Date: 28th August 2008 at 11:32am
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All in all tonights game was a decent enough performance. Four goals from four different scorers, two from the wings, can not be frowned upon but I can still only view this victory with reserved optimism. Yes there were positives, Theo scored, Nasri looked assured while on the field, Denilson was immeasurily better than on Saturday, Cesc got some match time and Gallas looked as if his winning mentality and concentration were back to normal, but there was also an equally long list of negatives that were evident against Fulham. RVP’s confidence in front of goal must be as low as I’ve ever seen it (though he’s involvement in the build up play was a positive), Nasri is another fragile body who looks certain to miss games, Bendtner was average at best, Theo’s decision making must still be questioned at times and Almunia’s inability to either stay on his line or come for balls, repeatedly getting caught somewhere in the middle, is a frightening prospect for when we play a team with genuine pace and finishing ability. Also one would have to doubt this twente sides ability to even hold Hull to a 0-0 draw. For mine, the best thing that can come from this performance is some continuity leading into the Newcastle game, get the feeling of the free-flowing football that is our trademark back in the players feet.

Another positive that may come from this game, more specifically from CL qualification, is that we may see the signing or two in midfield that so many of us believe is required. Wenger is as frugal and financially responsible a manager as there is in top-class football and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if now that the 20 mil or so that comes guaranteed with group stage qualification is assured we see the signings we’ve been waiting for wrapped up in the next few days.

An issue I touched on in my last post, was that of not just signing a player to appease fans or for their reputation (eg; Alonso or Barry) but signing the right player/s. Since Vieira left Arsenal many Gooner’s have been aching for the void he left in our midfield to be filled by a similar player, one of drive, leadership and genuine bite. Names such as Appiah, M’Bia, Muntari, Makoun and Yaya Toure have been touted about as players capable of filling that hole, Diaby was a man we all initially thought and hoped was the natural heir apparent. The problem with this line of thinking, that we lack something unique that Vieira gave us since his departure, is it ignores the significant fact that since Vieira left Arsenal our style of play has changed to the extent that it makes a player of his ilk redundant in a 4-4-2 formation.

Let us get one thing straight before the doubters begin to question this, Vieira was not a defensive midfielder. Vieira, in his time at Arsenal played with either one of Petit or Gilberto behind him in midfield cleaning up and intercepting when the dynamic Frenchman journeyed to far down field in a typical attacking foray. When it is considered in this way it becomes obvious as to why Wenger does not see Diaby as a central midfielder, because if he plays behind Cesc (the indisputable centre point of this side) then there is essentially no defensive midfielder. Granted Diaby is not of the same quality as Vieira, but neither are Toure or Appiah, and for any player such as these to work compatibly with Cesc in midfield it would require us to play with a constant 4-5-1. Take a look at how both these players clubs opperate. At Barcelona Yaya plays in behind Iniesta and alongside Xavi, a play making defensive middle in the Pirlo/Alonso mould. Together these two give Barca a sense of balance either on their own would leave a gaping hole. The same is true for Appiah in his time at Fenerbache where he and either one of Terici or Aurellio played in behind the attacking focal point, Alex. So although a player with similar power and drive to Vieira is clearly something admirable it would not work in our current set up unless this player was utilised alongside either Denilson or Song, with Cesc in the hole in front. A midfield of Cesc and Appiah/Toure has no more balance to it than a midfield of Cesc and Alonso.

On another note altogether I would just like to pay my respect to the Twente fans. Brilliant over both legs even though their team wasn’t. This is the way to support your team when they are down, when all seems hopeless and lost. Staying behind your team no matter what, keeping the party going, keeping positive and sometimes hoping your vocal support will provide a minor mirracle, no matter how unlikely it seems.

Cheers for another day people. Much respect to the Twente travellers. Ozi!