Monthly Archives: November 2009

Unbeaten Streak Reaches 13 Games

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Arsenal moved up to second place in the Premiership standings with a road victory at Wolverhampton on Saturday, winning by the same 4-1 scoreline as in its Champions League romp over AZ Alkmaar three days earlier.

While not as dominating as in recent matches, Arsenal withstood some early pressure from Wolverhampton before benefitting from a couple of own goals from the hosts. The win extends the Gunners’ unbeaten run to 13 games in all competitions, heading into another international break as World Cup qualifying concludes this month.

Wolverhampton started brightly on what would become a rainy afternoon at the Molineux, controlling possession in the game’s first 20 minutes. But just before the half hour, an Arsenal corner sent in by Cesc Fabregas was directed into the net by defender Ronald Zubar, gifting the Gunners the opening goal.

An Arsenal counter in minute 35 resulted in another own goal, as Eduardo da Silva’s chip nicked Wolves defender Jody Craddock on its way past keeper Wayne Hennessey to further deflate the home side’s spirits.

The 2-0 advantage seemed to ignite Arsenal’s free-flowing attack for the rest of the half, and Fabregas put the game out of reach just before the break, slotting the ball home after being played in brilliantly by Robin van Persie.

With the result decided, the second half proved less eventful than the opening 45 minutes. Andrey Arshavin scored Arsenal’s fourth in minute 65, sending a shot from 20 yards past Hennessey after the keeper had punched out an Arsenal corner.

With Manuel Almunia looking to claim a clean sheet in his second game back for Arsenal, Craddock was able to deny the Spanish keeper’s wishes by heading in a Wolverhampton corner two minutes from time.

And though the Gunners again conceded a late goal by its opponents, Arsene Wenger’s side should be pleased with another Premiership victory on the road, with this latest win putting Arsenal above Manchester United and into second position in the league table.

Referring to the goal that denied the clean sheet, manager Wenger suggested after the match: “We have a style where everyone goes forward. You cannot have everything in football, but I believe we have a good balance between offense and defence, and as long as we score as many goals as we do, we can accept that.”

In his post-match interview (featured at http://www.arsenal.com), Wenger admitted that “we had been under pressure in the first 10 to 15 minutes, but after that I felt we controlled the game. Overall we could have scored many more. We know that on every counter-attack we looked dangerous and as soon as we could win the second ball and put it on the ground, we looked always capable to play through their lines and score goals.”

The last week has seen Arsenal score three goals against Tottenham, and four each against Alkmaar and Wolves. “That means we scored 36 goals now in the league. That is not a coincidence. That means we can score goals.

“Of course, if they had scored first it would have been much more difficult,” continued Wenger, who believes his side have a legitimate chance at capturing the Premiership crown this season. “The desire is there. We want to strengthen our belief, but I think the most important factor is that we play for each other as we do, we focus on our performance, and that we continue to develop our style of play,” he added.

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Arsenal Dominate Alkmaar In 4-1 Win

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Arsenal moved closer to winning its group in the opening phase of the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League, with Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin orchestrating a scintillating display as the Gunners romped to a 4-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Arshavin played the role of creator throughout the match, assisting on three goals as Arsenal dominated their Dutch visitors from the opening moments. Fabregas continued his fine form by scoring two goals, with Samir Nasri and Abou Diaby also hitting the back of the net.

With two games left in Group H, Arsenal now sit on top with 10 points, four more than Olympiacos and six ahead of Standard Liege, who will visit the Emirates on November 24. Victory in that match will not only assure that the Gunners qualify for the competition’s knockout rounds but also guarantee a first-place group finish.

The Gunners were in full flight from the kickoff, with Robin van Persie narrowly missing two early chances for Arsenal, sending a right-footed effort just wide of Sergio Romero’s goal before blasting a short free kick against the Alkmaar wall moments later.

Fabregas’ first goal came in minute 25, slotting one into the near corner after receiving a pass from William Gallas. Just before the break, Nasri doubled Arsenal’s lead after being played in on goal by a fine through-ball from Arshavin.

The home side’s dominance continued after the break, with Arshavin again the provider as the Russian found Fabregas for a one-time finish in the 52nd minute.

And while the first three goals were quality, Arsenal’s final tally may have been the most brilliant of the bunch. On the counterattack, substitute Eduardo da Silva sent Arshavin down the right side with a sumptuous backheel before the Russian centered a ball for Diaby to collect and fire home.

The only blemish on the scoreline was a late consolation goal for Alkmaar on the counter six minutes from time, after what appeared to be a handball claim for Arsenal in the visitors’ 18-yard box.

The 4-1 win extends Arsenal’s unbeaten streak to 12 games in all competitions, and marks the first time Alkmaar manager Ronald Koeman has lost to the Gunners.

