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Montpellier – Arsenal, the only thing missing for the moment

By Walter Broeckx

So here we are. The Champions League is back and as usual we are in it. And we take it for granted that we are in it once again. Being in it for 15 years…an amazing achievement that is sometimes looked upon as natural. In my eyes the most amazing thing for a team that once had one of the smaller stadiums compared to their competitors in Europe and even in England.

And I know that since building the Emirates we have a ground that is what one could call amongst the top class stadiums in Europe. But the big difference with most of the other clubs who have a similar stadium is that we build and paid for it ourselves.

Don’t forget in many countries (Portugal, France, Germany just to name a few) the government has paid for a lot of those stadiums or has subsidised the teams for building it. No such a thing at Arsenal. Brick by brick we paid for it (or still are paying for it in fact).  And even then we managed to be in the top class of European football year after year.

If people cannot recognise this achievement they are living in a narrow minded world. What we have done over the last (trophy less) years is as short as you can get to a miracle in my opinion. And remember that in a league that is let us say not really ref-decision-friendly to Arsenal.

But this week we were at the start of a new campaign in the CL. Away in the south of France against the champions of France, Montpellier. And it was a very educational game for Arsenal. I think we could learn a few things and take a few things home from yesterdays game.

First of all. We can take a set back. To be honest my reporter didn’t know what the ref was doing when he gave the penalty for Montpellier. And I think not many of us could understand it because at first it looked a perfect block from Vermaelen on the ball. On angle made it look that way, but other angles suggested he did clip his foot and then the ball changed direction.

As a ref reviewer I would say: as we have not 100% evidence that the ref was wrong, we give the ref his decision. As a Gooner I can only wonder: when are we going to get such a penalty decision in our favour…..

You can’t blame Manone for the goal. You look a bit daft when the penalty taker does go for the panenka-penalty but as a keeper you only get such a penalty once every 10 years against you so you don’t stand waiting for it.

But the most important thing then was: how will they react to going behind? Because this was the first time this season when it mattered that we went behind. And within some 10 minutes we knew the answer. This team is not going to sit back, cry a little bit, feel sorry for themselves and let things go. No this team has character and you can see that some players really have a big mental strength.

Was it a coincidence that Podolski scored the equalizer? Well not really I think. Because when we bought him I said that he would be the type of player to stand up in the big games when needed. And at the first occasion (Liverpool) he did it. And on the second occasion (Montpellier CL) he did it again.

3 goals in 3 consecutive games. Long may it continue. I somewhat have the feeling that he will not need 7 years to reach 30 goals in a season for Arsenal. And on top of that he is a really hard working player who is not shy from working for the team, defending for the team and he does that all over his flank. Making the odd foul when needed to stop the other team.

Last season Gervinho got some stick for not producing the form that lead to Lille winning the league the season before. His finishing was below par. In the summer he spoke about wanting to become a new Pires. And by the way he is playing for the moment he surely looks capable of stepping in his footsteps.

He can now play everywhere up front and he starts scoring goals and you can see he is far more confident than he was last season. And he also is working hard for the team. Tracking back when it is needed, defending his flank. And all that with his great ability of running past defenders when he attacks the other goal.

The way we controlled the game after we went 1-2 up was impressive to see. Apart from one shot from distance Montpellier didn’t get near to Manone at all. But this was about to change in the second half.

Montpellier threw all they got at us from the start of the second half. They pressed us all over the field and I had the feeling that some of the players didn’t see that coming. I can imagine the words being said at half time in the style of: continue as you are. But before we woke up they had us pushed back because we tried too much to play the control game but weren’t allowed by the opponents.

But in a way this was a great defensive exercise. In a way this was again a big test for the team. How would they cope under pressure? And well after 45 minutes we knew: we can defend a lead and we can hang on to a lead.

Of course Montpellier could have scored an equaliser. They came close twice in fact. One ball that bounced of the top of the cross bar and one in the last 10 minutes when a Montpellier player suddenly was alone in front of goal but shot at Manone.  That was two times that we were lucky. But after all this is the champions league and we play against other top teams from Europe and there are no easy games in the CL.

The team survived the pressure and I felt confident that we would not concede a goal and I even felt that if we would concede a goal we just would change our game and go out to score a third goal. Something that we maybe should have done earlier to kill off the game but it’s always easy when sitting in the chair at home.

We never seem to lose a game when playing in France and this has been going on for a long time, but I always seem to remember that we have tough games over there. It never really is a walk in the park. But with this team I feel we can go for a tough game.

In the last 5 competitive games we conceded 2 goals. One from a bad mistake from an injured keeper, and a penalty.

So our defence looks rather solid and that even without our best defender from last season in the team and with a young and still rather inexperienced (certainly at CL level) right back.

