by Walter Broeckx
Many Arsenal fans have thrown themselves off the cliffs after Saturday’s game. Be it mostly virtual cliffs on the internet. The world stopped turning, the forces of gravity lost their force, the end of the world was near: Arsenal conceded 5 goals in one match. Was I happy with us conceding 5 goals? No, not at all. But I really do think we are missing a few things when we see some reactions.
Let us start with the opponents: Legia Warsaw. Now when you live in England and you can follow the EPL I can understand you don’t care about other leagues. And with the success from English teams recently in the champions league, all is it over 2 seasons that an English team has won it, some people may think that outside England football is nothing. Well they do play some football in other countries and going away to another country is never easy. No away games are easy.
Legia Warsaw is a bit of a sleeping giant club. It still is one of the big names in Polish football. And a club that has a very hot blooded supporters clan. They even are one of the teams that is known and feared for their hooligans. They support the team with a lot of passion. I think those who have seen the game could see that for a big part of the stadium this wasn’t a friendly game at all. The fans stood behind their team in an unseen way in friendly games. In friendly games the atmosphere is normally a bit soft and gently but the fans in Warsaw made it look as if it was a Champions League game.
So there we were with our team with some new players, with some players with a little bit of pedigree but also with a few real young players. I think players like Frimpong never have experienced such an atmosphere in their career before. And it is fair to say that Arsenal started their game like they start any friendly. They tried to control the ball and play some nice football. But Legia had other things in mind and they ran around like mad men in a cave. They pressed, they fought, they shoved, they ran, they ran and then they ran some more.
And yes the young lads lost it a bit you can say. You could see that some of them did not really know what to do. And yes they made mistakes. Even some more experienced players made mistakes. I think in the first half hour you can point at all the players for making mistakes. I only could see the first half our live on my computer and I had written down the word restless to describe our performance. So are we doomed? Are we lost? Is the season over?
No. When 3-0 down after some really bad mistakes, and not only mistakes by the 4 defenders but also by even some of our more experienced players we changed it around. Chamakh proved to be a player who can be used as a big and strong attacker. A good cross to him can cause problems to other teams. He scored our first goal on a beautiful chipped cross from Nasri, who was maybe the best player on the pitch in our preparation.
And what did our so called stubborn manager do at half time? He brought in some young players. Vela, Gibbs and an older player Eboue. He made a few changes and suddenly we were on top of the game. Vela curled in an excellent free kick and Eboue of all people headed it in. I think this is the first goal he scores with his head in his career. And just a few minutes later Eboue was running on his own on goal. A few seasons ago you could have put all your money on : Eboue shooting right at the keeper, Eboue shooting the ball high in the crowd, and you would have won. But the Eboue we see now kept his head, feinted a shot and then shot the ball pass the keeper on the ground. 2 years ago he would have hit the keeper on the ground and the ball would have gone wide. Please don’t think players cannot change or get better. They do get better when Wenger and Arsenal have them at the club.
Then Vela picked up a ball, saw the forward running Gibbs, played an inch perfect pass and Gibbs powered his shot high past the keeper. In some 25 minutes we turned the whole game on its head and had scored 4 times.
And when we failed to clear our line and conceded a 4th goal we just came back out and scored another few goals. Vela headed a ball in the path of JET who turned it in low. And to finish the game Nasri fired in a free kick. In between Vela was very unlucky to see a shot from some 25 meters out with the outside of his left foot going just wide. And oh yes Legia scored another goal to make it 5-6.
So yes there was some complacency at the start of the game, so yes we didn’t defend enough like a team, so yes in the first half some players lost their head a bit. Are we going to throw it all away by a bad 30 minutes?
Why don’t we look at the last hour of the game? The hour we scored 6 goals. How many teams would have done this trick at Legia before? If there is a Legia fan out there could he inform us how many times Legia was forced to let in 6 goals at home, in one hour and after being 3-0 up?
Why don’t we hype the performance of Eboue, from zero two seasons ago untill a player who even keeps his head cool when clear on goal these days. Why don’t we underline the great performance of Vela who gave 3 assists and who was just unlucky not to score on of the best goals ever? Why don’t we talk about the great performance of Nasri, once again this preseason? Why don’t we talk about the strength and power of Chamakh in the opposing penalty area?
Being 3-0 down after 35 minutes, away from home, against a team full of fire, against fans who supported their team as if it was the CL final and still win is something that only great players can achieve. And some may be young, maybe to young at times, but they have something special: they will not give in and they will try to fight back. Even in a friendly game in pre season they don’t want to lose the game. And even if they started with the wrong mentality, which is a capital sin in football, they did something that few teams can do: change this mentality and start to fight for it, even in a friendly game.
So yes we can be disappointed with the 5 goals we got against on Saturday. But we must be filled with joy by the way this team turned it round. A team that was playing without : Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, Diaby, Denilson, Song, Andrei Arschavin, Nicklas Bendtner. 7 (yes seven) players were missing. Some of our best players from last season and some of the best in the world and still we refused to accept defeat and fought back to win a friendly game.
A final note, let us think back just one year on the day. That day we ended our final preparation game at Valencia and lost 2-0. Every doomer and gloomer went crazy and predicted we would finish out the top 4, we would even struggle to qualify for Europe, we would be relegated with this team, we could just stop playing and hand the 3 points to the opponents each week and go to the coca cola league.
Tony from Untold Arsenal was in those days a beacon of light in the darkness and told us to just wait and see. And Tony was right as only one week later we started a great season which was only stopped by the biggest injury crisis since I follow the Arsenal and that is rather a while to be honest.
Maybe those 5 goals turn out to be a blessing in disguise, just like the defeat against Valencia was last year. A nice reminder of the fact that you have to come on the field with the right attitude.
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