Sunday Funday…

Once question asked by the papers today was... and I quote:

Has this victory put Arsenal back in the title race or has it just papered over some of the problems in the side?

It’s a valid question, but if we can win against Manchester United and have such a high work rate, precision passing and take our chances when we have then (well, not in the last 30 mins), they of course we have a chance. But consistency will be the key. We’ve got Wigan in the Carling Cup, surely Van Persie and Vela will have to play up front? Then Aston Villa at the Emirates on the weekend and it’s a must win game against the Midlands club. We’re still 6 points behind Chelsea and Liverpool, and in reality, we have a lot of work to do.

Arsene’s been reflecting on the game and he’s been speaking about the spirit of the players.

“I didn’t doubt the spirit of my players. I acknowledged that we made some mistakes, especially against Tottenham, but I never questioned the spirit, quality or ability to play for the championship.

“There is only one thing in our job and that is to go on the football pitch and show how much you want it, show quality on the pitch – and spirit – and that is what we did. I believe above all today it was a fantastic football game because both teams played with the right spirit.”

One thing which was clear, is that yesterday’s game was a spectacle that the Premiership can be proud of.

I’ll keep it short today, as tomorrow, we’ve got an in-depth Carling Cup preview.

But just enough time to announce the best commenter of the month for October…

And the winner is a previous winner and it goes to the September winner…. Kieran Delaney.

It’s been a tremendous effort from all the readers of the World of Arsenal, the comments have been brilliant, a really good forum for discussion and some really good (and not so good) opinions flying around. We’ve had many new commenters, and it’s been brilliant. Something I regular tune into during the day to discuss and read the opinions of our readers.

The award is judged on a mix of things (and not judged by me… I’m too close to the subject matter) including factual discussion, passionate discussion, regular commenting and respect to other commenters. So well done this month and let’s the comments continue!

It’s going to be an excited week this week, the mood is better that it has been for a while…

Come on you Gooners!]]>

  • Dan

    < ![CDATA[This is my biggest fear. That it was papering over the cracks. I still see us dropping too many points, against all types of opposition. From West Ham to Chelsea i don't really fancy our chances. It will take a while for the wounds of Spurs to heal, and of course Stoke twisting the dagger. This weekend was a great start to the healing process, but we are no where near home and dry yet.

    We are going to have to put up a monumental effort to win this league. No more silly points lost im afraid or things will become unrecoverable.

    Lets get Eduardo fit, he can shake things up a lot. A fox in the box, a calm and collected poacher... perfect! Can't wait for him.]]>

  • Dan

    Oh and congratulations Kieran :)

  • vinashin

    < ![CDATA[First of all, I have to first congratulate United for playing good football.

    It is refreshing to play an accomplished, footballing side; for a change. United came and passed, were slick in off the ball movement, Park was immense and with better finishing, the result could have been different.

    (Of course Arsenal's finishing was wasteful as well, Walcott and Bendtner especially.)

    Good chances on both sides, good natured match with both sides competing fairly, good cut and thrust and pace, missed penalty shouts on both teams, and all in all, cracking match.

    United lost the match, but football won. Arsenal can play with and beat anyone if they come out and play football.

    However, United must feel snake bitten as Arsenal were in NO WAY at full strength. United fans have to know this. Look, both teams side by side and you lost to a side who played a forward line of Bendtner and Diaby! Ouch. And the much-maligned Denilson (by outsiders mind you) was brilliant.

    The one hole I see in United is in the center of the park. Carrick is and was shocking. United, as much as the Arsenal, need a beast in the middle like a Yaya, and would Sir Alex have the balls to play Rooney at the attacking mid, where I believe he'd flourish?

    For Arsenal, United's lack of central midfield covered our lack in the middle. United's lack of an aerial attack today meant they could not trouble our weakness in the back.

    Cracking display from young Nasri. My goodness if we could ever get Eduardo back to any sort of the form he had before his horrific injury, watch out.]]>

  • abbey

    < ![CDATA[This is an excellent article from today's Times by Martin Samuel.

