Sunday, 14 November 2010

A bright result in the Black Country. Wolves match report.

Wolves 0 Arsenal 2

After bemoaning Arsenal starting matches badly, only I could complain about Chamakh scoring so early that I actually ended up missing the first goal. Getting in late from work, it was great to see us one up, even if that was the first Arsenal goal I'd missed in ages and ages. Chamakh's all-round game was excellent and to see him playing well off-the-ball again after his shocking performance against Newcastle was reassuring.

The talking points from the game were threefold - Cesc's tackle, Fabianski's performance, and the general defensive resilience of the team so let's take them in turn.

I said at the time on Twitter that Cesc's tackle looked worse than it was, but in retrospect I think I was wrong. He was late, and more to the point, much the same can be said of Joe Cole's tackle on Koscielny as Cesc's one: even if he wins the ball, the angle he's going in at, the ball is going straight into touch. In other words, there's no real positive to the tackle.

Now, I'm not trying to insinuate that Cesc was trying to hurt the opposition player. But the referee has to make a decision, and though it may not be the rules, if the way the tackle is made means there's no possible benefit from it, and it's late and a little reckless, the player has to be sent off. I think that's what Cesc was guilty off. I complained in the Newcastle match that the little things has stopped going our way, but keeping Cesc for a couple of tricky away games and a North London derby is obviously a plus point.

There is though, the very correct argument that Karl Henry's tackle was worse. This doesn't excuse Cesc in any way. Karl Henry should 100% of been sent off, whereas with Cesc it's probably what Arsene would call 'an orange card'. The fact MOTD didn't show it was predictable if disappointing. But it was just another Karl Henry tackle; Cesc isn't known for that type of tackling and lets hope he continues that way. Mick McCarthy defending him was not a good thing - it just showed how he has this cynical view of football being a really physical game. Him praising Cesc for his tackling probably tells it's own story.

Turning to Fabianski's performance, I couldn't be happier. When I saw his kit for the first time, I thought it was some prank. But in the end he looked pretty in pink and made a series of excellent saves.

Whether he can be our long-term number one is obviously still a big debate. Do performances like those against Chelsea, Man City and Wolves cancel out the mistake against Newcastle? Probably not when there's a keeper as good as Szczesny waiting in the wings. But as long as Arsene refuses to play him, Fabianski is a better bet than Almunia because he makes more saves, even if they both make mistakes.

Against Wolves he was excellent - it may just be a statistical quirk that Wolves were the first opposition team we had kept 'two straight clean sheets' against since Spurs in 2009, but Fabianski's saves were what brought us the three points - after the first ten minutes, we really went off the boil.

That said, the team defensive performance was good. With what was nominally a reserve centre back partnership, we did really well. Clichy and Sagna managed to avoid their normal mistakes and though Wolves had lots of the ball, they never really cut us open or found it easy.

Games which we win one or two nil tend to be characterised as fixtures which show the team is growing in maturity. Trouble is, there's always been a couple of them a season - witness Fulham away last season. The big question is whether we can win this kind of game consistently. In the last few years we haven't - witness the draws at the back end of 2008 which cost us the League. The ups and downs with this team make it impossible to say - but the wider point is about keeping clean sheets. Over the last few years we've struggled to do this. If we can do it, success could be ours. Hopefully we can keep another one at Goodison...

Keep the faith.

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