Date: 27th December 2006 at 10:50am
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As promised, reporting live from my sister’s laptop in sunny Dartford. The kettle is boiled, the heating is of Sahara proportions (like I said, my sister’s flat, I’m not paying) and your esteemed writer is feeling suitably plump. After my particular contribution, Old Speckled Hen will be posting record profits and I think I have discovered why I do not eat nuts, raisins, pretzels etc for the other 364 days of the year!

I am not exactly a die hard traditionalist, but the Boxing Day fixture has long been a favourite of mine, the site of everybody rocking dope new threads (plus a sizeable number who were too polite to tell their Auntie that they cannot possibly go to a match in that horrific knitwear), plus a chance to get out of the house following the veritable feast of food and drink the day previous have made Boxing Day football a Stillman tradition since I can remember. Unfortunately, it does mean that arriving at the match can be a bloody headache as yesterday proved. With the abolition of the Metroplitan Line and the Silverlink from Euston I was left with little choice but to board the Travel Club Coach from the Grove. A 45 minute coach journey for an away match was most surreal. But further travel problems were to ensue, having been so relieved to have found a way to the match I had not bothered to work out the return journey to Dartford. In an outrageous stroke of fortune, the coaches the Travel Club use dock in Gillingham, which means they literally go past my sister’s front door. (Yes, I did tip the driver before you ask).

Anyways, it is hard to know what to make of the game itself. On one hand, I think we constantly posed an attacking threat and made more than enough chances to win the match comfortably. We would have done were it not for the excellent Ben Foster. Cesc, van Persie, Hoyte and Adebayor were all to see efforts beaten out by Foster. He had a similarly inspired match at the Emirates, Foster demonstrates a Schmeichelesque presence in a one on one situation, standing up and making himself big for as long as possible. Surely a future England number one and already better than that laughable oaf Robinson.

But for our attacking threat, we showed a defensive frailty. Hoyte was persistently out of position, when he was the lightning pace of Bouazza made Hoyte look quite the roasted turkey. Clichy began the game in a shaky fashion, looking roughed up by the thoroughbred Smith and panicking a lot of his clearances. However, the Hurricane eventually got a grip. Djourou lacked the aerial presence to cope with the Watford forwards. The introduction of Senderos at half time remedied this, as he offset Watford’s aerial bombradment by offering a more physical presence. The Magnificent Toure was, for once, faced with a forward line that could match his boundless pace and the upshot was Watford gave us a lot of problems. Mahon and Bangura closed space and neutered Fabregas, whilst the wingers tracked back to limit the effectiveness of Hleb and Rosicky.

This meant that when Arsenal did go forward, there was little room for insividuality and we were at our most effective when we played swift one touch football. It looks as though Adebayor tweaked a thigh muscle towards the end of the game which is a huge shame because he is in great form. The only Arsenal player you could say shone as an individual was Gilberto Silva. It was akin to watching a roadrunner cartoon because he was everywhere. Sensing his centre backs apprehension, he dropped back and intercepted aerially and won possession for the side on countless occasions. Clearly relishing his role as captain, prior to the game in the warm up, he called all the players over and was seen to be cajouling and instructing his side for a good minute and a half.

Gilberto’s performance was to be concisely (excuse me, Keeping Up Appearances has just come on TV as I type, I HATE that show, the Simpson’s that’s better, anyway) summised in two first half minutes. A high ball was misjudged by Djourou which left Smith bearing down on goal, Gilberto sniffed ot out like a bloodhound and executed an outstanding last ditch tackle. Tis the season and a minute later, Arsenal reignited an old tradition. As the corner swung in, the ghost of Christmas past was in the air as Toure did his best Steve Bould impression on the front post and Gilberto observed the Dickensian etiquette by nodding in on the back post. Onew of the guys I go with is a bookie and informed me that Gilberto was at 2,000s for the Golden Boot in August, but bookies being the interminable Scrooges they are have shortened the odds (humbugs).