    He sums up what most of us think, that for all the good kids coming through at the club, if only we could add two or three experienced players to make us more consistent and proper title challengers!

    From The Times
    November 10, 2008

    Victory raises more questions than answers for Arsene Wenger

    It is unfathomable that Wenger does not put the finishing touches to the talents he has by enlisting more experienced players

    by Martin Samuel

    It was a good result. A mighty good result. But does it now justify every move Arsène Wenger has made in the four seasons since Arsenal last won the Premier League title? Of course not. If there was a genuine challenger from outside the elite four, Arsenal would still be the most vulnerable of that quartet this season. Indeed, the reality is that for all Wenger’s avowed devotion to his young players, what is setting Arsenal apart right now is 11 straight seasons of Champions League football starting in 1998-99.

    This enables them to give top-dollar contracts to world-class players such as Emmanuel Adebayor and pay £12.7 million for the forward who won the game on Saturday, Samir Nasri. Aston Villa could not get near to signing either man. There is the difference.

    Wenger’s expenditure may be dwarfed by that available to the manager at Manchester United or Chelsea, but his resources married to his skill as a manager and an ethos his club have supported for more than a decade, are enough to keep the chasing pack at bay and further indulge his commitment to youth.

    “Arsène knows” is a favourite saying around certain parts of North London and, because he does, he will be well aware that rising to the occasion against United like the upmarket equivalent of a plucky underdog is no replacement for real achievement. Arsenal are without a league trophy since 2004 and have few supporters as future champions in this campaign.

    So, in the circumstances, Wenger will also know that one win against United is no more significant than one defeat by Stoke City, no matter the hyperbole prematch. Those toasting Saturday’s victory as if crisis had been averted – and this includes Wenger – are as misguided as the ones who were itching to start work on his obituary after losing the previous game. There is a reason Wenger asks to be judged at the end of the season. It is the whole that matters and all Saturday’s result confirmed is what the rest of us know: that a team with tremendous potential exists at Arsenal. We also know their youthfulness can lead to inconsistency; and that they are a class apart from the teams beyond the top four, but may lack the experience to win the league.

    The criticism directed at Wenger comes not because his ideas are unworthy but because, when the Arsenal board say he has money to spend and could even pay £30 million for one player, few understand why he does not pick a target and attempt to put the finishing touches to a team that could then match any rival in Europe stride for stride. In that way, beating United will raise as many questions as answers, particularly if Arsenal go on to complete a fifth season without a league trophy.

    With no competitor coming through, perhaps the time Wenger’s philosophy will be truly tested is in next season’s Champions League, if Arsenal finish fourth and have to prequalify against an equivalent team from one of Europe’s big leagues. It is a puzzle.

    When the tingle from this result subsides, the extent of Wenger’s vindication will depend on whether one feels Arsenal are worth more than the prize for best turned out, and on whether a manager who once went a season unbeaten is settling for an unquantifiable reputation as the defender of the beautiful game. He previously had that, and more.

    We all believe that Arsène knows: what cannot be believed is that he is comfortable offering no further proof of this presumption.]]>

  • abbey

    < ![CDATA[A win over Manchester United is always satisfying but for Arsene Wenger and our players to do it in the manner they did on Saturday was wonderful. The result and the performance was as good as an Arsenal supporter could ask for while the game as a spectacle was more than any football fan in the world could have expected. It was brilliant stuff and both sets of players and their managers should be congratulated for playing in such a positive manner.

    From an Arsenal perspective it’s no exaggeration to say that this could turn out to be the defining match of our season. And what a match it turned out to be.

    The starting side with was exactly the same as the one I predicted on Friday. Manuel Almunia returned in goals behind an all-French back four of Bacary Sagna, William Gallas (C), Mikael Silvestre and Gael Clichy. The return of Gallas to the side was a huge factor in the win. He was inspirational on the day as he won headers and tackles and barked instructions at the team around him. It was wonderful to see.

    The manager went for a five-man midfield with Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri on the wings and Denilson shielding the back four to allow Cesc Fabregas and particularly Abou Diaby to push forward and support lone ranger Nicklas Bendtner up top. It proved to be the right move as Nasri scored two goals and Fabregas and Diaby caused all sorts of problems attacking from the middle.

