Sunday, April 13, 2008
If you spent any time at all hunting for precious last-minute news bites ahead of the Arsenal Manchester United clash today at Old Trafford, you'd be heading into the match convinced that Arsenal is a team divided and that all United had to do was stomp out the embers.
What you got was an all-out assault that had Manchester United on the back heel for nearly the entire first half. Really, if it were not for the harmless softballs that Adebayor so pleasantly handed to the United goalie, we could've easily been ahead 3-0 at the break. We took Ronaldo right out of the game and Rooney barely registered a threat, as Hleb and Fabregas repeatedly carved Ferdinand and Brown up. I'm suddenly reminded why everyone was so crazy for Hleb earlier in the season, it was such a unified, team effort, even mad Jens Lehmenn, in a shock start in the Arsenal goal, rose to the occasion.
We scored right after the half on a nice scramble and cross from Van Persie, that connected with either Adebayor's head or his hand to snatch the lead. I have no problem accepting a call our way and it really felt like we were dominating United at this point. Ferdinand looked so rattled he nearly scored an own goal moments later. It was glorious, and a Man U own goal would've been the icing on the cake. But, as we know, the icing doesn't come easy. Sure enough, we gave the lead away, on a defensive handball and subsequent free kick, only moments after taking the lead.
After that, Ferguson made some changes, bringing on Anderson and Tevez, who played like two pitbulls, and unfortunately, we had our hands full from then on. Man U took the lead on another penalty and Bendtner almost leveled again in the last minutes but it was not to be.
I have to say, I was really worried about this match and the possibility of Man U rolling over us and what that would do to a fragile Arsenal team psyche, but after this performance, we can hold our heads up and look forward to next year, knowing we were lacking in luck more than anything this season. Following the match, I was surprised to see in the papers and blogs that Ferguson and some of the Man U players and supporters were very respectful and complimentary of Arsenal and their style of play. I still think we need to do some weeding and bring in some fresh talent and attitude but we can build on this season and there's no reason to think we won't be better and more mature next year.
We started with guns blazing, taking out opponents early, but through the middle we seemed to be the team always fighting back, needing the final minutes to grab a tie or a win. In the end, when all looked lost, we played some brilliant football - really inspired stuff but were simply unlucky.
Arsenal lost only three Premiership matches the entire campaign.
Now, I like Adebayor and I think his laid-back attitude is a good balance to all of the world-is-against-us talk that can poison a team, but we've desperately lacked a killer instinct up front since Eduardo went down and we've paid the price in missed chances again. I don't know if Eduardo will make it all the way back or if Van Persie will ever be entirely healthy again so we need another option. Good Adebayor interview here - apparently, he counts voodoo among his religions.
Imagine having to go to work everyday with crazy Jens breathing down your neck?
Hats off to Alumnia for putting up with it and let's show Lehmann the door.