And yesterday saw us win our first trophy of the new season with a 2-1 win over Inter Milan. Excellent.
We were pretty good yesterday, I thought, though it did look for a while (well, for 3 minutes in the end) that we were going to suffer from yet again not taking chances despite all the possession. It really is frustrating sometimes, isn’t it?
First half we were much better than against PSG. The stats at the end of the half made pretty good reading, with us having had something like 8 shots to Inter’s 1. The scoreline though, was 0-0.
The defence was good; Kolo and Gallas unflustered – not that they had much reason to be flustered – and Hoyte and Sagna were solid enough and got involved well. Sagna played pretty well and looked much more at home than the day before.
We looked better in midfield too. Surprise of the day was Kieran Gibbs starting on the left side and he did very well. He didn’t look remotely uncomfortable, supported the attack well and tracked back too. Impressive. Despite looking a bit slight, he was up for the challenge physically too.
And I’m going to say it: Eboue was really quite good on the right wing. He drew three yellow cards from Inter players (and not even through absurd diving either; he made sure the ref knew about it alright, but they were fouls, even if he went looking for them). The one for Materazzi was hilarious. I dunno what Materazzi was thinking, but Eboue was heading nowhere but the touchline with the ball running away from him so he kicked it forward, looking for the tackle and Materazzi slid straigt in, taking Eboue with him. Moron. Good to hear the boos for him. So, Eboue for right wing? Well, he does look more dangerous there than he does at full back (where he’s dangerous in defence too) and I thought he and Sagna linked up quite well. I dunno, maybe.
Central midfield was unfussy too, with Flamini anchoring and Cesc playing the more creative role, as usual. Despite what you’d have thought was a more defensive role, Flamini does get forward very well.
Up front was interesting. Hleb started in a supporting role with Robin Van Persie playing up front on his own, and some of the interplay between the two was excellent. One move where Hleb stepped over the pass and left it to Robin was sublime and ended with a good strike that he couldn’t quite bend round the keeper. Hleb gave the ball away a few times but he was twisting and turning and played well. Robin had a few free kicks too, one almost from the byline which the keeper had to parry. Another move involving Gibbs and Flamini was almost perfection, and if the shot had been anywhere other than straight at the keeper it was a goal.
Second half was more of the same, but there’s nowhere other to start than at the end with Van Persie’s goal which won us the game and the tournament. Put through by Eboue, and covered by their full back and centre back, he scored the sort of individual goal for which he’s getting a bit of a reputation. To summarise, he sold the defender a dummy, carrying the ball back with it somehow stuck to his left foot and then smashed it in high at the near post with his right, almost in one movement. Toldo had no chance. It was very special and if you haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure it’ll be on Youtube soon enough. It wasn’t even his stronger foot.
He was unlucky with another couple of chances. He could’ve/should’ve got a penalty when he was barged off the ball by Chivu (I think) on the penalty spot, and he got onto a lovely driven cross from Hleb via Sagna which Toldo saved well. He had a really good game and you could tell from his post match interview that he was delighted. It was really nice to hear his positive comments about the team spirit in the dressing room and “playing the Arsenal way” after the game. He’s a big, big talent with a great attitude on the pitch too. I love the fire about him – it reminds me of Dennis. Let’s hope he can step up.
That said, more generally, it looked like we were going to see the same old story from last season where despite all the possession and shots, we were going to lose to the opposition’s only chance on goal. Coming against the run of play, they scored a fairly standard header in off the post which Gallas might’ve done better to prevent.
Three minutes later though, Hleb got the equaliser. Sagna cut the ball back and Hleb hit his strike straight at Toldo, who parried back to Hleb, who put it back across goal from a difficult angle. It was good reward for him, and Toldo pounding the floor in anger afterwards was funny.
Other than that, the second half carried on much as it had in the first, with us having most of the possession. Eboue was still very dangerous, and played really well with Sagna, who fitted in much better. On the other side, Hoyte did well enough and Kieran Gibbs continued to impress until he was substituted, when he got a deserved standing ovation.
So, first silverware of the season. Not bad to start with. Be nice if it was May and that trophy was a bit bigger, but that’d be to get carried away. Figo had a good chance just after Robin had scored which he was unlucky to head wide. It was a good win, a good performance, and certainly confidence building, but we’ve got to start putting the chances away. The stats at the end of the game were crazy – 14 shots vs 1 to us or something. Against Inter Milan. Not bad, even if it was a friendly, they were lacking fitness and a lot of their first team. It was encouraging.
Oh, and in the other game, PSG beat Valencia 3-0, scoring some nice goals and playing some very nice stuff. PSG had a player with a Mr T mohican. I think Kolo should get a mohican.
I do like these pre-season tournaments. One more blog from me tomorrow, I think, and then Blogger shall resume normal service on Wednesday.