Monday, November 10, 2008

Arsenal v Manchester United, November 8, Premier League

It was a great night for Arsenal who finished 2-1 winners against the Champions on a night when any other result would have led to more tut-tutting and comments about the wisdom of Arsene. Personally I don't think that this win has provided any new proof regarding Arsenal's title credentials and if they had a one in four chance of winning it before Saturday then the odds should be no better or worse today.

We all know that Arsenal can win against the best and can do it in diapers and that's just what they did. The question is, how many times out of 38 will they do it this season and whether their own inconsistency will be exceeded by that of the other contenders.

"Entertainment" is the word that summarizes the 90 minute thriller with chances and openings and moments of brilliance. Trappings of a Saturday evening social life made me miss the first twenty odd minutes and the Nasri opener. A delayed start to my half-time smoke break resulted in me missing Nasri's second. And so, as I saw it, it was a game dominated by Manchester United with very impressive resilience from Arsenal supplemented with counter attacking punches.

For Arsenal, Nasri caught the eye even though I didn't actually see him score and Diaby has impressed me every time I have seen him. Bendtner clearly is not cut out for the lone striker role and they really need to work on their crossing. And while I am all for the beautiful football, I can't understand their reluctance towards retaining possession as the game draws to a close.

Alex Ferguson and his team will be furious at not having at least taken a point from this one. The problem with having such a star studded front line is that someone needs to sit on the bench and on days when the goals don't go in, questions will always be raised about why the star on the bench didn't play. And even with that understanding I too am tempted to blame the absence of Tevez for the lack of bite.

But here is why I'm really in bliss after the game. Rafael, coming on as a second half sub for Gary Neville is the type of player who spreads joy. In the few minutes he was on the pitch, we saw him hold the ball under pressure from a herd, we saw him make a brilliant tackle to stop an attack and then we saw him score for the Red Devils - a left footed wonder strike from the right back. He may be a while away from playing ninety minutes week in and week out, but he should get there.

While Neville will slip into the veteran's super sub role, I expect Wes Brown to be looking for clubs in a season or two. This was my second sighting of the Brazilian and there is a special happiness in seeing a potential phenomenon in his very early days. This week I'll be basking in that joy!

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