Alex Song served a timely reminder of his capabilities by creating two goals and with forward players returning, should ensure Arsenal finish the season strongly.
Cup competitions seem to bring the best out of Arsenal. Wins against Wigan in the Carling Cup, Cardiff in the FA Cup and Roma in the Champions League have been Arsenal’s most convincing performances and while this win doesn’t quite fall into the same bracket, did feature the same confidence and expression as the others. Arsenal scored three brilliant goals, one of which came from Emmanuel Eboue and two created by Alexandre Song, such thoughts unthinkable in the month February.
Carlos Vela exquisitely chipped home the opener after 21 minutes. Arshavin’s through ball finding the Mexican, who nutmegged Carlisle before applying the deft finish that took a Cristiano Ronaldo like swerve in the air to bamboozle the keeper. The second from Eduardo was equally, if not more superb, volleying into the top corner with the outside of his boot. And the Gunners completed the job when Eboue was found by Song’s back heel and the Ivorian, feeding off the team’s confidence accurately buried his shot into the bottom corner. “Usually when he gets in front of goal he loses his composure, said Wenger of Eboue. “I believe he needed that. Some people convince themselves that they cannot score but then when they do they realise it is not as difficult as they imagined.”
While the goalscorers will receive much of the attention, the creator of the final two goals Alex Song should be similarly commended as he put in his most commanding performance yet in an Arsenal shirt albeit higher up the pitch. The man who bears more than a passing resemblance to Sideshow Bob was more successful in trying to imitate his superior, Cesc Fabregas. First he chipped a great ball to assist Eduardo and then a backheel for Eboue to finish off a swift Arsenal move. “He is growing in stature,” continued Wenger. “He has good balance, reads the game well and wins the ball then uses it well. He is a real holding player naturally. He is also a good central defender.”
Growing in stature he may be but it took a whole half for one of the central midfielders to make their presence felt. Without Fabregas Arsenal have lacked the creativity, without their skipper and Denilson, the Gunners lacked someone to demand for the ball in the centre circle. All too often both Diaby and Song broke away from the centre, leaving the defenders to pass the ball between themselves. Essentially both played a shared box-to-box role but neither was dominant and demanding, rather conforming to their status as secondary midfielders. The quality of the finishing glazed over such shortcomings though it is something that can be rectified through confidence and experience. The positive’s are that Arsenal are stronger in the tackle and the central defenders quicker to retain possession and anticipate danger.
This lack of demanding of the ball has made Arsenal less of a possession team this season and more a counter attacking side, relying heavily on the front four to function. Indeed this is backed up by the stats at the end of the game; even though Arsenal had more possession, more of the game was spent in Arsenal’s half.
Some fans want Arsenal to be more orthodox in order to win trophies but Wenger has spoiled us with an attractive style of football and will hopefully bring back the successful merger of the two. And with key players returning, it may be sooner than one may think.
Man of the match: Alex Song
Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Gibbs, Eduardo (Walcott 71), Song Billong, Diaby (Ramsey 71), Vela (Van Persie 60), Eboue, Arshavin.
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Clichy, Bendtner, Bischoff.
Goals: Vela 25, Eduardo 51, Eboue 84.
Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Caldwell, Carlisle, Kalvenes, McDonald (MacDonald 75), McCann, Gudjonsson (Thompson 58), Eagles (Elliott 53), Paterson, Blake.
Subs Not Used: Penny, Mahon, Rodriguez, Jordan.
Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||0|
|3||Shots off Target||2|