John Utaka, We Hardly Fouled Ye (Video Highlights)

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Arseblog wrote yesterday: “I suspect there are students of Arsenal statistics out there who may well prove me wrong but I can’t remember a start to the season so filled with goals.” Well, I am a “student of Arsenal statistics,” so let’s figure this out. Keeping it to the Wenger-era, we have not had such a goal-filled first two matches. However, in 2000-01 we did score 10 goals in our first 4 matches. In the run-up to Nottingham Forest’s record at the start of 2004-05, we began the season with a 4-1 win against Everton and then went on beat Middlesbrough 5-3. We followed that up with the 3-nil win over Blackburn that gave us the unbeaten record, thus giving us 12 goals in the opening three matches. So, while we have never had more goals in 2 matches, should we be held to 1 goal or less at United, our start will not be as “goal-filled” as 2004-05.

Anyway, on to the match. Two days on, there is not much I can say that you probably haven’t already read elsewhere. Song made way for Abou Diaby, who went on to give a very good performance. It shows that we may already have enough options should Song depart for the African Cup of Nations in January. Ramsey also looked good when he came on and it looks as though either Diaby or Ramsey can come on for Song with Denilson falling back into a more defensive role. Nasri as well can take the same role. It’s not exactly ideal, but what team has two class defensive midfielders?

John Utaka, We Hardly Fouled YeI should also mention the officials’ decisions. I must admit that when seen live it did look like it could very well have been a foul on Gallas’s part. However, after seeing the replay, especially from the reverse angle, you can clearly see that Utaka tripped over his own foot. I’m sure Paul Hart must’ve felt like an idiot after making those statements following the match. On the other hand, I was screaming at Almunia for not stepping up and attacking the cross which led to Kaboul’s goal. However, once again, the reverse angle seemed to tell a different story. From that angle, it seemed that Almunia may very well have been impeded. Of course, either of those calls can go both ways but it seems like for the first time in a while we have luck on our side.

Both Hart and Utaka came out after the match claiming it was a “clear foul” by Gallas. Admittedly, this was before they would have seen the conclusive replay and Hart’s view was likely obstructed by his shirt collar (see video and pic below). Yet, today, Utaka was in The Sun, of all places, claiming Gallas “admitted” to the foul and that he “smiled” at Utaka. He also claimed that Gallas was pulling his shirt but you can clearly see on the replay (below) that it is Utaka who is pulling Gallas’s shirt. Also, it isn’t clear if the smile is what Utaka was considering the admission or if he actually verbalized it. Seems highly likely to me that Gallas wasn’t smiling, but laughing at Utaka for tripping over his own feet. Since the highlights above omitted the Utaka fall, I have included the MOTD highlights (with the sharp, unbiased, and always insightful analysis from Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer):

The other issue, which seems to have carried throughout the first three matches, regards the lack of goals from our “strikers.” Arsene has made the point that the strikers are the ones creating goals and that he is confident that van Persie, Eduardo, and Arshavin will score goals. I am inclined to agree with him. I really don’t care where the goals come from and for a team that has been sorely missing goals from midfield in recent years, I find nothing to complain about. Besides, in reality, the only true striker we had on the pitch was Eduardo. Van Persie is at his best linking up play, no matter who he is linking up with. Not to mention that he also tested James three times. On another day, van Persie could have had two  goals. Also, does any of this really matter when you have William Gallas creating a new position: striker-back? Rather than seeing this as a problem, I will take the optimistic route and see this as a positive.

Turn em down, Paul!

Turn 'em down, Paul!

Defensively, we may have had a few shaky moments for what seems like the first time this season. The defense was gotten in behind a few too many times and Gibbs was getting pushed off the ball far too regularly. He looked nothing like the player he was at the end of last season. But, besides for a 15 minute span, Arsenal bossed the entire match and I don’t think the scoreline was flattering at all. One really has to sympathize with Paul Hart -and, no, not for the way he wears his shirt collar- but for what is going on in the board room and even more for what is going on on the pitch. With James set to want out in January in his bid to secure a World Cup place and the fact that Kranjčar will surely be the next to go, one has to fear for Pompey and their genuinely enthusiastic supporters.

Arsene Wenger’s Post-match Interview:

Arsenal v Portsmouth (LIVE STREAM)

Arsenal FCPortsmouth

ARSENAL STARTING XI: Almunia, Eboue, Gallas, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby, Denilson, Fabregas, Arshavin, Eduardo, van Persie

Seeing The Silvestre Deal For What It Is

From devil to angel in one fail swoop of his pen??

From devil to angel in one fell swoop of his pen?

So, Arsene has signed 31 year old French international and long-time United back, Mikael Silvestre.  Now, there has been a lot of venom spewed on Arsenal blogs and forums about this signing but I think there are two things we need to keep in mind.

The first is: Whether or not Silvestre came from Manchester United or Manchester City, it is a very smart signing by Wenger which fills a spot many Gooners believed needed filling but did not believe that Arsene would make.  Silvestre brings added depth and title-winning experience to our defense.  He provides cover for Clichy which enabled Arsene to send the young Armand Traore off to Portsmouth in a long-rumoured loan deal to gain more experience.  Though his main position with United was at left-back, his favoured position from his days at Rennes was as a centre back… another position you can never have enough cover for.

Second, some supporters seem to think that the Boss has made the Silvestre signing instead of signing a defensive midfielder.  Now, to be fair, alot of these kinds of statements were made before the Boss came out today and said he is still in the market for a midfield foil for Cesc Fabregas.  Obviously, the defensive midfield position is extremely important to Arsenal and most supporters don’t feel we can raise an honest title challenge without bringing someone in.  But, it should have been easy to see that a less than £1m defensive cover signing would surely not take the place of signing another midfielder.  However, the anti-Wenger contingent among Arsenal supporters keep beating the chests even as he shows them that he’s not REALLY “too busy to sign new players.”

It should also be kept in mind, regarding the anti-Silvestre lobby, that these are the same people who will be more than glad he’s on the bench should, god forbid, Clichy sustain an injury of any length.  It’s far too short-sighted to complain about signing a player just because he played for one of our rivals.  A classic case in hand is Pat Jennings after his move from Spurs to Arsenal just prior to the 1977/78 campaign.  Jennings went on to man the Arsenal nets for almost a decade and gave us the kind of keeper we hadn’t had since Bob Wilson retired 3 years earlier.

Just a few biographical notes, which I feel obliged to spit out despite every other blog and news site repeating the same info… Silvestre began his career with Rennes before being transferred to InterMilan.  His spell there lasted only one year, after which he was bought by Alex Ferguson for £3.5m.  In 9 years at Old Trafford, Silvestre made over 300 appearances in all competitions and his honors include 4 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup winner’s medal, 1 Carling Cup medal, and a Champions League medal.  Following Patrice Evra’s move to United, Silvestre has found it hard to secure a place in the lineup but, much as he is expected to do at Arsenal, he showed leadership and gave depth to their bench.  He suffered a knee ligament injury last September which ruled him out for most of the season.  He has played only 3 competitive matches in the last 11 months including United’s 1-nil second leg home win against Roma in the Champions League Quarterfinals.