Arsenal got a deserved victory against what was quite simply an inferior team. Celtic played the best they possibly could and only mustered one shot in ninety minutes, whereas we played well below the level that we all know we are capable of and scored twice.
Wenger opted for the same team that annihilated Everton on Saturday almost certainly in the hope that they would start with the same swagger as they left off at the weekend. But this was not to be, Arsenal started nervously; Celtic, as expected, chased everything down and made it difficult for us to get into our stride but it didn’t take too long before the gulf in class began to show.
The player I was most worried about at the start of the game was Vermaelen; I wanted him to do so well that I was biting my nails every time the ball went near him for fear that he might make a mistake. I know he had played extremely well on Saturday but I needed more proof. I worried that an error would send his confidence plummeting exposing a weakness for opponents to exploit. Well, I think we can safely dispel any of those kinds of concerns from our minds, by the end of the game I was as comfortable, when the ball was in his vicinity, as I was when Tony Adams was at his peak. This guy is the nuts as Jonjon would say.
Although, in fairness, every member of the defensive unit put in a very reassuring performance and that certainly includes Alexandre Song; he, along with Vermaelen, was my man of the match. I have long since stopped biting my nails when Song has the ball; I worked out ages ago what this player was about and always knew that it was far too early to write him off and so it has proved: his passing was excellent, his positioning superb and his tackling crisp and effective; he is well on course, even at this early stage, to be the player of the season.
As happy as I was with how well the defensive unit operated I was as equally as worried that offensive unit has still not gelled. There was not much Wengerball on display, perhaps I am being greedy, it’s not as though they played badly it’s just that we know that they are capable of so much more. Only once in the first half did the attack go through the gears and look like a real threat, all too often passes were being over hit.
The big plus about the attack was the defensive role that it was playing: closing down high up the pitch, never letting Celtic settle but with so many passes not finding their man I thought that we would go into the break on even terms. The dead lock was broken by a set play that Wenger had insisted that the team practice on the training ground all week.
Two minutes before half time we were awarded a free kick about thirty yards out. The angle made it impossible for Van Persie to blast, so he rolled the ball to Fabregas who drove it purposely against Gallas’ back , like a skilfully played snooker shot, making it cannon off into the corner of the goal. Luck, pah, people just don’t realise the accuracy of our captain.
With our tails up we started the second half with renewed hope, creating three really good chances that if they had arrived on Saturday we would have scored each one of them and this game would have been well and truly over but alas they went astray. This wastefulness lifted Celtic as they realised that they were still in the game and ran at us with renewed belief. The defence held firm, the only real scare coming from a fiercely hit, low cross that Gallas had to clear to the side of the post, the fear was that it could have easily have been an own goal.
With the game still not secure and the attack playing like strangers in the dark, Wenger took off the unusually less than perfect Arshavin and replaced him with Diaby. Within two minutes Diaby had performed a piece of quick footed skill and sent Clichy charging down the left wing before cutting in. Anticipating the soon to be out stretched leg of Caldwell, Clichy drilled the ball across the box hitting the Celtic captain and forcing the ball into the net for our second goal. Clichy doesn’t score many goals but he can be proud of this one.
A couple of observations: as much as it is rumoured that we will only reinforce the squad if we qualify for the CL, the same must be true of Fiorentina who I guess will renew their interest in Eboue if they also qualify, this I assume was the reason for his absence last night.
I thought Eboue was missed on the right hand side. As much as Bendtner has improved his defensive duties Eboue is better and what’s more Eboue can accelerate away which we were lacking last night. This theory works until he gets in front of goal but then we all know who we would prefer.
The other thing that I am still confused about was why we felt the need to wear Scotland’s national kit, was it a sign of some kind of bizarre respect?
“Come On You Blues” Naah, sorry, I am never going to get used to that.
Almunia: 7, he was his usual comfortable self, gathered well when called upon and cleared well when needed, with only one shot to save all game he had a very cushy night.
Sagna: 7, usual commanding performance down the right hand side
Gallas: 8, looking more and more solid, clearly very comfortable playing alongside his Belgian partner
Vermaelen: 9, joint MOM, if Vidic raises his game the mancs might just find themselves with their own Vermanator. TV was class; he looked like he had been playing in our back line for years.
Clichy: 8, one of his usual high octane games down the left hand side and a goal to boot
Denilson: 6, not bad but not good; although, he was not alone in not performing to his highest level.
Fabregas: 7, looked a bit leggy, possibly had other things on his mind.
Song: 9, the other MOM, this man was our colossus tonight; he stopped every thing coming through the middle and his range of passing is going from strength to strength
Arshavin: 6, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is on the bench on Saturday, Wenger will try and instil a bit more want and desire in him. I only say this because his talent is so high he mustn’t be allowed to rest on his laurels.
RVP: 6, it just wasn’t clicking tonight, it’s not that he had a bad game it’s just that we know he is capable of so much more.
Bendtner: 6, yet again not a bad performance but he set the bar very high for himself after Saturday. The big plus tonight was his defensive work,