Koeman, whose PSV side knocked the Gunners out of the Champions League three seasons ago, believes Arsenal can go far in this year’s competition. “They have a lot of qualities but it’s very young and maybe they miss a little bit of experience that other teams like Chelsea and Barca have,” said the Dutchman in his post-match comments to the press.

“One bad day and you can lose against everybody. It’s not one team better than the rest — it’s very close,” added Koeman. “But Arsenal can go a long way in this competition.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also has belief in his squad and was impressed with the night’s result. “It was a brilliant performance because we dominated our subject technically, tactically and overall we felt never under threat. We played with the needed confidence, technically astute, overall very happy.

“We are consistent and this season it looks like we go for game to game and get stronger and stronger,” continued Wenger (in an interview featured at http://www.arsenal.com). “It’s important to keep that attitude to progress, to improve and to play for each other even more. Then we can believe in our future.”

While the Gunners are now all but assured of a spot in the Champions League knockout stages, the manager admits that “the competition gets more difficult the further you go on. I believe we have quality and I said before the season started that I believe in this team. But it will be down to us to grow as we do at the moment and be consistent. Then we see how far we can go in the competition,” he said.

For now, Wenger would rather “focus on ourselves and be as good as we can. If we meet somebody who is better, we will see,” added the Frenchman. “At the moment, it is more important for us to focus on how we want to play, and we have played the game tonight like we love.”

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Victory In North London Derby

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Arsenal continued its league dominance over neighboring rivals Tottenham with a 3-0 win on Saturday at Emirates Stadium, extending to 16 years the period since Spurs last triumphed on the Gunners’ home ground.

Tottenham haven’t beaten Arsenal in a Premiership match for a decade, yet pre-game banter from Spurs manager Harry Redknapp and forward Robbie Keane indicated the visitors were confident in claiming victory in this edition of the North London derby due to a solid start to the 2009-10 season that had positioned them fourth in the league table.

But two Arsenal goals just before halftime silenced Spurs’ spirit and belief, turning a tight match in the Gunners’ favor and allowing the home side and its supporters another instance to claim bragging rights over bitter rivals.

After missing a chance from a tight angle earlier in the half, Robin van Persie was able to direct a fizzing cross from Bacary Sagna into Heurelho Gomes’ net in minute 42. The goal came as welcome relief for Arsenal, who did have the better opportunities on goal in the period but couldn’t separate themselves from Tottenham until that point.

The resulting applause from home supporters exploded into a frenzy just seconds later, when Cesc Fabregas intercepted a Spurs ball off the re-start and weaved his way through three defenders before blasting a strike into the corner of the net for Arsenal’s second goal in less than a minute.

This writer was only able to view the opening 45 minutes (before leaving for work), so the pair of goals just before the break changed what would have been some tense moments for me away from any TV coverage of the match, into a sense of comfort figuring that the Gunners would come away with another victory.

Although Spurs had a couple efforts on Manuel Almunia’s goal in the second half, the result was assured for Arsenal when van Persie was on the receiving end of another Sagna cross at the hour mark, poking the ball home after Gomes couldn’t deal with the centering pass.

And the 3-0 lead could have easily grown to more if Abou Diaby and Eduardo da Silva — who came on for an injured Nicklas Bendtner — converted on clear chances later in the match. Still, the three goals — and the three points gained from the win — were enough to confirm the fact that there still is a gulf in class between Arsenal and Spurs, despite what some players and pundits may have stated in this season’s early days.

“I said in the press conference (on Friday) that football is not about opinion, it is about performance and what is happening on the pitch,” said manager Arsene Wenger in his post-match comments to reporters. “You have to accept that everybody can have an opinion but what is important is what is happening on the pitch. You can understand that Robbie Keane cannot say Spurs are worse than us because it’s part of the preparation of the team.”

Wenger was pleased to see his side overcome a slow start to emerge victorious in the North London derby. “I believe the fluency lacked a little bit in the first half-hour. We played a little bit with the handbrake and couldn’t find our usual fluency,” added the manager. “But during that period we were serious, and overall, despite the fact we won 3-0 we had a good defensive performance and our back five was very efficient. We dealt well with their offensive problems.”

The win ended a successful seven days for the Gunners after the somewhat disappointing draw at West Ham the previous weekend. “I think it has been a fantastic week for the club because we beat Liverpool (in the Carling Cup), we beat Tottenham, both times with convincing performances and with a style of play which is now within our club. I am very proud of that,” said Wenger, in the post-match interview that can be viewed at http://www.arsenal.com.

Asked in that interview if his team can win the Premiership title, the manager responded: “I think so. Yes, I have said that since the first day of the season and I will not change my mind today. That’s what we want to show, I believe we can.

“We want to show consistency, intelligence and that is not easy. We have other competitors but why should we not challenge?” continued Wenger. “We have the opportunity and the quality and it will be down to our attitude. We need to be preserved a little bit from injuries but I am convinced we have the quality, attitude and spirit in the squad.”

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