Arsenal-Newcastle United: Player Ratings

Robin is Back!

Robin is back... or is he?

Arsenal bounced back from their 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage last week with an emphatic 3-0 drumming of Newcastle.  Two goals from Robin van Persie and one from Denilson put the Gunners back on track.

Almunia: 7 Not really much for Manny to do this game but he did come up with the saves when we needed them.  What more can you ask?

Sagna: 7.5 Fantastic as usual.  He was great in defense as well as getting forward.  Whipped in some nice crosses, made some tough tackles and linked up well with Eboue.

Toure: 7 Solid game from a fan favorite.  Kolo showed heart and determination as he heped Arsenal towards a clean sheet.  Also had a few shot attempts that came close.

Gallas: 7 Missed a sitter in the first half but other then that he was good in the defense all game and continued to look threatening on set pieces.

Clichy: 7.5 Another great game from Clichy as well.  It was nice to see him turn it around after last week’s poor showing.  His understanding with Nasri just keeps developing with each match and his tenacity in defense was outstanding.

Eboue: 7.5 A really good game from a man we have come to expect little of.  He linked up nicely with the rest of the squad and set up Van Persie’s second with a fantastic back heel.  He also had some very threatening runs through the midfield which helped to create space for the strikers.  Lets hope he keeps up the good work.

Fabregas: 7.5 Solid game from Cesc.  He calmed the team down, dictated the pace and orchestrated our attack.  He picked up where he left off left season by staying committed to defending tenaciously in midfield which is something that is sorely needed with Flamini gone.  It is nice to have him back and I only expect him to get better as he continues to find his match sharpness.

Denilson: 7 Solid game from Denilson coming off of the disaster of last week.  His link up play with the back four was nice.  Took him a little while to get into the game but the goal was just the icing on the cake after a solid display today.  Still would like to see a bit more tenacity on the defensive side though but it wasn’t desperately needed against such a toothless Newcastle side today.

Nasri: 7.5 Looked really dangerous, got out of tight spaces well and linked up fantastically with the rest of the squad.  He created chances for his teammates and even had a go himself.  His free kick was also nicely taken.  Alex who?

van Persie: 8.5 What a game from Robin today!  He needed it, the fans needed it, and the club needed it.  He has been disappointing and at times woeful since the season started but it seems he has finally found his form and in the process reminded us all of how good he can be.  His link up play in the midfield was very effective even on counter attacks and he was cool with his finish.  He even had a nice free kick saved by Given.

Adebayor: 6 Not Ade’s best game at all.  He did link up nice with the rest of the team but at times it seemed like he was willing to pass too much instead of taking defenders on.  He missed a great chance as well, one that we would like to see him put in.  On the bright side, it appears he may have finally figured out the offside rule.

SUBS:

Vela: 7 This kid is going to be a star.  He is fierce on the ball, great in possession and looked for his teammates while still being willing to have a go.

Song: 7 Good man marking.  He seemed to help the defense more then Denilson, laying back just above the back four.  His positioning was good and he seemed very sound defensively.

Walcott: 7.5 Besides missing that shot, Theo was fantastic.  His pace terrorized Newcastle and he linked up well with the rest of the squad.  The move he used to get around the defender on the touch line was mesmerizing.

Man of the Match: Robin Van Persie.  After a string of pathetic performances the Dutchman looks to finally be back, something that can only be good news for Arsenal fans.  The extra dynamic he gives us on the pitch has been sorely missed and today he showed exactly how important he can be to this side.  Welcome back Robin!

Reflections on FC Twente

Samir Nasri celebrates being the anti-Hleb.

Samir Nasri celebrates being the anti-Hleb.

It would be hard to draw any kind of tangible conclusions from Arsenal’s 4-nil second leg win over FC Twente on Wednesday night.  That is mostly because McClaren’s side put up no fight unless you count their incessant passing between the backs in their own half for five minutes at a time which either ended in a backpass to the keeper or losing it in their first attempt to actually cross the halfway line.  It was like watching a completely different side from the first leg back at Arnem two weeks ago.  To be fair, Arsenal looked a completely different from that first half as well.

