Smash n’ Grab – Just What The Professor Ordered!

October 20, 2011 by   Filed under: Arsenal FC, Champions League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Well, if that wasn’t exactly what was needed I am unsure what was!

Marseille presented tonight’s test and, in truth, they seemed happy to spend most of the match playing very defensive football and hoping to catch us on the break. This is not a new tactic against Arsenal and, as has proved in the past, one that tends to be quite frustrating for our players resulting in heads dropping and lapses in concentration which have a habit of lead to some quite horrible consequences.

Wenger chose Rosicky over Ramsey, probably a choice guided by fitness and experience as much as anything else and Arshavin got the nod over Gervinho, but aside from this, we saw the team that we expected to with Santos and Jenkinson filling the wide berths alongside Mertesacker and Koscielny in the centre of defence, Arteta and Song in the centre of midfield with Walcott and Van Persie completing the line-up.

With the fairly defensive set-up of Marseille, the game was always going to be a testing affair and so it proved with neither side really creating a great deal in the first 45 minutes, although both teams had reason to feel a touch aggrieved after two fairly stand-out penalty claims. One in only the 14th minute when Jenkinson appeared to handle the ball without any real need to do so and plenty of time to get the offending mitt out of the way, and a second shout for Arsenal when, in the 21st minute a corner hit the outstretched hand of Diarra before Van Persie attacked the ball, looping it over the stranded Mandanda in the Marseille goal, only for Diarra to then be the one to clear the ball off the line.

How the referee missed the handball is frankly beyond me as the white ball hitting the black glove of Diarra was surely an easy spot?! But then again, if we had been given that penalty, things might have turned out differently in the end…And that could possibly be the worst thing that could have happened!

What ACTUALLY happened was this…

Arsenal went in at half-time looking frustrated and not a little lacklustre. Marseille had stuck to their task of ensuring that we did not score well as well as looking vaguely dangerous on the counterattack too. Coming out for the second half it was obvious that some magic words had been spoken in the Arsenal dressing room and, not for the first time this season, the break seemed to give us new impetus and an altogether more interesting sense of urgency. There were less of the long hopeful balls to the frontmen that we had seen in the first half and a good degree more purpose and poise in midfield with Rosicky and Arteta really starting to run a tidy shop whilst Song started to push a little further forward. Risky in parts, but effective until the last third of the field where, once again, we flattered to deceive seeing the lion’s share of possession but creating little of note aside from Walcott getting into the box but finding Mandanda up to the task from a tight angle on the edge of the six-yard box.

The old worries began to creep in again and when, in the 62nd minute, we were to be denied any further viewing of the seemingly boundless energy of young Carl Jenkinson (excellently compared to a young Pat Rice by ‘Holic Thanks for that ‘Holic, I actually hadn’t drawn the comparison but you are quite correct 🙂) who went off with a potentially nasty knee injury, hearts must have been fluttering at the sight of Johan Djourou once again on a football pitch in an Arsenal shirt! In fairness to Djourou, he actually stepped up well enough, covering the right hand side of the defence ably enough and getting a yellow card for a challenge that is one of the finest I have ever seen him make!

I have my fingers crossed the injury Jenkinson picked up is not too bad as we can ill afford it with our current injury list and, of equal importance, I am sure we will have to hear from a raft of “supporters” about how Wenger should have bought Richards, Miguel, Alves AND Zambrotta in the transfer window as well as coaxing Gary Neville out of retirement and that his failure to achieve all of the signings is simply an oversight on his part and further proof of his ineptitude and inability to run a football club with any degree of competency! The news coming from the Arsenal camp thus far is that he over-extended his knee and will undergo some tests tomorrow. That said, there doesn’t seem to be the usual panic surrounding this particular injury that we tend to see, so with any luck he will fit and playing again in the very near future.

So, a fairly insipid second half began to unfold, unaided by the french side becoming less and less willing to actually play any sort of attacking football at all. Lots of old habits and worrying habits began to surface. A constant air of impatience from the Arsenal players seeing more and longer balls thrown up towards Van Persie in the hopes that he would pull another magical rabbit out of his shorts coupled with plenty of possession but little end product were compounded by Marseille looking more and more like they would settle for a point thus parking more and more of the bus in front of their goal seemed destined to provide a 0-0 draw and, whilst not a disaster by any means, not the confidence-boosting, spirit-lifting, corner-turning win that we really could have done with. Clearly something needed to be changed if we were going to get the three precious points. Step in Arsene Wenger, the hopeless tactician infamous for having no “Plan B”!

