Archive for October 20th, 2008


Arsenal turn the corner, run into a Turkey

Theo’s Impact

I’m in a bit of an odd spot. See, some folks are poo poo-ing the impact that Theo had on the Everton game.  Even Wenger himself shot down the notion that Theo turned that game around. So it’s a bit odd, but I know what I saw and… and, well… I want to tell them that it is well within their rights to be completely wrong.

First, Theo is able to pick the ball up and run with it the way Henry used to do for Arsenal and he’s the only player on the team who currently does that. I’m not saying that Theo is Henry. Just that no one really makes those kinds of runs for Arsenal. Adebayor does it occasionally but he doesn’t terrorize speedy defenders like Theo and van Persie never makes a dribble preferring to wait for the ball so he can cannon it out of the stadium and down the Seven Sister’s Road.

Theo also has a winning attitude that few of the other players on this team have. Right now, Cesc is too busy looking for someone else to lead him and Gallas is too busy blaming everyone else. When Theo gets tackled by some clod, he never looks at the ref, he jumps up and gets on with the game. That’s a winning attitude. And, in the absence of Rosicky, Theo is currently the only player on the squad who can provide the team with width on the right side. Sure he makes mistakes, but overall, he’s the best player on this team right now.

Yes, better than Cesc.

Maybe this can all be accounted for with a simple dip in Fabregas’ form and a temporary rise in Wallcott’s but how many times have you heard “that was a pass uncharacteristic of Cesc’s quality” this season? How many times have you seen Cesc chirp at the ref rather than get up and get on with the game? And most importantly, how many times have you seen Cesc act like a leader on the pitch?

The proof is in the pudding; if Cesc was in top form, he’d have more assists, his midfield partner Denilson would be playing better, and this squad would not have lost to a team like Hull. Great players make everyone around them better and Theo is the only Arsenal player doing that right now.

My detractors will point out Arsene’s comments about Theo after the game.

I felt that it is a bit of a shortcut because I believe that the game changed before he came on. Everton had a strong start but we had three or four chances in the first half and in the last 20 minutes of the first half. You could see we were on top and that our domination would certainly increase during the second half. Theo came on and did very well and had an impact on the game of course but I feel the whole team played very well.

What else would he say? He can’t let Theo’s ego get too big and he needs to keep up his mantra that the whole team is more important than the individual. But you can’t tell me that he saw that first half and thought Arsenal were “on top” or “dominating.” I was praying that they got out of that first half only down 1-0. It wasn’t until the second half that Arsenal dominated anything — when Theo came on, stretched the defense, and provided the team with a huge spark.

I love Fabregas but there’s just something wrong with him right now.

Turning Another Corner Against Fener?

Think about it, first there was a lackluster 1-0 loss to Fulham, then came the heartbreaking 2-1 home loss to Hull where we fought valiantly but couldn’t overcome them, then there was the breakthrough game against Sunderland — all but defeated and they scrap out a draw. Last week I predicted a 2-1come back win over Everton based on what I saw in this squad and sure enough, down 1-0 and looking seriously out, Arsenal turned a corner and played the second half the way we all know that they can.

Now they face a Fenerbahce squad that may be struggling domestically but will play their hearts out as this is their last chance to qualify for the next round of the Champions League. Buoyed by 55,000 insane Turkish fans and last year’s home record against European opposition they will provide the sternest test yet for this Arsenal squad. Arsenal are coming off an emotional game against Everton, get one day’s rest, then on a plane and off to face a Fener team that will be balls out trying to win this match.

Arsene will have Nasri, Djourou, and Bendtner available but Toure, Gallas, and Sagna will be out.  No word yet on how long Toure will be out, but Gallas and Sagna are expected to be fit for Sunday’s game. I would never have guessed that Arsene would have put Song at right back so, what kind of lineup we’ll see tomorrow is really anyone’s guess.  Maybe Song will partner with Bendtner up front, Theo will play right back, and Cesc will play on the left with Eboue as the attacking midfielder. It will be a 1-2-2-1-0-1-2-1 I’m sure.

The Arsenal match is available here in the states on Setanta and that means I will be going down to Doyle’s for lunch and a pint. Kickoff is 11:45 am local time, stop by and cheer for the boys, they’ll need all the positivity we can muster.

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October 2008