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It was never in doubt was it?

by on August 25, 2011

What was our record in Champions League qualifiers? Scored 22 and conceded 2? Won every tie we’ve been in? Something like that. What were we worried about really? It wasn’t that big a game was it? It’s not like we’d just lost two of our most creative players, suffered a raft of injuries and were in a ‘crisis’ right? Oh wait, what’s that you say? We were? There was all kinds of pressure you say? People questioning whether the team had what it took? That we conceded and were written off because we didn’t have enough leaders? Enough belief? Enough confidence? Enough passion? Enough fire? That’s what the English media said. Well screw them. In the end it was a comfortable win and a thoroughly deserved one, despite what some journalists will tell you. We bossed the game and I, like many other supporters, was positively buzzing after the match. Negatives? What negative? It was just all positive.

In case you don’t know what I’m jabbering on about, we won a match! We outscored the opposition! We beat Udinese 2-1, 3-1 on aggregate. Good times! You can watch the extended highlights here if you haven’t already and there’s some post-match interviews around as well. Van Persie was clearly saying in his interview that, with all the money we’ve made, we really should be investing sometime soon.

Celebrations after Theo secured the win

Let’s talk about the match then. Wojciech Szczesny had a good game. That penalty save, an absolute cracker. It was admittedly at the right height, but there was power and placement on it and it was just a superb stop. Really great. I have to say that I think for the goal he was a bit stranded, he seemed to be in no-mans land a bit. He often strays off his line when play is away from goal. That’s not a problem, but then he isn’t always so quick to either get back or come out when the opposition attacks. It’s a minor flaw really and one that should be fixed within a year or two. I’m not blaming him for the goal either, even if he were on his line, that was a brilliant header, exquisitely placed.

Carl Jenkinson. I love this kid. The passion he plays with, the pride at wearing the cannon. You can see the fire in his eyes. Yes, he’s still learning, but I have to say that I think he could really become quite, quite good. The best thing though, he’s never going to give up. Never going to ‘be satisfied’ because he’s not playing for money. He’s playing because, as a boy, this was his dream. More on that later. Djourou and Vermaelen had good games. The marking for Di Natale’s goal could have probably been slightly better. Vermaelen looked like he picked up a knock on his ankle at one point and was hobbling for around five minutes but seemed fine after that. There are concerns about whether he’ll make Old Trafford this weekend. Let’s hope he does. It’s only when you watch him that you realise what a world-class player we missed last season. Bacary Sagna played at left-back and had a good game, considering that he’s right-footed. There were a few times where he got forward, was preparing to cross and then didn’t really know what to do so played it to one of the midfielders, but a solid game from the Bac-man.

Celebrations after Van Persie's equaliser

In midfield, we started with Song-Pong behind Aaron Ramsey. Frimpong sat deep and broke up the opposition play quite well while Song was slightly further forward, playing the ‘Wilshere’ role. He looked a bit out of place, obviously in terms of vision and range of passing he’s hardly the best player for the role. Pong came off for Rosicky at half-time. A brilliant change for Wenger, a master-stroke if you will. Pong had a good game, but Rosicky just added that bit more drive and spark to the team. Song was able to sit back more and looked more at home. Aaron Ramsey had a pretty good game, the midfield was a little un-balanced in the first half, but he kept possession well and there was nice fluidity in the attack. I think I saw somewhere that he had a 92% pass completion percentage. It looks like he’s starting to get back to his pre-Shawcross form.

Upfront, Theo Walcott got mixed reviews at half-time. He got in good positions and almost scored ‘early doors’ as Alan Smith would say, but he was getting in all the right positions and on more than one occasions it was only some marvellous goalkeeping from Handanovic that kept Udinese in the tie. A good finish for his goal capped a solid performance from the young forward. I have to say, I don’t think I’m the only person thinking that maybe it’s time to play him up front. Gervinho looks to be fitting in now, he’s still going past players with ease and the end-product looks to be there now, with an assist for Van Persie. There were still a few loose balls which maybe were a bit inaccurate, but he’s a lively player and let’s hope he can kick on when his suspension is over. Robin Van Persie had a good match, obviously he scored and his overall play was at the standard you would expect. There were one or two more chances he would have wanted to put away, but overall a good game from the captain. On that subject, how naturally does he wear the armband? A brilliant choice of captain if you ask me. Arshavin and Traore came on for a few minutes. Not much to say.

Carl Jenkinson applauding the fans at the final whistle

Loads and loads of post-match reaction if you haven’t watched it already. I would really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, watch these interviews. Especially Carl Jenkinson’s. The pride and passion shown is brilliant. I just get the feeling that this team is so together. When you look at the likes of Szczesny, Jenkinson, Wilshere and so many of the youngsters coming through, you just get the feeling that they’re willing to do whatever it takes. I don’t know why I’m so confident when we’ve just lost Fabregas and Nasri, but there’s something about this squad that just says, they’re a team.

Arsene Wenger spoke afterwards about the belief and confidence the team showed. For a full transcript of what he said, click here. Robin Van Persie also spoke about the result, hoping that we’ve surprised a few people who felt we wouldn’t succeed when we were under the kosh. Well we showed them. Scummy Spurs fans. Arsene Wenger also spoke about his relief at getting through to the group stages. You can listen to that interview here.

A bit of other news then. I mentioned the other day that Ryo got a run-out for the reserves and scored the third goal in our 3-1 win, well here’s the highlights! Emmanuel Frimpong has also been included in England’s U-21s squad. He apparently wants to play for Ghana, but if he plays for England and doesn’t go to the African Cup of Nation then I won’t complain.

Arsene Wenger double-checking how many goals we had scored

Transfer news then, the Mail reckon we’ve had a loan bid for Kaka turned down because Real want the deal to be permanent. I have to be honest, this excited me. Kaka was a hero of mine a few years ago because he was the perfect role model. If we signed Kaka, I wouldn’t be overly-disappointed, let’s put it that way. The Guardian reckon we’re looking at M’Vila, with a £22m move mooted. Seems unlikely, why would we want another defensive midfielder? Why would we spend that much on one as well? He’s probably worth it, certainly a very good player, but I’m not sure about that. Having said that, he could easily be a box-to-box player, like Wilshere is at the moment. We could do with reinforcements in that area with Denilson and Diaby not quite up to the required standard recently.

TALKshite reckon we now have no chance of signing Hazard. Knowing our luck, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Just when we qualify for the Champions League, I could imagine all of our targets being either ruled out or getting catastrophic career-ruining injuries. The Metro reckon we’re looking at Raul Albiol from Real Madrid. A decent player, but that’s it. Surely he’s behind any options who actually have Premier League experience? Speaking of which, I’m told that Everton aren’t moving in terms of their valuation of Phil Jagielka. That kind of sucks, mainly because we want him.

That is that  for today, my that was a long one wasn’t it. If you want more of me then be sure to follow me on twitter @SavageGooner.

Be sure to let me know what you thought of the match as well! Who was your man of the match?

Victoria Concordia Crescit – Victory Comes Through Harmony

Awww.....

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