    This was a game of many chances, the first coming after just 90 seconds when Michael Carrick fired wide after Almunia handled a nervous Silvestre back-pass. This crazy start ignited the contest as Dimitar Berbatov was denied a goal by the offside flag and Bendtner missed a pair of headers after lovely crosses by Clichy and Nasri.

    Diaby then failed to punish some poor goalkeeping by Edwin van der Sar before Rooney blew a glorious chance for United when he fired over the bar from Ronaldo’s cross. It was an incredible miss given the Englishman’s recent form and one which may have given our players a bit of a ‘this might just be our day’ feeling. Cheers Wayne.

    Rooney’s miss was punished in the best possible way by Arsenal when Samir Nasri scored the opener shortly afterwards. Fabregas’ free-kick on the right was cleared by Berbatov before the little Frenchman fired a low half-volley which deflected past van der Sar by Gary Neville. On one hand there was a huge amount of luck in the goal but in the other it was a reward for a player who clearly enjoys having a pop at goal. Alex who?

    Shortly after we took the lead United went ridiculously close to equalising when Ronaldo’s free kick was somehow headed wide by the retreating Clichy. With Berbatov lurking behind is was vital that the Arsenal defender got a touch but 99 time out of a 100 this would have hit the back of the net. It was another stroke of vital luck that allowed our boys to hold the lead.

    Wenger’s men could have even gone into the lead two goals to the good when first Fabregas then Walcott fired wide, the latter after smacking the ball into the turf and over in a very Robert Pires sort of fashion. In between those chances Park Ji-Sung forced Almunia into a fine save to his right before the Spanish goalkeeper saved again from a decent Anderson shot on the stroke of half-time.

    1-0 to Arsenal, but as you can probably gather it could have been 2-2 or even 3-3.

    Having the lead at the break seemed to inspire the Arsenal team going into the second half and they sensationally doubled their lead in the 47th minute. An immaculate 15-pass team move involving Sagna, Diaby, Bendtner, Denilson saw Nasri fire home spectacularly from Fabregas’ expertly waited pass. A better goal from our boys you’ll be lucky to see this season and it came at the perfect time. Theo Walcott’s run was essential to create space for Nasri and his finish was emphatic. We were in dreamland.

    But, just as they did after going behind in the first half, United very nearly scored straight from the restart. Park created space for himself on the left before drifting a ball across to the unmarked Ronaldo, but the Portuguese man missed by no less than an inch. Ronaldo popped up again moments later to force a catch out of Almunia before Walcott scuffed a half-chance at the other end.

    As the second half wore on both sides continued to make chances. Almunia held onto a decent header from Rooney before copping an unfortunate kick to the head by Carrick. The Spaniard received treatment and was forced off shortly after but not before Arsenal should have gone three up after Nemanja Vidic pulled down Nasri in the penalty area. Replays showed that the Frenchman’s shirt was pulled by the Serbian but the referee’s view was blocked and it was understandably not given. A very lucky moment for United though.

    Bendtner hit a tame shot straight at van der Sar before United drew level in the 89th minute through a tremendous goal by substitute right-back Rafael da Silva. Arsenal hearts were beating fast, none more than yours truly, and things got even worse when the fourth official held up the board to indicate 6 minutes of added time. All I could think about was the Tottenham game and I was nothing short of a muttering mess until the end of the match.

    I need not have worried though as Arsenal’s focus and effort in the final few minutes was superb. Fabianski deserves credit for the way in which he athletically claimed a difficult high ball while Gallas and Silvestre did all they could to punt the ball up field. Bendtner fired a tired late effort over the bar after a wonderful pass by Nasri but it mattered not as the referee blew the final whistle to ensure Arsenal ended an absolutely thrilling match with all three points.

    I thought the team’s performance on a whole was very good, with maybe only Theo Walcott disappointing. The movement by Fabregas, Nasri and Diaby in the middle was superb and Denilson did a fine job of mopping up in front of the back four. Bendtner had an ultimately fruitless day up front but his tireless effort was crucial in wearing down the United defence and creating space for the likes of Nasri to exploit. As for the little Frenchman, he was the clear man of the match and took both goals superbly well.

