Another win, that’s 11 in 12 games this season and 9 in a row, and another three points to put us in a very healthy position in our Champions League group. It may not have been the kind of flowing performance that has epitomised this season so far but it’s the kind of result a very good team can achieve even if they don’t hit the usual heights.
In the first half we had a couple of chances. Cesc somehow shot over from about 6 yards just after they had rightly had a goal ruled out for offside. They had a couple of long shots and we nearly went ahead when Clichy’s deflected cross was almost carried over the line by their keeper, prompting calls for goal line technology from the manager. In the second Kolo Toure headed away after Almunia had come a long way out of his goal when he didn’t really need to and Iacob might have done better with a chance not long before we scored.
The goal came from Robin van Persie, his 5th of the season, when Hleb played a nice ball to Adebayor who drove on, pulled the ball back and the Dutchman fired home in typically emphatic style. And that was all we needed to win it. A very good result away from home in a part of Europe we’ve had struggles in before. As I said the overall performance wasn’t the best of the season but that’s not to be critical in any way. You have to be able to win games when you don’t play particularly well and that’s something we seem to be able to do.
All action Flamini (new deal please) was very good again. He’s like a different player this season. Or the same player doing different and better things. Whatever it is I hope he keeps it up. He doesn’t quite know what it is either according to this article but he’s proving himself very important to this team. A word for Philippe Senderos too who put in the kind of performance we know he’s capable of but haven’t seen for a while. Let’s hope he can keep it up as well.
Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
It’s not just that we are winning the games, it also says a lot about the resolve of the team. The focus they had today shows there is something special in the team.
The special thing is an unwillingness to lose games like we lost games last season and they know they can always score. Defensively, for all the worries people might have, we’ve only conceded 4 goals all season (I think that’s right) so when you can always get one at the other end it makes your life that little bit easier. So we leave Europe behind and get back to league action on Sunday against Sunderland. More on that in the days ahead.
Onto other matters and Alisher Usmanov’s charm offensive has begun with interviews (having flown a number of journalists to meet him in Russia) in which he responds, vaguely, to the accusations made about by Craig Murray and others. The roly-poly part of Fat & Orange says:
People talk about me as an Uzbek businessman involved in narcotics and in a shady regime. It is beyond my dignity to respond to all these allegationsâ€‰.â€‰.â€‰.â€‰I donâ€™t even want to qualify what Mr Murray says about me. People like my parents could not bring up a gangster and racketeer.
Which is rather what you might expect him to say. The whole ‘Well, I won’t even dignify that with a response’ angle is rather well trodden by men who are in no place to make denials. I’m not suggesting that Mr Usmanov is one of those men, just that his clichÃ©d response won’t wash with a lot of people. There was also a fairly obvious warning to David Dein to not allow his personal relationship with the board affect Usmanov’s relationship with them. The problem is though that Dein can be as nice as pie but I don’t think that’s going to improve the board’s opinion of him or change their willingness to deal with him, especially as he’s no longer a shareholder. If things don’t go well Dein could find himself with a fat wallet but with no chance of ever being part of things at Arsenal again. This comment was particularly interesting:
What we heard about David Dein and the board at the outset of our Arsenal adventure and what we see now are two different pictures.
I wonder is there another substantial shareholder who understands exactly what Usmanov is driving at here. The reality of Dein’s influence and the picture he painted for his current and ex partners must be two very different things.
The FT reports that Usmanov wants the board to start paying dividends to shareholders. Now, a normal board of directors will pay dividends to shareholders. Arsenal have never paid directors anything other than salary and bonuses but Usmanov wants to take money out of the club having put nothing into it. He wants to be rewarded for simply being a shareholder, again putting paid to the idea that this man is somehow going to come in and throw money around like a generous old uncle. He’s hardly been a shareholder for a month and he wants dividends. The shareholders and board members who actually do all the hard work in the club don’t want that, don’t ask for it even though they’d be perfectly entitled to, so what on earth makes Usmanov think he’s in any place to make such demands?
He can talk about how much he admires Arsene Wenger and do his best to name our last double side (incorrectly) but it’s to me it’s all obviously PR trying to undo some of the damage done to him in the eyes of fans over the last few weeks. Fly some journalists out to Russia, give them a nice vodka lunch, give them the ‘I’m just misunderstood spiel, then wait for the nice articles to appear. Well, I didn’t get any nice vodka fucking lunch so they can shove it up their hole – and well done to the assorted hacks who went out there and didn’t ask any of the difficult questions. Where are the Tintins of our generation?
Now, thanks to everyone who entered the Cesc t-shirt competition with thanks to my good old friends at harderthansatan.com. The question asked which team Cesc scored his first Arsenal against and the correct answer was b) Wolves. Lots of people went for Rotherham but that was team against whom he made his debut.
The RNG did it’s work this morning and the winner is Anthony To. I’ll be in touch with you to get your address and a shirt size. Bad luck the rest of you. Watch out for more giveaways in the coming weeks.
And that’s your lot. More tomorrow.