It was tough going last night. Tough for the lads on the pitch, tough for the traveling fans, no doubt, and tough for anyone who wasn’t subscribed to Setanta Sports as all the websites that usually stream the matches went down about 5 minutes before kick off. Just a bit suspicious, you’d have to say.
I ended up listening to BBC Radio London to a commentator who seemed to be practicing his stand-up material. Whether that had anything to do with how little was going on in the match I don’t know but I’d advise him not to give up the day job. Sparta came out rough and ready as we expected them to and picked up a flurry of yellow cards early on. No surprises that former West Ham man Repka got one but he got his when he injured himself in a tackle with Cesc who got booed by the crowd from then on. The much vaunted return home for Tomas Rosicky turned out to be rather a damp squib and I think, in all seriousness, I only heard his name once before half time.
It wasn’t until 20 minutes from time when we took the lead. Clichy intercepted in midfield, skipped past a couple of defenders and passed to Cesc who finished from inside the box. It’s good to see him get off the mark early this season – it’ll take some pressure off. We seemed to sit back a bit after that and when Rosicky (who left the field to warm applause from the home fans because of his history and the fact he was kind enough not to do anything to hurt them in the game) was replaced by Song we wobbled a bit according to the commentary. Jens made a couple of decent saves but was directly involved in our second. Claiming the ball from a Sparta corner he chucked it out to Sagna who broke down our left, got close to the box and played a nice pass to Alexander Hleb who finished very smartly past the keeper to make it 2-0.
That’s 2 goals in 2 games for Belarussian and if he keeps this form up he could beat Henry’s record in a mere 235 games, or something. In seriousness though it’s good to see some end product from him. It remains to be seen whether or not he can do it from the flank because surely when Adebayor and Eduardo are back we’ll play with two strikers again. Some players are good at being the lone striker but I’m not sure Robin van Persie is one of them. From what I gathered he was left a bit isolated and with too much to do and that’s understandable. He’s no Drogba-esque target man.
Still, 2 away goals and a clean sheet is a good result when you consider the players we had missing and bar an absolute disaster in the return leg it looks like Champions League football is on the agenda for this season. Arsene Wenger was happy with the result but wasn’t counting any chickens, saying:
The whole team has a resilience, they fight to the last second – and we have shown that again tonight when we scored the goal. At 2-0 we are not qualified. We know we have to keep on our toes. But the second goal was certainly a mental blow for them.
So we can certainly be happy – the only slight concern I had was the fact that with 20 minutes to go and still 0-0 our only options on the bench who might in any way change the game were the two teenagers, Walcott and Bendtner. I know we were missing Gilberto, Diaby, Eduardo, Adebayor and Denilson but I’d still like at least a winger to come in to give us something different. We have that up front with Bendtner who can blunderbus his way around the pitch but our collection of central midfielders and full backs playing on the wings aren’t really producing. It doesn’t look like it’ll be Pedersen as the manager denied making any sort of bid for him.
According to some people watching on Setanta last night Arsene said, in a pre-match interview, that his new contract could be signed within a matter of days. We’ll have to just wait and see what happens there.
So now we have to get ourselves ready for Blackburn on Sunday and one lucky Arseblog reader is going to get themselves a pair of tickets for the game. Thanks to everyone who entered and the answer to the question (Which former Arsenal player now plays for Blackburn?) was, of course, David ‘ave it’ Bentley. The RNG did its thing and the winner is Scotty Easen. I’ll be in touch with you this morning.
It was an interesting night in the Premier League last night. United’s start to the season is similar to ours last time around. They could only draw 1-1 with Portsmouth and lose Fake Ronaldo for three games after he was sent off. Chelsea came back from 1-0 down to beat Reading, Bolton lost (haha) to Fulham (aw) while Boro’s start to the season is consistent at least as they lost 1-0 to Wigan. Listening to BBC 5live last night a Boro fan phoned in and said Jeremie Aliadiere was ‘unbelievable’, in that he couldn’t believe how bad he was. Haha.
Right, that’s it. Busy morning. Until tomorrow and the Arsecast. G’luck.