Arsenal (0) 2 - 2 (1) Portsmouth|
Ashburton Grove, Saturday 16th December 2006
Eboue (Flamini 78) Toure Djourou Clichy
Hleb Gilberto Cesc Ljungberg (Walcott 7)
van Persie Aliadiere (Adebayor 55)
An amazing comeback from Arsenal, but one which raised
questions about why it was necessary. Arsenal were good
enough, and direct enough, in the second half to show that
this was a game we could and should have won. Fair play to
Arsene Wenger and Emmanuel Adebayor for turning things
round but really, what was the thinking?
Adebayor said after the game that he was tired, so you can't
argue with dropping him to the bench for a game. But we have
other strikers apart from Jeremie Aliadiere, and we have cup
games coming up if the others need a rest. Theo Walcott
and Julio Baptista spring to mind, players that Wenger's been trying
to break them into the team and must be wondering why Jeremie got
picked ahead of them. Surely no-one thinks he's still got a chance
of getting into the first choice thinking? Wenger also moved back
to 4-4-2, so we had a front pair that weren't used to each other,
and it showed. In contrast the contrasting styles of Robin van Persie
and Adebayor's bustling in the second half gave us so much more, not
that one was in a position to judge Aliadiere's style - he was practically
anonymous in the first half.
Perhaps the fact that Freddie Ljungberg had to limp off after 5 minutes
(with a recurrence of his hamstring trouble - likely to keep him out
for a few weeks) was decisive. Walcott was ok, but we missed Freddie's
workrate. And out of all the players we use on the flanks Walcott
is strangely (being primarily a striker) the most disciplined, staying
out there more than he needs. I can't be the only Arsenal fan that'd
like Wenger to take one of these opportunities to let him have a go
We started with a good move from defence. Cesc Fabregas fed van Persie
for a run through the middle. He played it wide right for Alexander Hleb
who laid the ball back to Emmanuel Eboue. His chip into the box found
van Persie who headed goalwards from 7 yards, forcing the rejuvenated
David James into a decent save.
2 minutes later Glen Johnson hit a good drive from 20-25 yards (after
Gael Clichy had given the ball away cheaply) but it went straight
down Jens Lehmann's throat. It was in this move that Freddie picked
up his injury.
Van Persie went on another central run and tried slipping the ball
forward into the box for Aliadiere, but hit it too strong.
Van Persie was involved again soon after with a curler from outside the box
which went over the bar, after a nicely worked move.
As the half went on though, Portsmouth started to gain in confidence.
A dangerous cross from their right found Kanu and Matthew Taylor in
the box and the latter got his head to it. But it was awkward for him
and came through easy for Jens.
On 24 minutes Cesc hit a great low, curling shot which bounced off
James's legs and fell for van Persie (following in well), but somehow he managed
to hit it straight at James (who, to be fair, had recovered well).
Pompey were pressuring us more and more. The standard ploy of visitors to
Arsenal - packing midfield to try to stop us playing, getting everyone
behind the ball, but with added vim when they had the ball themselves.
Van Persie had one more effort on goal after winning a free kick himself
(running into Pamarot, rather obviously) then blasting it over. But in
injury time Clichy was penalised for a little push on the wing and we
messed up when the cross came over. I don't know who was left free to
get the first header in, but when it hit the far post and came back across
goal it was the former Tottenham man Pamarot who was all alone
on the 6 yard line to head it home.
Within 2 minutes of the restart it was 2-0. Rightly so, too, Arsenal having
come out looking cold and slow. A sloppy defensive start was punished after
the ball bounced around in our box without being cleared, then fell to
Taylor on the left who hit a sweet volley dipping beyond Lehmann and
into the far top corner.
Arsenal tried to respond quickly, Hleb's nice footwork coming in from the right
making space for a shot, which he hit far too weakly allowing James to fall on
9 minutes after the break, the change was made. Almost immediately Adebayor
tried to dribble his way into the box. It looked hopeless with 3 defenders
in the way but he almost got through, and some refs might have given him
the penalty when he went down.
Then on 57 minutes a terrific ball inside the full-back (not sure who, Cesc probably?)
found Walcott making a good run and his perfect low cross put the ball on
a plate for Adebayor who whacked it through the keeper for 2-1.
And a couple of mnutes later we were level. Kolo Toure hit a shot from
35 yards or so which James could only parry. It came to Adebayor on the left of
the box and he chipped it back across the box. A defender got his head to it
taking the ball beyond the far post to Walcott. He seemed to miscontrol it
and the ball popped back to Gilberto whose low diagonal shot beat James
just inside the far post.
Van Persie put Adebayor through again but a superb last ditch tackle came in
to rob him of the ball, after the striker had probably delayed a bit too long.
Pompey were being pegged back enough to allow both Toure and Johan Djourou to
make rampaging runs forward. The former went on a particularly good run,
getting into the box after a one-two with Adebayor, but his cross was
cut out for a throw.
Van Persie's great touch set Hleb up in the box but he also delayed action
allowing Primus to make a crucial tackle. A fantastic move soon after
nearly gave van Persie the goal he deserved. Cesc played the ball wide
for Theo, he feinted to go wide but instead passed inside to van Persie
on the edge of the box. Robin dragged the ball past Sol Campbell to
get into the box on the right but ended with the ball on his weaker right
foot... trying to toe-poke it in with his better left he could only hit
Soon after it was in the side-netting again, James getting a touch this
time to deny Hleb, coming into the box from the other side after nice
approach play from Adebayor and Clichy down that wing.
Mathieu Flamini came on for Eboue, who'd been limping for a while.
Adebayor fed Walcott but his shot was soft and easy. Then Gilberto went on
a great run into the box on the right, a similar position to his goal,
but this time he swept his shot beyond the far post rather than inside it.
Kanu went off, leaving Pompey with no strikers on the pitch (not that
this Taylor bloke doesn't know how to shoot).
Gilberto hit a great pass for Walcott who played it forward for Hleb's
overlapping run. He did really well to keep the ball in, under pressure,
and laid it back for Flamini on the edge of the box but he shot just wide.
Right at the end, Cesc played a good long ball forward for Adebayor. He
seemed to be impeded by Campbell but again a penalty would have been harsh.
With Anthony Stokes, Arturo Lupoli, and Nicklas Bendtner knocking on the door
(and having much better loan spells than he ever did), it's hard not to
think that Jeremie Aliadiere will be on his way out soon. If so, and this
was a 'shop window' appearance, one can only hope that the 2 points
dropped today don't come back to haunt us. Because the game certainly won't do
poor Aliadiere's price or prospects any good.