    There were huge concerns raised going into the game about the lack of leadership at the club but today that couldn’t be further from the truth. Captain Gallas put in a tireless performance while the other players I consider to be leaders in the squad - Fabregas and Almunia - were excellent. The goalkeeper had a tough time of things in the corresponding fixture last season and has looked a little wobbly of late but he was nothing short of brilliant against United. After a nervous start he held shots, commanded his area and made a thrilling save to deny Park in the first half. Well done to him.

    Without trying to take any shine off our performance the one message that I’ll be taking out of this game is that luck plays a huge part in modern-day football. If Rooney had taken his early chance, Clichy had got just a little bit more on his header or Ronaldo placed his shot just a little to the right then this may have been a very different game. But as they say, you earn your own luck and the effort and desire we showed was enough to see Arsenal win the best football game I’ve watched in a long time. Magnificent.

    So we’re right back in the title race after a fine win in a thrilling game. But, as the hero of the match said shortly afterwards, were we ever out of it?]]>

  • raj

    < ![CDATA[What a game! There is no doubt in my mind that Arsenal are the finest footballing side in the land, and it is a pleasure to watch their attacking, precision-passing game. I am a football fan first, a Liverpool fan second, and I am watching my team hoofing long balls aimlessly up the middle and chasing like lemmings. No comparison!

    Giving away possession by persisting with this type of football is a lesson in futility, and until teams learn that accurate passing and possession leads to goals, we will have to suffer with mediocrity...]]>

  • Dan

    < ![CDATA[At the same time Raj, hoofed long balls with pacey well timed runs up the top leads to goals. I love being an Arsenal fan and getting to cheer for the most attractive attacking team in the country, but i'd love a trophy! You guys have started stronger than us so far, and you have more luck in the Champions league most seasons.

    The grass isn't always greener on the other side, but sure, when it works we can be jaw dropping!]]>

  • vinashin

    Part of a telegraph article “It is more than a bit of an exaggeration for Cesc Fabregas to declare that without Arsène Wenger “apart from Gallas and Silvestre all the rest of us may never have had the chance to play football” but it’s a testimony to the importance of the Arsenal manager that, probably, Europe’s most talented young midfielder still felt the urge to say it. In the wake of Arsenal’s victory there was much scope for feelings of vindication but, above all, a sense of a re-affirmation in the beliefs that underpin Wenger and the faith he has placed in the young players he has nurtured. “We owe him a lot of things and we have to show that on the pitch,” Fabregas added. “We definitely knew there would be some talk about Arsenal, ‘are they capable of winning anything?’ But we knew that, we are professionals, we don’t have to be affected.” At least all the players know Wengers worth to the club but then they are in a much better position to assess than the negative brigade on this forum.

  • harresh

    < ![CDATA[This has been a month when my two Arsenal supporting work colleagues wrote off their team and wailed that they “did not know what to do,” after the recent Stoke defeat. After a week of newspaper headlines that predicted the end of the world at the Emirates, I began to believe that Fabregas, Walcott, and the rest would not be doing much this Saturday night apart from licking their wounds and preparing their applications for Celebrity Big Brother.

    It seemed that the post- Keegan meltdown has calmed down on Tyneside, although we must not forget that Newcastle still have an interim manager. I get a sense that it is now Arsenal’s turn to suffer the onslaught of anger, doom and phone-in bile.

    I had forgotten how irritating can Sky Sports be, and how Jamie Redknapp has as much charisma as the women who drones away on the Circle Line to tell you that “We will be shortly arriving at Victoria, change here for the Victoria Line.”

    The stadium was gradually filling up as Redknapp and his Sky buddies debated the decline of Arsenal with as much sincerity as wet fish. They debated the future of Arsenal as if the club was due to be shut down and the whole of the playing staff had the ability of a League Two outfit, apart from Cesc Fabregas.

    It was suggested that everyone was criticising Arsenal because they have high expectations for the Gunners. I would have believed that statement if it had not been stabbed with a smile.

