I Don’t Know What To Say. I Am Speechless…

Everton (1) – (4) Arsenal
Eduardo (47′, 59′), Adebayor (78′), Rosicky (90′+4)
Goodison Park, Liverpool

Absolutely stunning.

Stunning in terms of the character, stunning in terms of the comeback and stunning in terms of Eduardo’s sublime finishing.

Seriously, you won’t see better taken goals than those two this season.

And under pressure, this fella is simply ice cool.

What you saw tonight was a Champions performance.

Everton to their credit, took the game to Arsenal and for the first 40 minutes deserved their lead. They didn’t give us any time or space on the ball and the main creative players Fabregas & Hleb couldn’t get themselves into the game. Bendtner and Eduardo looked isolated, and Diaby couldn’t insert his influence either.

But whatever Arsene Wenger said at half-time certainly worked!

Before the game, all the hype was about Nicklas Bendtner – especially after his match-winning goal against Spurs last week – but the man who made the difference (and a VITAL difference) was that man Eduardo Da Silva.

A long ball from Clichy early in the second half was met by Eduardo in the area, where time seemed to stand still. Eduardo has that amazing and unique ability to be so, so clinical whatever the situation. The coolly clipped the ball over Tim Howard to score the equaliser.

What a massive goal.

With Everton dangerous from set-pieces and crosses the game was still there for the taking for either side, but it was Arsenal who got the next goal. Another ball from Clichy from the left was flicked on by Bendtner to Eduardo, who smoothly knocked the ball passed Phil Jagielka and slotted the ball into the corner.

A goal that had class written all over it.

I am still stunned. This guy had two half chances and took them both with ease. Arsene Wenger has said Eduardo will be Arsenal’s secret weapon in the second half of the season and who can argue with that?

Two chances, two goals.

When games get tighter nearing the end of the season Eduardo could just be the man who could make all the difference.

Everton still piled on the pressure but Arsenal stayed strong, with the back four performing excellently. And Fabregas and Flamini in particular were outstanding in protecting the lead against the 5 man Everton midfield.

As Eduardo was having a huge impact on the game, his strike partner Bendtner was having problems. He unwittingly knocked the ball to Tim Cahill in the first half to concede the first goal and then on 74 minutes when he was about to be replaced by Adebayor the young Dane scraped his studs down Andy Johnson’s leg for a second yellow card and was sent off.

No arguments about the sending off, it was a nasty challenge.

And unfortunately Eduardo had to be replaced instead, which was a shame after he literally saved Arsenal from the abyss.

We know Arsene seems to have a knack with his substitutions of late, and only 5 minutes later Adebayor took advantage of an Everton mistake. A goal kick from Almunia was punted upfield, only to be missed by everyone. The ball bounced in between Yobo and Howard, and Adebayor simply nicked in and converted a simple third for Arsenal.

After that the game was over, and with tempers flaring Mikel Arteta compounded Everton’s misery by elbowing Cesc in the face and getting a straight red card. Things had threatened to boil over throughout the second half and Fabregas was wisely replaced by Rosicky with only a couple of minutes remaining. It signalled another inspired substitution by the boss, as the Czech smashed in a fourth deep into stoppage time.

It was hard to think rationally after the final whistle, and the ruthlessness of Arsenal was amazing. Champions win games they don’t play well in and Arsenal had smashed Everton (who have been excellent this season) 4-1 in their own back yard.

And even more importantly perhaps, Arsenal retained top spot virtually straight after losing it only a few days ago. Talk about bouncebackability!

You have a feeling now that after losing top spot and getting it back, Arsenal won’t be giving anymore second chances and will give absolutely everything to stay in that position.

I hope I’m not tempting fate here by saying this, but tonight’s game was a classic performance of a Championship winning side.

A fantastic way to end to the calender year, a fantastic game and that result really does sum up the season so far.

Will Everton Be Easier Or Tougher Than Pompy?

Everton (Goodison Park)
Saturday 29th December 2007
Kick Off: 5.15pm – Live On Setanta Sports 1

Tomorrow Arsenal will travel up to another cold North West away day and face Everton, who are currently in a rich vain of form of late.

They have only lost one of their last nine Premier League fixtures, and that was only because Steven Pienaar had a rush of blood and committed a simply crazy ‘tackle’ on Ryan Giggs with only minutes remaining.

The fact is Everton are going to be incredibly tough to beat tomorrow, which is what Arsenal will need to keep the pressure on Manchester United at the top. Don’t forget, this Everton side came from behind at Old Trafford, and did the same at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal will need a performance similar to those earlier on in the season.

Unfortunately, we haven’t reached our peak in terms of an attacking performance enough in December.

The only decent game we’ve had in December was the Chelsea game at home, where we looked to have our old rhythm back with Hleb, Fabregas and Flamini returning. And then there was the first half at Villa Park.

