Archive for April 8th, 2009

08
Apr
09

Villareal 1-1 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

Goal.com: Adebayor Wonder Goal Gives Arsenal Draw In Villarreal

The Independent: Adebayor scores wonder goal as young Gunners come of age

ESPNSoccernet: Adebayor stunner secures draw

Man of the Match — Marcos Senna

By every measure the most important player on the pitch was Marcos Senna. Yes, Adebayor scored one of the best goals I’ve ever seen in the Champions League (my favorite is still Thierry Henry’s mazy run at the Bernabeu) but overall Adebayor had the kind of game that makes people hate him (officially he was only caught offside 5 times but it sure seemed like a lot more than that). I certainly cannot give man of the match to Adebayor for just one brilliant moment.

I must give credit where credit is due, Senna was brilliant throughout.

I’m not sure if Senna has some kind of freakish ability to find space — and not just any space, but the exact right space. Or if maybe Wenger was like, “don’t bother marking him.” Or if Senna has some kind of wormhole generator in his pocket and is able to warp space and time. But somehow he was always open, always there to keep the ball in the attacking half, always there to put in the tackle, available to break up play, and constantly putting in the exact right pass that freed Villareal’s attackers.

Oh yeah, and the crown jewel was that he also scored an incredible goal.

In short, it was a master class in the holding midfield position. Don’t even try to emulate it, just sit back and watch in awe: which is pretty much what Cesc and Denilson did all night.

The Good

What can you say about Adebayor’s goal that hasn’t already been said?

It was a great goal, but it was a great game as well. [The goal] was unexpected. At the start his body was a bit in the wrong position to score, but he managed to turn that into an advantage for him. — Arsene Wenger

It was probably one of the best goals I have seen in the Champions League, a special goal from a special player.  — Theo Walcott

I don’t even know how I scored, but the most important thing is the ball went in the back of the net! — Emmanuel Adebayor

It was all that. If you haven’t seen it yet (because you live in a cave?) you must click through to the Arsenalist and watch it again.

The Bad

When Senna scored, I got that sick feeling, in fact, for most of the first half I had that sick feeling. Arsenal looked like dog shiat in the first half. Villareal were playing these beautiful little passes, they were moving brilliantly with and without the ball, and they were slicing Arsenal’s defense open almost at will. Wenger credited their two wide players, and I couldn’t agree with him more. In that first half, Nasri and Walcott were criminal in their lack of gdtting back to defend those attacking positions. It seems like Nasri is allergic to defending and there are games (like yesterday) where he needs a half time kick to the balls to get him to track back. Which happened yesterday and, surprise, the second half was better for Arsenal.

The point is in that first half  I kinda suddenly knew what it felt like to be on the receiving end of the Arsenal treatment. They were passing us to death, running us ragged, and the players looked like they were chasing ghosts. They even had the whole “pass you to death but not score” thing down pat!

As for the Senna goal, Song gets the blame in all the papers, but if you watch the beginning of the video over at the Arsenalist, Song is busy covering Rossi who dribbles in toward goal. Senna then sees that both Denilson and Cesc stop running, so he makes himself available, Rossi passes him the ball and at that moment 2/3 of Arsenal’s central midfield just stop moving. Song is the only one covering anything and does his best to get to Senna (nearly gets there) while Denilson and Cesc shamelessly are standing stock still.

We’ll need better from those two in the next leg.

The Ugly

It looks like we might have lost two players from that match: Almunia and Gallas. Mooney suffered what Wenger calls “a recurrence of an ankle” which I believe means that he is growing a third ankle.  They’ve tried to use ankle remover on it, but it just keeps recurring. He’ll be out for two weeks while they burn it off with liquid hydrogen.

Gallas, on the other hand, may have a partial tear of his medial collateral ligament and be out for the rest of the season. Which is a huge loss if that’s true.

We’ll know more about that in the days ahead.

Conclusion

In some areas Arsenal could have played better and I don’t like relying on absolutely amazing goals from Adebayor in order to win competitions. I’d rather we marked out Senna and dominated the midfield, but if we must play poorly and have a moment of brilliance well then, so be it.  After all, a 1-1 draw away is exactly what I predicted and a good away result at this stage in the competition.

I’m also heartened by the team’s second half performance. Wenger went in, kicked some arses, and the club came out and looked much better.  More performances like that second half and these kids will certainly be lifting some silverware in May.

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