    It was a relief for the football to get started, or I would have left the pub. The Arsenal team, which seemed to be always introduced with the ‘health’ warning that they were without their star players, kicked off with their usual passing game. There were hiccups but we have to remember that the Gunners were playing Manchester United and not a pub team from Croydon.

    There were some suicidal passes but some sensational attacking play. It was pleasing on the eye and inspiring on the brain. I just wish that my lowly Championship outfit would turn on that style, in that awesome way.

    We all know what happened next. There were two sensational goals from Nasri, and intelligent support play from Denilson and Diaby. It was a pleasure to witness football as it should be played, and Arsenal fans should enjoy those moments. If you want to mangle up a famous phrase, you should be pleased with this football team bearing these gifts.

    It is difficult to believe that Arsenal fans believe everything that they read in the newspapers. They can read the graphs of Arsenal’s league positions since 2003, and can meditate over the spreadsheets, which have the pluses and minuses of Arsene Wenger’s spending over the past decade or so.

    They can rant away on the football phone-ins and their newspaper columns that their team is going to the dogs, and they can call for their manager and board to be sacked. However, it would be a sad state of affairs if we watched the Arsenal faithful turn on their team like certain other supporters do to their beloved clubs.

    I know that the current set up with Arsenal will change like it has done in the past. One of the most noticeable things about this month’s Arsenal versus Manchester United fixture was how the two teams lined up without the macho one-on-ones from five years ago. Some people miss the Keowns and Vieiras but I always want the football to do the talking.

    I am also not as gullible to assume that this sensational win means that Arsenal are the Premiership, European, FA and Carling Cup champions in waiting. There will be more highs and lows but this result will hopefully quell the hunger of the media and certain commentators to feast on Arsenal football club, when there is so much more to come from this exciting group of players.]]>

  • Steve

    < ![CDATA[Once again Arsenal have demonstrated that when they play well they have the quality to beat anyone. But this is nothing we did not already know.

    The feeling I'm getting is reminiscent of after wins against Porto, Fernebache, Blackburn etc. Lets remember that the quality is there, consistency is needed.]]>

  • http://kierandelaney.net/blog kierandelaney.net/blog

    < ![CDATA[

    We are going to have to put up a monumental effort to win this league. No more silly points lost im afraid or things will become unrecoverable.
    Dan – I agree with you 100% – but United won the league two seasons in a row recently losing 5 games in each campaign, Arsenal by comparison only lost 3 each time. In fact last season saw the lowest points total for the league winners for 5 years (yes since Arsenals unbeaten season!). This year I can only see that magic points total getting lower again – because the league is getting better. 5 years ago Hull would have gone straight back down. 5 years ago, Everton and West Ham would have been 0-0 not 3-1.

    For that reason I’m relatively relaxed. It’s no longer easy to say you can win against everyone and draw against the top four. There will be trips and falls by every team.

    Five years ago Hull would never get 3 at Old Trafford.

    But five years ago, for everyone who wasn’t a gooner, the league was a bit more boring. Last season was the most thrilling league run in in years.

    This year its genuinely open – Chelsea look like they’re shading it right now, but two unfortunate games in a row and they could be level on points with Arsenal.

    I think you touched on it before Dan – this years league is shaping up to be exciting as hell – and there just isn’t such a thing as a guaranteed win.

    Instead of enjoying it though, people start whinging, crying, booing at matches and calling for the managers head.

    F*ck it could be worse, we could have Mark Hughes in charge! Or Wundey Ramos!! :)

    Arsenal aren’t getting worse – the league is getting better. Now we have to get even better to stay ahead of the pack, but it’s not easy.

    Let’s see some unwavering support, like we used to have for George Graham’s 1-0 approach. I never heard an Arsenal fan boo at Highbury except when that scouse tosser threw a coin in the East Stand in the FA Cup or when Spurs came to play.]]>

  • Gary

    kierandelaney.net/blog; spot on, it will be too close this season but it is early in the season and many team such as villa will show that they cannot play the same 11 players till the enf of the season.

  • Fo

    Congrats Kieran!

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