Against Pompy, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Spurs we’ve looked tired.

Of course, it has been a demanding schedule on the players but to win the league or at least fight for it teams have to overcome this hurdle. United still keep managing to win matches, albeit it you could argue easier fixtures – but nevertheless they get the three points.

I have commented on the poor form of Arsenal and against Spurs it was encouraging that they managed to win a game without playing particuarly well, but the problem we have is against Newcastle, Pompy and Boro we’ve played badly but failed to win those games. And call me pessimistic but I just can’t see Arsenal going out and out-performing Everton tomorrow, simply because Everton know how to make the game a dogfight and David Moyles will have no problems if he can get a result by forcing Arsenal out of the game.

And if a team like Pompy want to defend for 90 minutes then you can expect the same from Everton too.

So this is going to be an intriguing encounter.

We keep on saying it but on these tough away games Arsenal need to score, and need to score early. That’s the only way the other team will come out and give Arsenal space to play their football.

So the question is will Everton come out and play or defend in numbers?

I don’t think you can expect anything more than the latter, so Arsenal will have to dig deep yet again and try to steal the 3 points.

Merry Xmas: Spurs Can And Will Never Beat Arsenal!

Arsenal (2) – (1) Tottenham Hotspur
Adebayor (47′), Bendtner (75′)
The Emirates Stadium, London

What a game.

For the first half, the game was sloppy and quite frankly forgettable – and even when Arsenal scored the opener the game started to fade.

After a dull first half, Arsenal started in the perfect manner – cranking up the tempo and flooding the Spurs half with fantastic running and energy as well as incisive passing. But after the first goal went in, Arsenal were guilty of putting their foot off the pedal which gave Tottenham a chance to get themselves back into the match.

Both teams stuggled to make any clear chances, and the ball was being passed around well but without any killer instinct or penetrating final balls.

But then the game sparked into life.

On 64 minutes a dribble from Lennon down the wing resulted in a cross to the back post, for Robbie Keane to smash his effort against the ball unchallenged.

Then less than 30 seconds later Berbatov smashed an effort from a tight angle right into the roof of the net. My initial reaction was that Almunia shouldn’t have been beaten from that position but replays showed that it took a less-than-kind deflection off Kolo Toure and the initial shot was actually off target – similar bad luck to the second goal conceded at Middlesbrough a few weeks ago.

So the game was 1-1 and either team looked like they could win it.

And with Spurs growing in confidence and Arsenal struggling to find their rhythm Kolo conceded a penalty in the 70th minute.

This was one of the worse 5 minute spells in a match you could have ever imagined.

And to compound the misery, replays showed Toure managed to clip the ball just before contact with Berbatov, who I thought fell a bit too easily.

For me it was not a penalty.

Although ironically they probably should of had one on 83 minutes when Sagna tackled Adel Taarabt in the box and failed to connect with the ball. So you could say things even themselves out.

Robbie Keane stepped up for his penalty kick, and Almunia ended up making a fantastic save!

In the context of the league, and the outcome of the result it was a truly vital save. In a tense North London Derby, Almunia kept his nerve and turned the biggest moment of the game in Arsenal’s favour. If he doesn’t save it Arsenal would be losing with 20 minutes remaining and it would take something special to get all 3 points – and keep top spot. Keane is a tricky player who likes to send keepers the wrong way so credit to Almunia for not diving too early and giving him a simple goal.

But with the huge boost of the penalty save, Almunia set things up for anyone to become a hero and that man was Nicklas Bendtner. Just 4 minutes after the penalty incident, Bendtner came on and scored the winner with his first touch! And it was a fantastic header.

What an inspired substitution by the gaffer!

After that Arsenal managed to focus and see out the result.

There’s no denying this was not vintage Arsenal, but the ability to dig deep and keep fighting for each other until the end is simply outstanding.

Things weren’t clicking and we struggled at times to make any openings but the resilience this season has made a huge difference. This was a game we could have easily lost or draw in previous years but not this season. We know Arsenal can (and have for most of this season) played wonderful football but a sign of Champions is the ability to win when you’re just not playing well. It’s great to know if Arsenal for any reason can’t perform to their high standards then the results don’t suffer.

You also need that big of luck throughout the season to win the league.

With Robbie Keane hitting the bar and having a penalty, will they ever have a better chance of beating Arsenal?

Because I can’t see Arsenal having as few chances as they had this weekend ever again, and Spurs having so many clear opportunities.

But the bottom line is Arsenal will be top of the league on Xmas day.

And you couldn’t ask for more really could you?

So I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all Arsenal fans and in particular all the readers of this blog a Merry Xmas and a wonderful New Year!

Yes! AC Milan! These Are The Games You Live For…

A great Champions League draw for Arsenal!

On the 19th/20th February Arsenal will play AC Milan in the first round of the Champions League knockout stage.