No running forwards from Vermaelen when we are only one goal in front. Per our giant defender who just seems to be there where he needs to be all the time. Gibbs… who cant defend remember… What a player he is becoming… once again.  And even with a keeper in goal who was looked upon as 3rd choice at the start of the season.

Our midfield working hard and attacking when they want and can and defending when it is needed. As it should be.

The only thing I miss for the moment is a goal from our centre forward. But as I predicted that Podolski would be a massive player for us, I also predicted that Giroud would score 15 goals this season. He will. But he needs a bit more time. But once he starts scoring he will score his 15 goals in his first season at Arsenal. I think he is saving them up for later in the season. When the goals really matter.

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24 comments to Montpellier – Arsenal, the only thing missing for the moment

  • I think we are playing well as a team now.the new boys are doing great.It is still early days yet.But the way we are going, in a few months we should have a better team spirit than this time last season. lets win something this season

  • Good post, Walter. Big thanks.

    My only disagreement, and then only to a degree, is regarding Mannone. Yes, he was looked upon as 3rd choice at the start of the season. In my opinion (for what that’s worth) he still is. Our 1st choice is injured, and Fabianski is better than Mannone. That will be ‘proven’ in a matter of time, I believe. However, I sincerely hope I’m wrong, of course!
    He still hasn’t been truly tested, and with two big games before us… well, only time will tell.
    I still have reservations regarding Mertesacker, due to his lack of pace (in the fastest league). Again, time will tell, one way or the other. But, so far so good!

    Keep up the good work.

  • Shard

    The worrying thing was how tired the team looked. I suppose all the intense training and the travel during the internationals took its toll. But still, it’s worrying that 5 games into the season we seemed shattered. Wenger being banned also might have had an effect on both, the tiredness, and how we played. I think he would have been quicker in substitutions, and would have worried more about not being able to control the midfield and play our usual game. As it turned out, we won, so no real problem. Plus we get 4 days rest before we travel to ManCity, so we should recover. If we win there, boy, what a signal that would send.

  • Passenal

    Big Al, due to injuries Mannone is going to be our first choice for a few games at least. Isn’t it better to hope for the best rather than fear the worst? As for Per, you can compensate for speed if you read the game as well as he does and position yourself so that you defend proactively rather than reactively. Per is a quality defender and if he works well with his speedier partner that should be good enough.

  • Tram

    Walter,
    the last time we were beaten in France was 17 May 2006, against Barcelona, but we were 10 men against their 12.
    I think you’ll find we’ve been on a winning streak against actual french sides ever since Waterloo, which probably doesn’t count because its in your neck of the woods.
    I must get out more.

  • Rob

    Whoever is in goal and we still keep winning then he should keep his place. So far Vito Manone has not conceded a goal because he made a mistake. He should stay there and hence at the moment he is No1 keeper.

  • Aziz, KL-Malaysia

    Great reading – keep it coming 😉

  • Thala

    Something is changed at Arsenal. We look Confident. For past 5-6 yrs, our defense was shaky . i used 2 be scared that we might concede a goal at dying minutes, but now i feel we wont concede. This New arsenal may be due to Maturity and experience of the players or New coaching Strategy . I still fell there is more room for improvement .
    Buying a New Striker in January will Help Arsenal 2 push for the title. With Wilshere , Rosicky , Sagna and Fringpong coming back from injury, team can only get stronger.
    Arsenal Should try 2 Sell Squlacci,Arshavin and Chamack in January and Extend the Contract of theo walcott and sign one striker .Hope We End the trophy Drought this Season , I prefer PL. It will be a Slap in the Face for the players Who Left Arsenal for other clubs.

  • nicky

    My worry was the complete change of possession, direction, game plan, tactics and anything else you want to call it, in the second half. From total domination in attack and in midfield, only our defence stood firm
    I hope it was tiredness in the humidity because that can be remedied.
    Our performance on Sunday (not necessarily the result) will be of paramount importance.

  • Derick

    Mehn…we are now solid… Bring on city… Am so happy that song is no more with us… I think he was the weak link last season, take a look at his game last night for baca(he missed the ball nd blockd d view of alvez wich led to d goal…so slopy)… Gunnerz fr Life.

  • Gerry Lennon

    I think AW is right with the ‘balance’ of the side, regards Poldo. Mainly because he reminds the midfield that we do have a left flank. All too often in the past, the outlet was on the right, via Sagna, and also when he wasn’t playing. By switching play from right to left, and vice versa, both backs are left in a lot of space. I also think because Jenks gets that space to go down the line it allows Gerv to play more inside right, rather than right wing. In fact during the game just gone he would pop up on the left, where I think he would prefer?
    The other thing Poldo does is show just what a good player Gibbs is, with support. Pretty near a mirror image of Sagna in fact. That can only be good when we are really at full strength?

