Friday, 28 October 2011

Gunners triumph over Potters and Trotters

Arsenal’s win over Bolton on Tuesday ensured that they booked a place in the last eight of the League Cup for the ninth successive season. An initially impressive statistic that begins to look slightly less so when you also acknowledge that in that time we’ve actually gone on to win the bloody thing, er, zero times. Still, getting into the Fifth Round takes us one step closer and although there are numerous teams still in the competition that could trip us up (namely Chelsea, City, Liverpool and United), with the draw to be made at noon on Saturday, the performances so far have shown considerable quality from the youth team graduates and the more experienced players, and from faces old and new. That includes, for example, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s match-winning display against Shrewsbury and Ozzy Ozyakup’s encouraging cameos in both of the last two matches, along with demonstrations of craft and trickery from Andrey Arshavin and Yossi Benayoun over the ninety minutes against Bolton. Ju-Young Park similarly produced a finish of supreme quality to notch his first goal for the Gunners.

The midweek victory followed a Sunday afternoon home win against Stoke – the sixth from seven games – that also showed many encouraging signs from the team, and was arguably Arsenal’s best Premier League display of the season to date. Gervinho and Ramsey in particular were both outstanding, adding dynamism, directness and good linking play, although again the plaudits have to go to Robin van Persie. He is in such good goal-scoring form at the moment that it seems he could probably take to the pitch in a pair of clogs and still put the ball in the back of the net. At the beginning of the season some expressed doubts as to the wisdom of awarding a forward the captain’s armband – although it worked for both Thierry and Wrighty – but through his performances alone the Dutchman is inspiring and leading the team. One school of thought holds that his introduction from the bench and the resulting pair of goals demonstrated Arsene’s tactical astuteness, winning the game whilst giving RvP a well-earned rest for the majority of the match – and protecting his notoriously fragile ankles from the robust challenges that typify the Stoke approach to modern football. Another school of thought asserts that actually the substitution simply highlighted the team’s overwhelming reliance on our talismanic number ten and the inadequacy of our other centre-forwards – viz. the largely ineffectual Marouane Chamakh and the fact that Wenger seemed again unwilling to commit Ju-Young Park to the cause, as the Korean remained firmly rooted to the bench. Either way, van Persie’s 24-minute display was an attacking masterclass which delighted the Emirates and illuminated his efficacy of movement and superb understanding of positioning in the box, culminating in a fine brace that beat Asmir Begovic through a deadly combination of speed and power – the Stoke ‘keeper got hands to both but was unable to adjust sufficiently to parry either shot.

The two victories surely herald further signs of upward progress – not least another three points to take Arsenal seventh in the league, a mere three points adrift of Sp*rs in fifth, and also still in contention for the three-handled jug, the first silverware of the season. Things are looking up then? Well, maybe. Only the most hysterically optimistic Gooners would ignore the more worrying traits that the team still shows at frequent intervals: individual inconsistency (Walcott, Arshavin), lack of focus at key moments (Stoke’s equaliser from, predictably, a set piece, being a case in point) and regularly exposing a still fragile defence being the weaknesses that are most often cited. However, Arsenal are looking increasingly confident and more fluent, and there is a consensus that the new signings – certainly those in attacking positions – do look to be adding a different dimension to the Gunners.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think, Gooners?