These are the games you live for.

To play the reigning European Champions is something I find really exciting.

Many people may have wanted a ‘lesser’ team, but as they say you never get any easy games in this competition. And there’s no doubt Arsenal raise their game against the biggest names in European football, and funnily enough seem to struggle against the less fancied sides in Europe.

Arsenal’s best performances in Europe were when they weren’t favourites to get a result. We’ve seen Thierry score a hattrick at Roma, Arsenal demolish Inter Milan 5-1 in their own back yard, win at the Bernabeu and turnover Juventus over two legs.

And don’t forget, this current Arsenal team can beat anyone on their day.

We even managed to lead against one of the strongest sides in World Football in the Champions League Final with only 10 men for over an hour!

So no-one should be worried about this tie.

Bring it on!

But we should not underestimate this AC Milan side.

Yes, they are currently struggling in their domestic league – slumped in 11th position and a shocking 22 points behind league leaders Inter Milan.

But this is the side that won the European Cup last season, and have a simply awesome record in this competition over the last 5 years. Correct me if I’m wrong, but they were in the semi-finals against Deportivo (were they lost a 4-1 lead) and Barcelona (who went on to win it), and then met Liverpool in the final twice, losing one and winning one.

So they may be poor in Serie A at this moment in time but in Europe it’s safe to say they have a formula to get to the latter stages, and are arguably the best side equiped in European Football.

People will say this team is ageing, past their best, and all the other rubbish but their record speaks for itself.

And that should serve as great motivation for this young Arsenal side to beat one of Europe’s greats.

Below is the Champions League draw in full:

Celtic v Barcelona
Lyon v Manchester United
Schalke v Porto
Liverpool v Inter Milan
Roma v Real Madrid
Arsenal v AC Milan
Olympiakos v Chelsea
Fenerbahce v Sevilla

Arsenal Overcome A Dirty Chelsea Side To Reclaim Top Spot (w/ Player Ratings)

Arsenal (1) – (0) Chelsea
Gallas (45′+2)
The Emirates Stadium, London

Well Grand Slam Sunday ended with Manchester United and Arsenal taking all 3 points, both winning by one goal to nil, both with goals coming just before half-time and both from corners.

The similarities are uncanny.

Arsene Wenger kept everyone guessing about his team selection for the weekends game and the starting lineup saw Flamini, Fabregas and Hleb all return which was a massive boost. Arsenal are a completely different side with these 3 in the team and their return couldn’t have been timed better.

Van Persie started on the bench, but as the Dutchman showed midweek in the Champions League Arsene has the amazing ability to nurse players back from injury with the same match sharpness they had before being sidelined.

With United winning the earlier kick off, Arsenal were under pressure to get 3 points and reclaim their place at the top of the table. At Anfield, Manchester United won yet again, at a place they always seem to win. It was a real smash and grab job from the Mancs, who looked to get Liverpool on the break with the pace of Ronaldo, Tevez, Anderson, Giggs and Rooney. In all honesty, apart from a couple of poor decisions from Van Der Sar in the first half, Liverpool didn’t threaten at all. United always looked like they would win the game after going ahead, which shows how different the game could have been if we scored first when Arsenal visited Anfield in October.

But that was then and this is now.

And Arsenal overcame a very physical Chelsea side who looked to unsettle the young guns but only succeeded in causing their own problems.

Tackles were flying in from Ashley Cole and John Terry, who always have a go at the referee for every little incident. What resulted was a wound up John Terry who tried to kick through Eboue but only managed to injure himself and an Ashley Cole who kept recklessly diving in only for Eboue to use his trickery and pace to beat him and make Cole look like a player who can’t actually defend.

People will talk about the tackle from Eboue, but they seem to forget the shocking two-footed lunge from Terry on Cesc Fabregas. So in that sense Terry got what he deserved. And then there was the punch to the face on Cesc by Asshole although Fabregas was play acting a bit. The initial challenge from Cesc on Cole was pretty rough but I can forgive him for that because he hates Chelsea and Cashley as much as I do.

So there were quite a few moments in the game which boiled over but was something which I enjoyed about the game.

It shows the desire to win and also shows how much both of these teams really hate each other. And I completely despise Chelsea for so many reasons. The way Arsenal/Chelsea games are these days you could say they have almost replaced the Arsenal/United battles of old in the Vieira/Keane era, where both sides would fight to win. They are tight, physical and bitter affairs but that makes for really intriguing viewing.

And that makes it so much more satisfying when you do win.

In a way, Chelsea may have done Arsenal a huge favour. We all know Chelsea are abusive, dirty and will do anything to win – and the young players came through that tough test with all three points.

