After Liverpool’s storming demolition on the very poor Derby County, not only did Arsenal need to win today’s game, we also needed to win by a clear seven goals.
It is for this reason that I look on this result as an abject failure.
Just kidding. A confident, almost breezy performance saw Portsmouth shell-shocked (just watch Rosicky’s goal – they should have added 11 people to the stadium attendance figures with that)as Arsenal strung together some scorching interplays to bring about a 3-1 win at home, although a Senderos red-card proved to be a pinned-up negative in an otherwise very positive performance.
The fun and games all started when van Persie was sent clean through by a zippy pass from Clichy – van Persie chased after the ball (yes, ‘chased’, Mr Palmer) and dinked it well past David James, who’s closing-down rush saw him foul van Persie. Adebayor stepped up to calmly sidle the ball to the keeper’s left, who leapt the wrong way. 1-0 in about 7 minutes? Well, well, well. Portsmouth replied with a Muntari strike from distance, but as open as the game sounds, Arsenal were dominant today by a healthy margin. Fabregas tried his luck from distance, and Adebayor missed a sliding attempt himself.
On the 35th minute, the lead had been doubled. Rosicky swung in a corner from the left, Gilberto nodded down towards goal, Fabregas came close to handballing without actually handballing, swiveled and lashed the ball into the gap of goal. 2-0, and the team were really lapping it up. Flamini’s celebrations for all the goals was particularly funny, and for that reason alone should see him ahead of Diarra in the pecking order, at least for the time being.
Five minutes after half time, the deliberations started. After seeing Senderos’ foul again, the only aspect of it that makes it a red card is the fact he was the last man – just. As a foul, it was little more than a failed hug, and Kanu, bless his cotton socks, went down more than a little easily. Foul or not, (and I remain a believer in Senderos), it is a regular flaw of his defending in that he does not know when to accept he is beaten (assuming he was, in this case). Red cards for last-man-fouls have happened a number of times in his very young career, and he seriously needs to cut it out. Unfortunately, he is just not as pacy as Djourou, let alone Gallas or Toure, and perhaps he may never cut it for Arsenal. I really, really have high hopes for him as a player, but it may not be achieved in the red and white. Under no circumstances can we call him a Cygan, though – there’s just something untenable missing, something he certainly seemed to have from the Champions League run of two seasons back.
No more than ten minutes later however, Arsenal were inexplicably 3-0 up with ten men. A foul on the side of the box saw Fabregas take a quick free-kick (a short pass, not some lofty cross or suchlike rubbish) to a completely unmarked Rosicky, who took a touch in the box, and shot from an acute angle, through the legs of Glen Johnson and passed the unaware David James. Abysmal, sleepy defending from Portsmouth, but a great finish from Rosicky nonetheless. Not a minute later, though, Kanu equalised – a cross from Utaka saw Kanu do something quite inexplicable – typical brilliance from the ex-Arsenal striker, but with a healthy dose of ‘what exactly did I just do?’ mixed in. Spinning around, he backfooted the cross against his own leg as it snuck in past a diving Almunia.
The Portsmouth raid then commenced – the stadium was visibly uneasy, but Gilberto (back in defence after Senderos’ red) and co. stood firm. Rosicky and Hleb, moved into the centre, were now in their element, before Hleb and van Persie made way for Denilson and Diaby, who gave the team a bit more solidarity. There were chances to score a forth even, and Portsmouth had been held back to mere shots from distance.
A wonderful win, showing all kinds of solidarity, in a team that cost just over £35million to put together. The cheapest squad outside of Derby? Quite possibly, and sitting pretty on tied-top of the table. After the game, Wenger commented on Fabregas’ supposed similarity to Paul Scholes, saying
“When he was a young boy he scored goals and that’s a nice disease to have, sometimes it disappears but it always comes back when you are mature. He has a lot of characteristics of Paul Scholes I think. Frame, intelligence in the game, passing ability, knowing when to go in the box. He’s only 20, people forget that. “
If he can score goals like the one Scholes did against Portsmouth a week or so ago, then more of the same, please. Elaborating further on the team, Wenger pointed out (yet again) the spirit emerging from the young squad:
“In the second half we were tested mentally as well and we have showed a great response. Since the beginning of the season something is happening in this team. They fight for each other, they have a great togetherness and love for the game.“
And all that needs to be said is that he’s being vindicated at the moment. Hopefully no new injuries come out of the international break ahead of us. With transfer deadline gone, there’s only David Dein nonsense to keep us company in the days of zero-football to come. Still…good result, eh?
Stay happy. We all have plenty of reasons to be.