I said yesterday that the United game would tell us a lot about this team and this squad and it did. It told us that they’re capable of playing good football but I think we knew that already. It told us that they’re not scared by the big occasion, that they have the mental strength to get over missing a penalty at a ground where we haven’t won for 312 years, it told us that Adebayor can do a job for us despite what a lot of people, myself included, have thought, it told us that Tomas Rosicky is a player who can make this team tick and it told us that the Arsenal we all hoped was lurking under the surface of the first three games is the Arsenal we hoped.
Performance wise I think we’d have taken a 0-0 heading into the last ten minutes. There was a lot to be encouraged about and if we didn’t win at least it looked as if we weren’t going to lose. Then Cesc robbed Cristiano Ronaldo in midfield, took it forward, got a lucky break, sold a defender a dummy and slipped a beautifully weighted ball for Adebayor to poke it home under the keeper. In my opinion Cesc hadn’t had his best game for us by a long shot but there’s nobody else in the team who could have made that pass. As much as you leave on a star striker in the hope he’ll score a goal from nothing you have to leave on the midfielder who can create a goal from nothing.
Adebayor certainly deserved the goal too. He ran his socks off, won a penalty and had a number of efforts on goal including a header cleared off the line, a powerful shot not too far over and one fairly tame effort in the second half when he might have done better but he got his reward in the end.
Although United had some chances I thought we were better than them all over the pitch. At the back we were excellent but Eboue does need to work on his positioning. We got caught once or twice because of him and Jens Lehmann’s save with his face from Ronaldo came about because of that. Kolo in particular was so strong and so committed. I love watching him, he just has this ‘I will not be beaten’ look to his face at times. He’s steadily becoming one of the best centre halves in the world.
In midfield we had way too much for them. I thought Hleb was very good and I’d have taken the quieter Freddie off instead of him. Gilberto’s passing wasn’t great but that’s not why he’s in the team. Defensively he was brilliant, mopping up, shielding the defence and he was unlucky to slip while taking the penalty. Cesc, as I said above, wasn’t quite up to his usual high standards but nonetheless he was vital to the win and Rosicky looks like such a clever, energetic player, willing to shoot and he loves to get forward. He could be the perfect replacement for Pires. Baptista came on late and he looks big, direct and powerful and he had one excellent shot flash just wide.
I’ve already spoken about Adebayor so it’s only Jens that we need to talk about. I have to say he is without a doubt my favourite ever Arsenal goalkeeper. He made a couple of good stops in the first half, including Ronaldo’s rocket which knocked him senseless, but he commanded his area and provided the assurance that any defence needs. Then after we’d gone one up he made one of the best saves I have ever seen from Solskjaer’s shot. It came through a sea of legs and was heading for the bottom corner but he got fingertips to it to push it wide when I was just waiting for the net to bulge. A really awesome save, you just had to see Solksjaer’s look of disbelief afterwards. He made another good stop from Wes Brown not long afterwards. He’s a legend.
Overall a fantastic team performance and just what we needed. Defeat really was unthinkable and this will instill the belief in the team that they can go and get big results away from home. It almost feels like we’ve broken down a bit of a barrier or some kind of mental block. I shudder to think about what a loss would have done and I didn’t want to speak about it on the blog for fear of jinxing us but I think everybody at the club knew how important three points were and that was reflected in the performance. If anyone has doubts about the spirit in the dressing room then they have surely been dispelled now because that was not eleven individuals out there, it was a proper team fighting for each other. It was great to see.
On the back of the Champions League win we’re building some momentum and momentum is good. Afterwards Arsene Wenger said the aim of the team was to win the title. He said:
I believe in my team and I believe we have a chance to win the championship. I don’t feel we are in transition. We are very ambitious. We want to win the championship and I believe we can. This has to be my best win over United at Old Trafford and one that sends out the right signals to everyone
And goalscorer Adebayor felt the win would lift the confidence of the team, saying:
We were looking forward to our first win. We are happy and the confidence is coming back. We showed we have a good team.
I liked his interview I have to say. He came across very well in it, his nod to Henry and van Persie was nice and it was funny the way he was asked a question then just spoke at about 150 miles per hour until he felt he’d said enough then stopped, heh.
It is funny what a difference a good result like that can make. I think most of us had questions about the team based on the first three games of the season and while it would be foolish to say one win makes everything all right it certainly puts a nice shine on things and they’ve shown us what they’re capable of. It’s good to write a blog like this one rather than trying to analyse where things have gone wrong or how unlucky we’ve been.
A nice way to start the week, eh?!