On 67 minutes the entrance of Gervinho in place of Walcott who, to be fair, did get kicked to the ground almost every time he got the ball in anything like a dangerous position, although his crossing was an utter disgrace, upstaged totally in this area by Jenkinson, saw the injection of a new dimension to the attacking play. Good close control with the ball and a willingness to run into the channels without it, thus making himself available for a simple pass – something that we had been lacking desperately at times in the previous hour – gave Marseille a little more to think about whilst also spreading the play across to the wings once again, somewhere we had spent little quality time in the hour or so prior to his introduction.

The third substitution and second of a tactical nature came when, on 78 minutes, Arshavin was replaced by Ramsey who, whilst everybody surely expected Rosicky to move out to the left and leave Ramsey in the centre, seemed to have been given a fairly roaming brief, popping up on the edge of the box, the right, the left and in the defensive midfield slot when Song pushed forwards.

And it was the pair of Gervinho and Ramsey that finally broke Marseille’s and Deschamps’ hearts and filled ours with a joy and almost unbelievable relief that has been missing for a while now!

I know that being an Arsenal fan is a dramatic life and I know that sometimes we would all just prefer some run of the mill, old school wins, but in truth there are times when a touch of the extreme is what we really need to give everybody that “jolt” to take things forward.

And that “jolt” is exactly what we got!

With the referee adding a mere 3 minutes of extra time even after 5 substitutions and a decent stoppage for the injury to Jenkinson, it appeared that a point each would be the outcome and probably a fair one at that. In the 91st minute Van Persie found himself free in the penalty area after a lovely through ball from Gervinho, but when Mandanda proved to be up to the task of stopping him, there was an obvious sense that the last chance of the game had gone by…

…but that wouldn’t be very dramatic, very exciting, very ARSENAL, now would it?!

In the 92nd minute Djourou put in a cross from almost the halfway line that, whilst dangerous, whizzed across the back of Van Persie and a little too far behind Gervinho for him to control the ball. However, his inability to get the ball down would provide to be what may turn out to be one of the most important, though accidental, assists of our season as, right on cue and advancing like an unstoppable train in Arshavin’s position on the left of the penalty area appeared Aaron Ramsey. Collecting the ball cleanly he moved into the box unchallenged and, fooling the goalkeeper into believing that his shot was going across him into the far corner, kept his head and rifled it just inside the near post.

A moment of calm in the eye of the storm from a player who many seem to forget is still only 20 years old and has spent a year of his career in the treatment room after being “Shawcrossed”.

To be honest, I almost couldn’t cheer, at least for a few moments, such was the shock of us actually doing the unthinkable…Pulling off a win in the dying seconds rather than throwing away a lead and, above all, proving that we can “win ugly” too!

There are moments in a season at which you can look back and say “that is where it all went wrong” or “that was the moment that turned things around”. It is too soon to claim that we are past the hump or even ready to mount a challenge on any front, but if the lads needed a big old helping of pick me up, this could well have been it.

All in all this was not the bad performance that the media is already presenting it as. We defended well apart from one or two “moments” that happen to most teams in the course of 90 minutes of football. Koscielny put in a standout shift and was my man of the match whilst Mertesacker again looked like he will just continue to improve until he explodes! We controlled the midfield for the most part with Arteta looking lively and available and Rosicky looking fitter with each passing game and continuing to show why Wenger didn’t choose to let him go when so many said that he should. Van Persie was excellent again, causing numerous problems for the Marseille centre back partnership of Diawara and N’Koulou although the service he received, or didn’t in truth, left much to be desired. Most importantly of all, we kept going until the very last minute, literally, and got the reward that deserved.

After the match Arsene Wenger had this to say on the subject of our late, late show:

“We left it very late but we had a difficult start. We lost some balls in the first half due to the fact Marseille pressed us well.

They didn’t find their fluency but in the second half we took over and I don’t think Marseille were dangerous at all [after half-time]. Marseille defended very well but you could see in the last 15 minutes we created some chances and were rewarded because we kept going and got an important victory.