However, Watford pegged us back as the Magnificent Toure was outpaced (surely a first) by Bouazza and the back four were all at sea for Smith to tuck the cross past Lehmann. The Gunners pressed on and the Beast made a difference by adding some physical presence, but the Reds got their winner. Gilberto made another timely clearance and Walcott set van Persie away on the break. As soon as he cut in on his left foot the result was obvious. It masked a poor performance from RVP. he looked languid in possession and unwilling to chase back. He also showed his petulant side, castigating Baptista when the Beast nearly scored and ignoring him in the celebrations for the second goal. van Persie will do well to remember the patience shown in him when he was settling in and Baptista put more effort into fifteen minutes than van Persie did in 90. RVP is hardly in a position to lambast others for selfishness in front of goal and I hope that Baptista’s propensity towards goal will not be compromised. LD.


16 Replies to “Silva is Golden”

  • Good one and completely true about RvP – could see it on the telly as well. Apart from the goal he had a very very poor game and his attitude was shi*e. Could have squared one for Cesc in the 1st half, decided to shoot – no one complained. The Beast came on and took a very clever placed shot inches wide of the post and RvP is there moaning. Not good.

  • yes, thats a shame rvp had to moan at baptista, really he has no ground to do so. I feel quite sorry for the beast doesnt get much football comes on and nearly has an instant impact and gets lambasted by a stroppy dutchman, his goal was absoloute class though. Shame rosicky was on the fringes for most parts of the game, he really looks like he can explode in the near future and im just waiting patiently, nice article LD.

  • Gilberto Silva was by far our best player. Even tho Walcott set up RVP it was all down to Gilberto keeping the ball in play when it looked like a corner.
    I’d also like to see RVP play on the right side like he does for holland, he’s so lethal when he cuts in like he did against watford and blackburn.

  • Ive always held Gilberto in ihgh regard but he has added leadership qualities to his positioning skills. He has learnt from last year that he needs to be a leader and for that he must take an immense amount of credit.

  • As I’ve said, there is nothing to prevent Gilberto from carrying on in this vein when Henry reassumes the armband. I think he suffered from the loss of Vieira last year but has relished the role. There doesn’t seem to be anyway of taking the captaincy off Henry without causing major waves and negative publicity- no matter how Henry himself reacts to the news. I think the respective form of Gilberto and Adebayor will give Henry all the incentive he needs to come back better than ever.

  • Imagine: TH14 comes back for the first game, Gilberto scores another one and TH gives him the armband himself… he is capable of that isn’t he? Thierry is a great and honest person and I am sure that he sees the same thing that we all see i.e. Gilberto being a tremendous captain. I feel that Baptista will get a chance to prove his worth in the second part of the season, and he will do so.

  • Something similar happened in Praha, Gilberto was captain, but when TH came off the bench and broke the goal scoring record, Gilo put the armband on Thierry.

  • one of the shakiest defensive displays this season. hoyte and djourou had bad games to be honest, and senderos looked relatively composed. a disapointing performance overall, coz i expected a domination of watford which didnt quite happen. full credit to watford though, they gave us a game.

  • 3 pts is 3 pts. I think noone at Villa Park, Goodison or Riverside complained about their ‘unworthy’ 1 pt at the Emirates, games where they honestly deserved at least half of what the Rovers received from the Arsenal for Christmas. 3 pts when playing bad/ugly is a sign of a good club, just ask the Chavs – they’ve mastered it in the last couple years. And I completely agree about Hoyte. He was out of position too many times.

  • you know what else, for a long time i have said Gilberto has done the unsung work, the stuff at the back, keeping things tidy, nothing spectacular, but its like the work behind the scenes. now he has the armband he is loeading by example, scoring the goal that matters and showing the kids how to fight for a game.. by far his best tally ever !

  • As I’ve said on the forum, I’d love Bert to keep the armband but it’s not worth the grief. Even if Henry sai “Gilberto has done a fantastic job and eserves to keep the armband. I will now be vice captain” there would be all sorts of rumours doing the rounds.

  • Probably right simmy, and we may not be seeing Thierry issuing that statement but I kind of have this feeling that the next time Gilberto and Henry are both in the team and Arsenal win (or even better if any of them two scores) – Titi will show his appreciation for the ‘Invisible Wall’.

  • have to agree G4L, i think between the two of them, they are proffessional enough to know each other well and know what they do on the pitch, they don’t need an armband to show it, its only material. instead we willhave 2 good captains on the pitch each bringing their own something to the team and the rest will benefit 🙂

  • I reckon Titi will give him the armband for 1 half or something cheeky like that. I remember his gestures after he scored from a Kerrea Gilbert cross in the League Cup against Wigan when he showed everyone who is to credit for the goal. What a great man!

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