Almunia World-Class as Arsenal Tear a Strip off of Chelsea

The traditional scoreline will always smile sweetly on Arsenal.

Arsenal came through so many tests last night, one would think proving yourself had gone out of fashion. A William Gallas header on the stroke of half-time following a Petr Cech blunder may be all that seperated these two teams last night, but there was a definite margin of quality between The Gunners and Chelsea, assuredly.

I’m far too ill to give a full match report – must have picked something sinister up from the bar – but a player review is definitely in order. The match answered so many critics on several counts, that the fact we beat Chelsea is almost neglected in satisfaction.

Simply put, any bleating from Chelsea over the result is papering over many cracks. Arsenal thoroughly outplayed their opponents in large spells of the game – keeping possession for hilariously long periods at times. Chelsea were dangerous at times, and had their opportunities to score (bar for some brilliant work from Almunia) – but they were always playing a neutered game with Terry’s injury and Flamini’s cancelling out of Lampard.

Poor health on my part dictates that we’ll get straight into the Third-Gen ratings, as follows:

  • Sagna – 7.5: Joe and Ashley Cole had never had it so tough. Robust in the challenge, and a real obstacle in Chelsea’s path.
  • Gallas – 8: Picked his team up and kicked them up the backside in equal measure. Scored a captain’s goal when we required it, and played the perfect match against his old side.
  • Toure – 7: The usual Kolo-standard – rock solid in his surveying of the defence.
  • Clichy – 7: Quality running from out of defence, and covered his flank well most of the time.
  • Eboue – 7: Genuinely dangerous forays into Chelsea territory early on, with less histrionics – a good performance before getting stretchered off.
  • Flamini – 7.5: Has never been gone – harried Lampard into anonymity, and Mikel wished he were somewhere else.
  • Fabregas – 7: A good return from his injury, still showing much of his authority in midfield. Some passes were going astray, but linked up our counter attacks from defence well.
  • Rosicky – 8: One of his best performances this season. Took no nonsense from Joe Cole, fighting for the ball and bursting past him with furious commitment. Dangerous on the break.
  • Hleb – 6.5: Rusty at times, which was to be expected. Had moments where the ball was glued to his feet, but weary in the tackle. This should improve after a few matches back in.
  • Adebayor – 8: Floated like a butterfly in the air all night. His jumping for the ball was magical almost all of the time, and was a danger running with the ball and receiving it.
  • SUBSTITUTES: van Persie – 6: Came on with some rowdy applause from the pub-denizens, and looked dangerous. Still quite rusty, but the way he slots in from the bench is encouraging.
  • Gilberto – 6: Came on and did his job without fuss – clearly winning with a clean sheet indicates this much.
  • Bendtner – N/A: Replaced Adebayor right at the end to chew up some time.
  • Almunia – 9: I’ve left him ’til last – a masterful performance from the Sungod, answering those who have called for Lehmann’s return (wrongfully, very wrongfully) emphatically. Excellent save off of Shevchenko’s free kick, and smart catch saves that caught the breath.

And Almunia really must get mentioned once more. There are those (Myles, anybody?) who have gone on about Almunia being the ‘white elephant’ of the group, and how the Spaniard would never win us points like Lehmann would.

To that, I say he’s at least won us 2 points, if not 3. The same point he won us at Anfield, and the same two-to-three points he won at Tottenham. Wenger’s faith in the Sungod has been more than justified, and Almunia, for me, gets Man of the Match by a country mile – as well as the outfielders played, all considered.

That’s really all I am physically capable of writing tonight. For Wenger’s views on the match and the tasty tidbit that Lassana Diarra is well and truly fed up with life at Arsenal (already), go here and here.

Savour the win – who knows what other ‘tests’ the media will cook up for us having to pass; we’ll just keep passing them.

God, it’s good to beat Chelsea. Really good…



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11 responses to “Almunia World-Class as Arsenal Tear a Strip off of Chelsea

  1. milkified

    A sweet victory over Chelsea. It’s enough to justify how good Arsenal are until today. However it’s just December with arch rival ManU a point behind, any slip will do us no good. Keep up the good work and lets proves the critics wrong. Show then that Arsenal are up for the title challenge. Arsenal ROX!!!

  2. Af

    I find it rather amazing to see how most British writers have conveniently side track the issue of the Referees performance in the Arsenal-Chelsea match. To say the least, he was appalling and patently biased.

    Watch the match from almost 7000 miles away, I am happy that our football league do not have to suffer people like.. what was his name?

    The over-ridding powers of bad referring should be checked with more than a threat of suspension, but also dismissal at half-time

  3. Matthew

    I agree, the referee was extremely biased.
    However, it shows how far we’ve come that we can beat Chelsea despite the Russians having the referee firmly on their side.

  4. Stuart

    Is it true that Lampard pushed one of the ball boys and one of the arsenal players had a go at him??

  5. I was at the game last night and i have to say that i was absolutely bemused by the performance of Alan Wiley. He was phenomenally inept and certainly biased against Arsenal all game long. Thank God for the result though.
    What a sweet 1-0 victory to the Arsenal inspite of the referee clearly been swayed by external forces!!

  6. Your mention of being in the bar probably explains the way you rated Almunia.Maybe he was adjusting for the non-existent swerve on the ball when he looked an idiot trying to save a Shevenko shot.
    Apart from that he was adequate but there is absolutely no doubt that he is AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN.

  7. Bergkamp's the man

    I’m not a big fan of Almunia either, Brian. But he had a very good game yesterday so it should be alright to give him credit. 9 is a tad high though. I don’t think Wiley was bad because he was biased, I think he was bad because he was bad. The second disallowed goal was a terrible decision nobody can follow.

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  9. Howard

    Agree I’ve been one of Almunia’s critics don’t get me wrong; he was excellent. The only day he won a game for us while refree Wiley was doing everything to take the match away from us.

    Before then, I’ve not been impressed with Almunia. He’s been average in most of our matches. Flopped seriously against Spurs, Bucharest away and Manu. Hopefully this is the turn of events for him.

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  11. i’m not sure Almunia was a 9 and Clichy was at least 8! He was MOM wasn’t he?


    for another opinion