I felt like we needed to be patient and intelligent. You could see our midfield had experience – we didn’t make stupid mistakes and we didn’t play stupid balls. It’s an important win but you take any win away from home in the Champions League.

We lost two points in Dortmund in the last seconds of the game. We lost a Champions League Final in the last part of the game with 10 men. We are not always lucky but when you face good opposition you need to take your chances.

He is, of course, absolutely right on all counts, but I think there is also another important point worth making here – When Manchester United win ugly in the last minute of extra time it is due to their dogged determination and how that is the stuff of champions.

Let’s hope that this provides exactly the boost that was needed to go out against Stoke on Sunday and show them a performance of champions too!

And on that note I bid you farewell!

Come on you top of Champions League Group F Goooonnnnneeerrrrssss!

Comments

13 Comments on "Smash n’ Grab – Just What The Professor Ordered!"

  1. SANCHEZ on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 12:59 am 

    WIN UGLY ?….I THINK I CAN DO 30 OF THAT FOR THIS SEASON

  2. Shaun O'Flaherty on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 1:03 am 

    @SANCHEZ:

    I think that there are a lot of fellow Gooners out there, myself included, that agree with you 100%!

    3 points are 3 points and right now we cannot afford to get anyhing else!

    Let’s just hope that they don’t forget how they did this against Chelsea who, if we can keep Rameires and Mata out of the game, will probably play a similar system to the one played by Marseille tonight. Fingers and toes crossed!

  3. meaner on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 2:58 am 

    Sack Wenger! Where is the noise now?

  4. Shaun O'Flaherty on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 4:16 am 

    @meaner:

    Don’t worry, 1 defeat and 5 wins in our last 6 games, top of our Champions League group, moving up the table and yet the knives will be out again unless we thrash Stoke by about 5 clear goals on Sunday!

    It is such a shame that so few of the “fans” these days remember what it was really like to be a Gooner!!!

  5. kenyangunner on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 6:38 am 

    I was watching the game in a ghetto in Nairobi, and I gave such a shout to that moment of magic by Ramsey till the neighbours awoke.
    Even here in Kenya we have the fake fans that I advice to support Chelsea or M.City if they cant be loyal to the Royal Arsenal:)
    Forward.

  6. Shaun O'Flaherty on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 6:59 am 

    @kenyangunner:

    Hey there kenyan! Good to see you again 🙂

    As for the neighbours, well, I have some that just look at me a little strqangely for a couple of days after every gme! A times they must think that I am actually dying of something!

    As for the plastics, good work mate! Chelsea need more “fans”!!!!!

  7. SA Gunner on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 8:08 am 

    I swear I almost dived right through my flat screen tv trying jump for Rambo to give him a big hug hahaha! I think we need a transfer window for fans. We need to transfer a lot of dead wood gooners out of the arsenal lol!

  8. Joojo on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 9:01 am 

    I was watching the game via internet on my phone,and when the goal came in 90^+,i shouted so hard that the chelsea fan around could not believe it until the highlights on the t.v was shown.

  9. jakartagooner on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 9:29 am 

    @kenyagunner:
    strange…
    the exact same thing happened to me
    i scream from the top of my lung
    until i realised, fuck, it’s 4.05 am in jakarta
    almost everybody has fallen asleep at the time
    i wonder how many gooner doing the same thing
    or how many just stood there, shocked, speechless until final whistle
    just like the author

  10. kenyangunner on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 1:17 pm 

    Let us hope for the best now against the rugby team we play next, Stoke the Stinkers:)

  11. Shaun O'Flaherty on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 3:25 pm 

    @SA Gunner:

    What a flaming great idea! A transfer window…We could throw them through!!!

    @Joojo: To be fair, the Chelsea fans had enough to think about counting their own goals going in!

    @jakartagooner:

    What a multinational set of readers we have…And with SUCH loud voices 🙂

  12. ArthurTheGooner on Thu, 20th Oct 2011 4:24 pm 

    Shaun and all thanks to your brilliant writing skills Maestro!

  13. Shaun O'Flaherty on Fri, 21st Oct 2011 12:50 am 

    @ArthurTheGuvnor!

    And just as much down to your great site management fella!

    Thank you so much for your help, support and faith. Means a LOT!

Leave Comment