Monday, March 9, 2009

Arsenal v Burnely, FA Cup, March 8

I missed Eduardo’s wonder strike and only saw about the last forty minutes of the game but it was enough to be entertained. I know Eduardo has all the headlines (and deservingly so) but it was hardly the only high point of the game and while I’m disappointed to have missed the first fifty minutes, I was equally thankful for having caught the next forty.

I’ve sometimes gotten irritated listening to people who rave about the ‘beautiful’ game that Arsenal play because frankly over the last eighteen months, glimpses of that beauty have been as rare as a bouncer in the Gunners’ starting line-up. I’m no pundit, but while it is great to pass the ball around slickly between a few players up front, I feel the absence of a sturdy midfield has basically meant a lot lesser of the ball with Arsenal in areas from where you engineer beautiful play. Hence a rare good one two or a smart back heel over a game has been touted of as beautiful play while they have been bull dozed off the centre of the park. Especially after the Cesc injury they have not had anyone capable of consistently making the beautiful passes that really count by freeing up strikers and setting them on their way to goal.

Burnley probably did not pose a similar threat to Arsenal and they prospered. While the front men kept doing the usual things, it was the influence that Diaby and Song and Eboue (after he moved to the middle) had, that made even skeptic me acknowledge that this side was more about fun than frustration. I would love to say that with Walcott and Eduardo already back and Cesc on his way back soon as well, we will see more such performances by Wenger’s boys. However, I am not convinced of that. I think the absence of a muscle man in the centre will continue to hurt them this season, and unlike Burnley, the challenges they face from premier league and Champion’s League season, will not allow them to replicate this fluency week in and week out.

Burnley did their bit to make the game exciting as well. The really cool aspect of Burnley’s play was their confidence with the ball and it was just amazing to see players in England take on the opposition and dribble past obstructions rather than look to hoof a direct ball somewhere. Absolutely delightful! They lacked the final pass and the finish but till Arsenal scored a third through Eboue, they had kept threatening to bring the deficit down to one goal and push their illustrious hosts till the very end.

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