A nail-biter at the Emirates yesterday left our resident Gunners enthusiast in a giddy state. If Nasri hadn’t gone down (he looks unlikely for the clash with Barça mid-month), this would’ve been an almost perfect day for our friend from the Rockies.
What a struggle, what a game.
Facing Huddersfield at home in Sunday’s 4th-round FA Cup tie, Arsenal showed that when healthy, they can field a tourney-worthy team comprised mostly of subs.
Arsenal are often so pretty, but Sunday they showed that a win is a win, no matter how ugly.
An aside: Arsenal really have nearly enough quality players to play 2 in every position. I honestly don’t think any team in the EPL, other than ManU and Tottenham, are that deep. Okay, okay, ManCity might be the deepest… but aren’t they still a work-in progress? (I think Arsenal has a deeper bench than ManU, but ManU maintains the mystique, the ‘killer instinct’.)
Arsenal still need help at center-back, and they could use some ‘pure’ wingers. Nasri, Walcott, Arshavin, Bendtner aren’t wingers… they are best-suited for and would prefer to play in the middle. The Gunners’ best wingers continue to be their starting fullbacks, Clichy and Sagna.
Arsenal played with 10 men for the entire 2nd half, thanks to what I believe was center-back Squillaci’s 3rd red card of the season. (Sebastian is proving to be quite the problem child!) Huddersfield came on strong in the 2nd half, negating Bendtner’s 1st-half deflected goal. But late in the game, Cesc arrived on the scene. Fabregas changed the game with just a couple effortless, efficient passes, and he won it with his late penalty.
Unsung heroes: I can boo-hoo Arshavin and Bendtner as much as anyone. But they’re both better players than we give them credit for, and they had pivotal roles in today’s game.
Bendtner scored the first goal of the match, and he even tracked back to defend once in a while!
Arshavin impressed me with his effort and desire, but his finishing continues to go missing. So many wasted chances in the box… Still, I can’t be mad at the diminutive opera-goer; a favorite moment for me today was when the Russian sprinted back to break up play inside the Gunners’ penalty box, throwing himself in front of the ball.
(Arshavin better be ready to shine for the next few games, as Nasri is most certainly out of action for 2-4 weeks. Just when the team was nearing full-fitness for the first time in so long… Why Samir, why???)
I was happy to see Rosicky’s leadership on the pitch, subbed after Nasri pulled his hammy. Tomas was brought down too easily, so many times, but he was vocal and inspiring, and he showed that he still has some creativity in him yet.
All in all it was a scrappy win. The Gunners’ “second team” obviously hasn’t had too many chances to play together as starters. They misplaced their passes, they had defensive lapses, they eeked out a win when they should have cruised.
2-1 is what matters. On to the 5th round…
• GK Almunia (aluminum?) returned from injury and made a crucial save. Thanks Manuel, but I still don’t trust you as the number one #1.
• Denilson and Gibbs’ lack of playing time hurt the squad today.
• Welcome back, Abou Diaby!!! (One of France’s 2010 WC standouts holds the ball like it’s a magnet; he can defend and attack and give Song a run for his money.)
• Alex Song, what an anchor. He came on in the 2nd half, in the role of center-back, and he was just as composed as ever.