Thursday, 24 November 2011

Songinho and Vermaelen devastating as RVP assures qualification for "crisis" club Arsenal

Morning Gooners.

I think there was a collective sigh of relief last night at the Grove. Not just because we've qualified for the knock out stages of the Champions League for the 12 successive season, but also the fact that Robin van Persie picked himself up from a shocking challenge from Moritz Leitner who raked his studs down the back of the Dutchman's leg in the second half. Had RVP not picked himself up from that I think Leitner would have become public enemy number one pretty quickly.

Thankfully we can breathe easily as the Arsenal captain ended the night with two goals making that his 11th and 12th goals in his last eight appearance in all competitions for the club. The man is on fire. And by calling Arsenal a one man team, that statement in itself is very disrespectful to the other 10 players who grace the pitch with van Persie.

The manager sent out the same team which started the league game at Norwich at the weekend. That meant Laurent Koscielny continued at right back with Per Mertesacker starting alongside Thomas Vermaelen in the heart of the Arsenal defence. Abou Diaby took a place on the bench for the first time this season.

It would be fair to say that the Germans started well. They had all the early chances as Arsenal soaked up the pressure. Our best chance in the opening exchanges fell to Theo Walcott, who reacted well to beat the offside trap but was unable to beat the Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller to the ball.

Two of Dortmund's most influential players were forced from the field in the opening half hour. Sven Bender coming off second best to Vermaelen's boot which caught the young German's face - the player will have jaw surgery in London this morning - and was substituted after 25 minutes. Four minutes later Mario Goetze was forced to retire through injury after failing to maneuver himself around an Alex Song block which inflicted a knee injury on the teenager.

It meant that this Arsenal team were able to tackle a Dortmund team without two of its most influential players for the remaining two thirds of the game. Despite the substitutes, the visitors kept up their pressure. Arsenal though were first to find the net, although Theo Walcott was offside and it was lucky he didn't get a yellow card.

And it was Walcott who turned provider for one of the Gunners best first half chances when he played in a dangerous cross which was cut out before it could reach van Persie.  At half time the game was scoreless and it felt that both teams were canceling one another out. Arsenal seemed to lack the cutting edge going forward but to their credit, the German's pressing of the ball was impressive.

After soaking up some early German pressure at the start of the second half, it was Arsenal who found the net - and this time the goal stood.

Aaron Ramsey played the ball to Alex Song who powered passed one man, then used a bit of trickery to beat two more before finding the perfect right footed cross for van Persie to rise above everyone else in the box to head home. The goal was all of Song's making and J├╝rgen Klopp was right to pick out the Cameroon international as one of Arsenal's danger men yesterday.

Within five minutes of our first we should have had a second. Ramsey again the with the key pass as he sent Gervinho clear but things don't seem to be going right in front of goal for the Ivorian. He did everything right but  the defenders got back in time to prevent a second goal which would have killed the game off.

Again Gervinho had the chance again to put the tie to bed after the hour - but again after fooling the goalkeeper the covering defender gets back in time and another chance goes begging.

The game opened up after the visitors made their final substitution of the game. They knew they wanted to take something from this game but the Arsenal defence stood firm.

Alex Song and Mikel Arteta were providing the cover in front of the back four which kept the Germans away from Wojciech Szczesny's goal. Mertesacker and Vermaelen looked solid and on the wings, Koscielny and Santos were covering a lot of ground.

It's a shame when a free kick came, Arteta was the one to take it. The Spaniard still hasn't found his range at the Grove and with an opportunity like that I would have liked to have seen Theo Walcott have a go in front of one of his idols - Thierry Henry was in the stands alongside tennis ace Roger Federer.

Gervinho had made way for Yossi Benayoun (How are we to solve the Ivorian's problems in front of goal? It certainly feels he's got a touch of the Sylvain Wiltord's about him.) and then Abou Diaby got the call to replace Theo Walcott prior to Arsenal's second goal of the night.

Arteta took the corner. Vermaelen flicks the ball on at the near post and who would be lurking at the back post - Robin van Persie who stabs home his second goal of the night. Cue massive celebrations in the North Bank.

Dortmund pulled a goal back in injury time but it was the last kick of the game. Arsenal are through to the knock out stages as group winners and it means we won't need any kind of result in Greece next month.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
"Overall it was a good game, Dortmund are a good team. They started stronger than we did but we needed to be patient, intelligent and I think in the second half we increased the tempo of our passing and controlled the game. Slowly you could feel that we could make the difference."
So it's "crisis" club Arsenal who are the first to qualify from the English Premier League for the knock out stages in a week when Manchester United draw and Chelsea and Manchester City lose.

Ooh to be a Gooner, ey?

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