Losing to Tottenham is never easy to take, even more so considering the manner in which we lost the game. Tottenham were so up for it and sensed we were there for the taking and in all fairness we never really showed up on the night. Someone I was talking to even compared the two teams saying they were playing as if it was the World Cup final and the way we showed up it seemed like we were just playing any old Carling Cup game. As if the loss was nothing special, but to our fans any game against the old enemy is important and that makes the defeat hurt even more. Especially the way the two teams played on the night. To be honest if I wasn't aware of the two teams' players and colours I would have been forgiven for thinking that Arsenal were the team in white on the night. Such was the effectiveness of their counter attacks. It seems like they did manage to learn a thing or two from us after all the footballing lessons we have been dishing out to them over the years.
But before we get ahead of ourselves and start to believe in the hype surrounding the Spuds at the moment, we have to start putting things into context on the grander scale of things without thinking about the opposition. It was only the Carling Cup after all. We have done ever so well to get to this stage with a team which had an average age of 21-22 years old and beating the likes of Blackburn, Newcastle and Sheffield United who all put out their full strength sides. We also have the Champions League, FA Cup and the Premiership Title to think about so getting to our 4th Semi-final in 5 years is nothing to be ashamed of. In any case I'm tired of all this talk about Tottenham and would much rather look to the future.
After a week which also included a slightly exaggerated incident between Emmanuel Adebayor and Niklas Bendtner many would be forgiven if they felt slightly despondent ahead of our double header against Newcastle United, the first of which is an FA Cup tie at the Emirates Stadium. Even more so as Newcastle have just appointed Kevin Keegan, the "Messiah" apparently, as their new manager and they seem to feel full of confidence. In any case we seem to have a knack of always playing teams at the worst possible time so it shouldn't really come as a big surprise to most of us.
An injury to Denilson in the midweek game allowed Fabregas and Flamini take their places in the starting line-up with Gilberto also making way to sit on the bench. Aleksander Hleb and Nicklas Bendtner also drop onto the bench with Rosicky and Adebayor returning. Gaël Clichy and Philippe Senderos also make their way back into the team after injury with both Bakari Sagna and Armand Traore being left out of the squad with the former in particular deserving a rest.
The game gets underway on a sunny but slightly chilly Saturday afternoon with Arsenal kicking off.
The game starts with both teams going for it in a very committed fashion. Both teams are trying to work their way into the box but we have to wait until the 7th minute for the first clear chance of the game. Clichy plays Fabregas in but the Spaniard directs his shot straight at Shay Given. To be fair he was on the stretch.
The next few minutes come and go without much happening other than a slightly disappointing injury to Tomasz Rosicky who ends up being substituted with less than a quarter of an hour gone. Hopefully it is nothing serious as the Czech international captain seemed capable leaving the field without the aid of a stretcher or assistance. Might just be a precaution for the next month or so with games coming thick and fast.
On 12 minutes Charles N'Zogbia sees his darting run to the byline win his team a corner. The resultant kick falls to Alan Smith who watches his shot cleared off the line by Gaël Clichy. That was a close call for the Gunners and certainly a let off.
Newcastle, buoyed by the Keegan factor, seem full of confidence and were playing some sublime football and but for the defensive stability of the backline we could easily have been a goal down with less than 20 minutes gone.
We almost took the lead a few minutes later but Given showed good awareness to prevent Adebayor from getting a telling touch onto Clichy's driven cross. We seemed to have started to play football at this point having been second best for most of the opening stages. Eduardo almost scored with a well taken volley but Given, with a spectacular save, was more than equal to it.
The next few minutes saw the game slow down a bit with both teams content to just slowly build up their play. The next chance of the game fell to Newcastle with Steven Taylor attempting to lob Jens Lehmann but his effort manages to clear both Lehmann and the crossbar. He was close scoring against the Arsenal for the second time this season after getting the equaliser against us at St. James' Park earlier on in the season.
The game continued to go from end to end with both teams trying their luck. First Clichy crossed for Adebayor but the Togolese striker put his header over the bar. Had he noticed Eduardo in a better position it would have been a simple finish for the Croatian.
At the other end with Owen through on goal, a specialist challenge from captain Gallas prevented what would have been a certain goal from the England hitman.
Arsenal though seemed to be finishing the half as the stronger team. Fabregas went close with a long range drive which just flew over the bar. Abou Diaby also came very close as this time his long range effort is expertly saved by Given, who by the way seems to be having a great game.
The referee blew for half time just after a corner from us but the signs have been looking good for the second half if the end of the first is anything to go by.
With the second half underway Arsenal looked hungry for a goal, but a lot of build up play from the hosts results in nothing of note in terms of clear cut chances. That was up until 5 minutes into the second half. Eduardo showed great composure and skill and ended up rifling a shot onto the post. Just when it looked as if the chance had gone Adebayor picked up the loose ball and jinxed past his marker before slotting his 17 goal of the season and Arsenal's 100th at the Emirates Stadium into the back of the net. The stadium erupts with chants of A-de-ba-yor, A-de-ba-yor. That was the sixth consecutive game in which Adebayor had scored and he is proving a thing or two to some of his doubter with his performances of late.
With an extra spring in their step the Gunners produced some breathtaking football and could have extended their lead on a couple of occasions had it not been for a lack of a final ball. There were a number of occasions some delicious build up play has won us corner kicks but up until this point far we have failed to make the most of any of them and could not consolidate our lead.
With less than a quarter of an hour left of the game Arsène Wenger makes a couple of substitutions in an attempt to close the game down. He takes off Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby and brings on the experience of Gilberto Silva and the trickery of Aleks Hleb.
On 83 minutes a corner from Fabregas sees Eduardo just fail to connect with the ball to score what would have been the game killing goal. But it wasn't meant to be.
Less than a minute later it was left to the man of the moment to trick his way into the box before rifling a shot past Shay Given. You could feel a bit sorry for the Irishman who has had an outstanding game against us as he always does but that would be taking away from the brilliance of the lanky man up front for the Gunners. Adebayor has just been completely unplayable on the day and was now on a hat trick. Who would bet against him making it three for the day for himself? Certainly not anyone with half a brain.
Within 3 minutes we were three goals to the good and have just whitewashed the Toon. A teasing cross from Cesc Fabregas was diverted into the back of the net. To insult to injury it was an own goal by former Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt. The game was definitely dead and buried now if there were any doubts before.
But there was still time for one last chance for Emmanuel Adebayor to get his hat trick. After working his way into the box the front man looked as if he wanted to walk the ball into the net, but in truth the ball was caught under his feet. It was close but in the end it proved to be the last chance of an intriguing game.
This was a great response from the players to get back on track after the disappointment in midweek. Fortunately football folklore dictates that your are only as good as your last game and after securing a place in the 5th round of the FA Cup all the midweek heartache will be consigned to history.
A bit more of the same in midweek in the league please!
Posted on 26 Jan, 2008 at 08:41 PM - Reply
ARSENAL IS BACK !!
Posted on 26 Jan, 2008 at 07:20 PM - Reply
Good to see Fabregas getting his touch abck after a few off performances of late
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