Arsenal only know one way to play, and that’s with silky, slick passing and Chelsea tried to nullify it with the physical approach. The great thing to see was that when Chelsea started to make a real scrap of the game, Arsenal replied and got the better of them. I think the way Arsenal responded surprised Chelsea. Too many times in the past Arsenal would almost cower in a game like yesterdays but the players stood up and battled when needed.

The Chelsea fans will point to missing players, such as Drogba, Carvalho and Ballack missing but the fact is football is all about injuries so there’s no point crying about them. Over the last few games Arsenal have missed Hleb, Flamini, Diaby, Fabregas and Van Persie with injuries and over that time I have only commented on the players who are actually playing. Granted, I may have not been complimentary about players like Gilberto but one thing I haven’t done is moan about the injuries. And if Chelsea fans want to be pedantic – Arsenal would probably be 6 points clear if Cesc, Flamini and Hleb were playing in the Newcastle and Boro games anyway!

Arsenal didn’t play at their peak yesterday, although that was partly down to Chelsea. Chelsea only really threatened in the last 15 minutes, when they brought on an extra forward and played with two strikers. Ironically though, that was our most dangerous period, when Robin came on and there was extra space in midfield for Arsenal to play.

It was end to end stuff, with both teams unfortunate not to score. Petr Cech made ammends for his first half mistake by keeping Chelsea in the game saving shots from Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas.

There’s no doubt the result was vital for Arsenal and a fantastic response to losing at Middlesbrough. It showed the character of the side and Chelsea provided a tough test. It was the perfect result going into a tough fixture calender in December and January.

Arsenal Player Ratings

Manual Almunia: 9/10
Made an excellent save from a deflected SWP shot and made some vital saves from Shevchenko. Also was quick off his line to put off SWP in the second half to force his effort wide. Solid throughout the match and fully deserved his clean sheet against Chelsea – and how many Premiership goalkeepers can say that?

Bacary Sagna: 8/10
Very solid, linked up well with Eboue and kept Joe Cole quiet. Joe Cole only really did anything when he played further infield which is testament to Sagna’s performance.

Kolo Toure: 8/10
Defended excellently alongside Gallas, and reduced Shevchenko to shots from distance.

William Gallas: 8/10
A tale of two captains, and Gallas was ice cool whereas Terry was waiting to fly off the handle. Really does add steel to Arsenal and fully deserved his goal. Did brilliantly to keep his eye on the ball and score from the corner as most people would expect Cech to at least get a touch on it.

Gael Clichy: 7/10
Up and down the left flank yet again and kept SWP at bay for most of the match. Got sucked infield for that second half SWP chance which luckily didn’t cost Arsenal the points.

Emmanuel Eboue: 7/10
Full of running but couldn’t really make an impact, but an improvement on poor performances against Newcastle and Middlesbrough. Did manage to fool Ashley Cole on several occasions with his skill and pace which was fantastic to see.

Mathieu Flamini: 8/10
Maybe just short of match sharpness but not short of match fitness as his high-powered running set the tempo for wave after wave of Arsenal attacks. Impressive energy levels, even deep into the second half. Really got in the face of Chelsea’s attacking players, giving them hardly any time on the ball.

Cesc Fabregas: 9/10
Involved in every Arsenal attack and took up some excellent attacking positions. Arsenal certainly miss his presence and unlucky not to score a couple of goals in the second half. Also delivered a beautiful cross for the Gallas goal. Fantastic tackle on Cashley on the full time whistle as well. Had the opportunity to scythe down Cuntface and took it with aplomb. That tackle was what Arsenal fans have waited for over the past few years.

Tomas Rosicky: 9/10
Excellent performance. Fantastic running on the break and linked up well with the midfield and attack. Showed brilliant energy levels and kept everything flowing with his accurate passing.

Alexander Hleb: 8/10
Did well in the middle alongside Adebayor and gave Van Persie the chance to score the killer second goal. Excellent ball retention yet again and great to see him back to fitness.

Emmanuel Adebayor: 9/10
Sensational. Popped up on the left wing, the right wing and ran all over the pitch for the cause. He plays much better when Hleb and Fabregas are in the team and deserved his goal which the referee unfairly ruled out for a so-called foul on Ben Haim. Best performance for a few games which is encouraging.

Robin Van Persie: 8/10 (Replaced Emmanuel Eboue on 69′)
Gave Arsenal an extra dimension when he came on and looked really lively. Only played 20 minutes but managed to forced Cech into making decent saves and was unlucky not to have scored. For only a 20 minute cameo, he couldn’t have been more influential.

Gilberto Silva: 7/10 (Replaced Alexander Hleb on 78′)
Brought on to close the game down and did well in the closing stages alongside Flamini to see out the win. Did produce a clumsy foul just outside the area though which Shevchenko almost scored from.

Nicklas Bendtner: 6/10 (Replaced Emmanuel Adebayor on 90′)
Not on long enough to make a difference, although showed some great touches and setup Fabregas for that final chance before the final whistle.