is very much a wait-and-see situation. I pray to God that the club has made the right decision.
Barcelona: a death warrant or ideal opponents?
I honestly believe that drawing Barcelona was the best possible outcome for our boys.
Barcelona are the best team in Europe and currently have the best player in the world in the best form of his career but there are so many things that make this a great draw for Arsenal.
One, nobody expects us to win and that puts us in an excellent psychological position.
Two, they play the sort of football that will allow us to play our sort of football. There may well be goals in both legs and that may suit our leaky defence more than a tie that ends 2-1 on aggregate.
Three, it will be a bloody awesome game for the supporters.
Four, if you’re going to get a really good side you may as well get them now. Losing to them gives your team time to recover and continue competing for the league with an uncluttered fixture list.
Meanwhile winning would provide an intense confidence boost as well as promoting a “it’s our season” mentality around the club. After all, what’s the point in beating Bordeaux now if we are just going to lose to Barcelona in the next round?
Five, we avoid Manchester United until the final.
Six, we get to watch (a very worried) Thierry Henry play again.
Have your say on the West Ham victory, Vermaelen’s appeal or Barcelona in Europe by leaving a comment.