Yesterday’s conservatism was not, it proves, unfounded.
We clearly were on the backfoot for large passages of play against a Newcastle side desperate to prove a point to its own fans. They managed to do that rather convincingly, and literally, as they secured a draw against a depleted Arsenal side.
It all started in such scintillating fashion for Arsenal, though. Four minutes in, Eboue sent in a trademark right-wing cross for Adebayor – free in the box – to chest it down and volley superbly past given for 1-0.
Barely after the celebrations had ended, however, Newcastle were nearly level when Geremi’s header brushed the post after good work and a cross from James Milner.
Arsenal had a number of chances to win the match early on, with Adebayor having his shot saved after breaking free down the left. Eboue had a shot on goal later when it was perhaps better to pass to available team mates, but soon enough Newcastle were gathering their own momentum, and took the ascendency in the later moments of the half.
The second half saw Newcastle continue their dominance, although Arsenal maintained the greater overall possession (one of those ‘how do they measure it?’ moments). After all of Geremi’s good running and captaincy, their equaliser seemed inevitable, and on the hour, it came. Taylor had remained upfield in the approach, when Beye’s cross was headed on by Alan Smith, for Taylor to finish well.One frustrated moment came for Adebayor who, while waiting for a dribbling Rosicky to make a pass to him, had forgotten that he was offside the whole time. Rosicky avoided the pass and tried to continue play on his own, only for Adebayor to berate him – unjustifiably – for refusing to make the pass. Rosicky was always in the right, and Adebayor may have been more frustrated at himself after a very inconsistent evening.
In the end, it is at times like these that we must realise you cannot win them all. This was the game in hand, and for that matter, was a point gained rather than two points lost.
Arsenal will desperately want one of Fabregas, Flamini or Hleb to return to the midfield for the Boro game, no question. Eboue was sparky in the beginning but transferred his concealed brilliance to the usual, criminal histrionics. Gilberto was absent – and not in the Invisible Wall mould of absence, neither, and Eduardo – who was transferred to the left wing half way through in order to give Rosicky more attacking scope – reminded us all that he is not a left winger, period.
As already mentioned, Adebayor’s night was far from uniform. His finish for the goal was superb, but overall, he left the fans with an empty feeling after the match. I cannot do anything but stand by the Togolese striker – leading scorer in the Premier League, fast, long-legged with an eye for a pass – but he frustrates others with his scoring ratio.
People need reminding that the ‘lad’ is only 23 – though he looks more like 27. Adebayor has years and years to go in his career, despite what he’ll tell you if Arsenal do not win the title this season.
Of course, there are those that deserve to be commended after tonight’s match as well – Rosicky did all he could to muster up inspiration for the team going forward, in a desert of attacking midfield talent. Diarra, whose creative potential was identified in yesterday’s blog, surprised many with his forward forays. His dribbling, in what we have seen of him thus far, has been nothing short of fantastic, and he truly does know how to beat players in a congested midfield.
The man of the match, however, goes to someone who has not even been mentioned yet.
There are some who have been saying that despite his histrionics (Arsenalist, I’m looking at you…), Jens Lehmann should be reinstated as he is simply the better keeper over what we have available. Such people are discounting the destabalising influence he is having over the dressing room, and the fact that Manuel Almunia is actually – dare I say it? – an outstanding keeper.
He showed the doubters today, with vital saves throughout both halves, and some developing signs that he’s growing a first-team swagger to his play. Credit to the Sungod, and long may his calming rays protect us.
After the game, Wenger accepted that a draw was the least Newcastle deserved, having fought for every ball and confronted Arsenal with a physical performance. Wenger said of his team:
“We didn’t create enough going forward. In the last ten minutes we had three or four situations where we didn’t get the advantage we should have got. We were not up to our usual game but we got a point that maybe we would not have got last year. We were forced to play that way and we didn’t find the resources to play our usual game.“
Criticisms are due after that performance – but it is far from the end of the world. A win at Middlesbrough (no guarantees, but it’s well within us) would see us accumulate 7 points from 3 away games, which is the minimum requirement of Champions. Not ideal, but not a disaster neither. In fact, some would say I’m being too critical even in saying that.
The only thing we have to hope for now is that our injuries start clearing up. Even Diaby down the left wing would improve a few things here and there.
Some small bits and bobs, as I really don’t have much time left: Nicklas Bendtner has been linked, astonishingly, with Chelsea for a deal rumoured to be within the £5-12m range. As much as I am aware, Wenger really does rate the Danish forward, and even were he to depart, it would not be to Chelsea.
Finally, those following our favourite Congolese forward, Tresor Mputu, may be glad to know that a deal may be confirmed as early as next Monday, bringing the player to Arsenal initially as a reserve player. Best of luck to him should that materialise, and here’s hoping to a rapid development into an accomplished player.
Chins up, Gooners. Top of the table by four points. Everyone else would want the same position. Flamini, Hleb and Fabregas cannot come back soon enough, though.