  • novicegooner

    @ Thala
    I think it’s too soon to talk about selling players. Come on, it’s not even October yet. Let’s just enjoy our good run for now and support the team.

    Since the first game, I notice that our defense is much calmer when defending, especially the center backs. I think it’s because Arteta and Diaby are protecting them well so that they can focus on reading and anticipating the opposition’s attack rather than confronting it.

    If I recall correctly, there was only one obvious situation where the centerbacks were desperate in defending, that is Belhanda’s chance late in the second half. Vermaelen was dragged wide and Per made a desperate tackle which completely missed the ball. Apart from that moment, I think we did well defensively.

  • prince weli

    cnt help but admire my darlin arsenal this season,althou its still early days, i just have this gut feeling that a trophy is surely on the way…… COMMON GOONER ARMY

  • ARSENAL 13

    over the years, we had good and exceptional players in the squad. BUT they failed to deliver. They moved away in search of glory than fighting for it…..

    I friend of mine (a Man Utd fan) thinks his club wont challenge for any title this season. BUT I was surprised to know that he thinks ASRENAL can……

    After a long time, we have a TEAM. We have a team that looks good for a title. How I wish, we win the league this year. My be its too early. May be I am too optimistic, but not without a reason.

  • ARSENAL 13

    whats with TONY???…I mean TONY ADAMS.

    Is he jealous??

  • @ Passenal

    Thanks for your reply. Fair comment(s), buddy.
    And yes, it’s better to hope for the best. I do hope. But I balance hope with realism; I’m a realist. Neither a pessimist nor optimist. I try to be honest and forthright in my views, and see everything in true context.
    That’s not a criticism of your good self, just saying how it is for me personally.

    As regards “Per, you can compensate for speed if…”.
    You are right. A perfect example would be Bobby Moore; not blessed with pace, but a great reader of the game. I remember him well, as I’m no youngster. But Moore is Moore, Mertesacker is Mertesacker.

    SUNDAY: Silva, Aguero, Nasri, Tevez. All top quality… however, all may/may not play.

    Finally, I think Koscielny will partner Vermaelen in this game.

  • benhan

    Tony Adams seemed to forget it’s the defence Wenger built, not the one he inherited that recorded themselves in history as The Invincibles. It’s Cole-Toure-Campbell-Lauren not the famous George Graham’s Back.

    Defence is important, but Wenger chose consciously attacking football as the philosophy of the team. But we didn’t get the balance between attacking-defending with the new 4-3-3 formation. With Bould being incharged of the defence, now we switched to 4-4-1-1 when we defend. The balance is much better know. Adams might be a little jealous to Bould, which is normal since he has the same passion for Arsenal.

  • LRV

    @ARSENAL 13: Well Spotted. I think Tony Adams has been exhibiting signs of jealousy ever since Steve Bould became a coach at Arsenal instead of him. He was a great defender and captain; but more than half of great players have failed as coaches.

    There are some old Arsenal players who feel that they should be given more say at Arsenal. We all know that Arsene will not welcome intrusions of that sort. So, instead of accepting their oversetimation of their own self worth as a mistake, they overcriticise.

    My advice to them is to go somewhere to prove how good they are and they may get the same chance that Steve got. Not everyone can be a coach at Arsenal.

  • Asif

    yeah…and the point is that how many defenders have we bought to bring about this change? to all the media morons, how many Cahills and Sambas did we bring in!

    It is the way the team plays! I think, they are showing a lot more responsibility…I only managed to watch the Southampton game today, and you can see how steadfastly players are holding on to their positions. Imagine the Ox,stays put even when we are 2 goals up – its the discipline that we are playing with and if this continues we will only go higher…

    Look at how Jenkinson’s crossing has improved…its only a matter of time (one Giroud has found his feet and head), that we will start scoring headers from crosses! Go baby go…

  • Ong Bing

    4 PL game and 1 CL game, MU already missed 3 penalties!

    Jenkinson looks OK, already played 5 games this season. 1 million? You kidding me!

  • dan

    Believe me the boy Jenkinson will come GREAT, he has an awesome engine.

  • Pat

    They should have Jens Lehmann as a pundit more often. He knows what he is talking about and he is always pro-Arsenal.

  • novicegooner

    or Lee Dixon, he’s got good tactical analysis and interesting opinion about Arsenal. Tony Adams, to a degree, has joined Ian Wright and Stewart Robson’s camp, ex-arsenal who seem happy to criticise Arsenal. Even Glenn Hoddle can say good things about Arsenal. He praised our fluid front three.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    When I read Tony Adams’ opinion my first thoughts were ‘oh god he’s fallen off the wagon’, so divorced from reality as it was. I’ve come to accept that he did a character assassination on TV5 purely to keep the moneybags away from that deal but I can see no reason or sense for him criticising the club’s transfer policy, imposed as it is by financial reality rather than the whims of the owner.