We needed a decent performance at this point no matter who it was against.  The match will give a bit of confidence back to the side especially Theo Walcott who ran riot on both flanks for much of the game and scored a superb goal.  It should also give the side a boost having seen Cesc come in for his first competitive minutes and instantly turn a team that looked like Sunderland on Saturday into Arsenal on Wednesday.

Are there problems that need to be dealt with?  Yes, of course, and these have been discussed to death.  The defense needs improvement, and how sending Senderos out on loan does that I have no idea, and we are short a DM.  Danny Fiszman is in the newspapers today saying if Wenger asked him for 30m pounds to sign one player that he would sign off on it, no questions asked.  It remains to be seen if Wenger will take him up on this.  He may think that the pickings are a bit slim right now and may hope to get through to the January transfer window when there may be more options.

Either way, for many the countdown is on until the transfer window closes as we all hold our breath and wake up each morning hoping to see Alonso’s (or any DM’s) face smiling back at us from Arsenal.com.

Cooling Off The Reactionaries

Arsene gives the fans a taste of their own medicine.

Arsene gives the fans a taste of their own medicine?

So, while I’ve had a day or two now to digest Saturday’s performance and result, it seems that a large segment of Arsenal supporters have not cooled off from the initial disappointment and bitterness that comes with losing a derby to a team that just narrowly escaped relegation last season and hadn’t beaten Arsenal since 1966.  Instead of regaining perspective, many Arsenal fans are pasting blogs and forums with “Wenger OUT!”  While there has always been a smaller group of supporters over the last three trophyless seasons who have expressed serious, and at times, bitter dissatisfaction with Wenger’s youth policy and its lack of silverware, it seems to have spread like a disease.

I am not one to deny anyone their own opinion especially seeing as I’ve gone through the trouble of setting up and writing a blog to voice my own.  However, there is something highly reactionary about calls to fire the greatest manager the club has ever known only two games into the season and before the transfer window has even closed.  There is no doubt that a lot of Arsenal supporters are sitting on the fence and waiting to see if Arsene will make a deal for a defensive midfielder before Sunday night’s deadline.  A previous Arsenal Station article detailed our most realistic transfer targets and while news today reports that Arsenal are back in for Xabi Alonso, Arsene said on Saturday that this result would not make him desperate to buy before the window closes.  Is Arsene being truthful?  Should he be?

If clubs know that you are desperate to sign someone before the window closes in a week, it gives the selling club an upper-hand in any negotiations.  Desperation is not something you want to bring to the negotiating table.  Arsene wants everyone to think that he is not keen to buy but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t.  This is all a part of his media campaign which has gone on for most of the summer including his “I’m too busy to buy players” quote from a couple of weeks ago which the anti-Wenger camp jumped on as proof of his “inability” to get the job done.  Arsenal had previously had a 10m offer for Alonso turned down by Liverpool who are seeking to sell the Spaniard for more than 13.5m to lose less from the sell-on clause in his initial transfer from Real Sociedad.

At the same time, Liverpool will be fully aware of Arsenal’s performance at Fulham on Saturday and can’t help but know that Wenger needs to make a move.  However, statements like the one Arsene made on Saturday could mean the difference between securing Alonso for 14m rather than the 16-18m that Liverpool want.  You could even say that increased public pressure put on Wenger by the club’s own supporters could well adversely affect negotiations.  The irony is that, while Wenger is trying to slyly maneuver his way into making the purchase that supporters want, the supporters themselves are inadvertently sabotaging the deal.

I have read statements on blogs and forums stating that fans feel “lied to” or “betrayed.”  This makes no sense to me.  While we all want to be kept abreast of what’s happening inside the club, nowadays these kinds of dealings are dealt with as if they matters of national security.  And Arsene must project strength even if he is in a weak position.  This was evidenced last week by Arsene saying the same thing as he did on Saturday and then buying Mikael Silvestre the next afternoon.  Surely it is better to keep the fans in the dark for a week or so while trying to secure a signing than let them in on all details of negotiations to the point where deals fall apart.

Does this land me in the pro-Wenger camp?  I’m sure for most of you it does.  However, I am no blind follower of the Arsene party.  I have criticized personnel and tactical moves by Wenger in the past and will continue to do so.  But to call for the greatest manager in the history of the club to be fired after two games following a season in which he took a young team to within four points of the league title with the transfer window still open is surely madness.  Isn’t it?