By Karl M. Tinsley
MY 3 STARS
#1. WILLIAM GALLAS/KOLO TOURE: They played like a well oiled machine today turning in an excellent performance after a very good performance against West Ham last week. They were rock solid in a very difficult match for the Club…down to 10 men for 60 mins, playing a derby match and on the road. They kept their area clean of any threats, and other than the Robbie Keane header in the 2nd half they did a fantastic job dealing with the aerial balls that were played into our 18 yard box.
They also covered each other off brilliantly. I remember one instance when Gallas tried to push the ball, was stripped and the Spurs player tried to slot a through ball to their open striker and Kolo read the pass before it was ever struck and broke it up beautifully. Another time Toure went for a tumble while marking Pavlyuchenko and Gallas was solid in the middle to prevent any pass and force the shot. I knew Wenger would come back to this pairing and ignore the anti-Gallas faction…simply because these 2 are our best CB’s they proved it last season and given the chance they would prove it again…just in time for AS Roma and CL…Perfect!.
#2. ALEXANDRE SONG: Thought he turned in the best match of his season. Tremendous blue-collar job by Alex, nothing spectacular but certainly rock steady. His work-rate was through the roof, especially after Eboue got tossed and we needed our CDM to stand up and be strong. He delivered in spades. He won the vast majority of the 50/50 balls he challenged for and was getting stuck-in everywhere and coming out with the ball. Even his passing was better. Granted he was gassed by the 80 minute mark…tired legs betray the brain and he started making some cheap turnovers and bad passes…but that can’t tarnish an otherwise sterling performance. Well done Alex…I really hope that you can use this match as a blueprint for how to play and what you need to do every match.
#3. MANUEL ALMUNIA: It has been quite awhile since the “Blonde Frankenstein” has featured as a Top 3 Star for The Arsenal…but tonight was his night as he flashed some brilliant saves to keep us on level terms with Spurs. His saves on Palacio and Lennon were very good and he did a great job coming off his line and attacking the aerial balls being hurled into our box in the second half. But he saved his best for last when he sniffed out the danger from Modric’s overlap run…got off his line quickly….made himself big and showed great reflexes in getting down low to block convincingly and save us our hard fought point.
The whole squad except Eboue and Clichy. Some players in particular that jumped out at me were:
ROBIN VAN PERSIE: He impressed me with his defensive committment…he was haring back to defense EVERYTIME Spurs launched an attack and providing excellent coverage for the defense as he picked up the trailing Spurs players and eliminated their ability to settle on the ball.
Bacary Sagna: turned in another Yeoman effort getting up and down the right flank offensively and defensively…he does it game in game out that we almost begin to overlook his brilliance he is a STUD.
DENILSON: His game and minutes had disappeared lately but tonight he pumped in a great defensive match and really shone in the second half when he was breaking up Spurs attacks and launching counter-attacks. Still needs to improve his passing which can get loose and work on his upper-body strength as he still tends to get slapped around too much.
EMMANUEL EBOUE: Like his actions on the pitch today…this was a real NO-BRAINER. I do think the 1st yellow card was bogus…Eboue was not screaming and hurling abuse in the refs face like ohhhhh…Ferdinand, Terry, Rooney, Carragher do every match. He wasn’t even close to the referee and it wasn’t abusive. My God its the North London Derby…players are passionate. EPL refs have officially replace the corrupt Serie A referees as the worst in organized football. They insist on being “the show” instead of just concentrating on getting the calls right. That said, Eboue was a complete village idiot for leg whipping Modric (even though he deserved it) while sitting on a yellow…of course that little diving bitch Modric was going to make a meal of it…Eboue has to be smarter and more in control of his emotions. I haven’t seen this lack of discipline from him in almost one year now…it was really disappointing to see him backslide into that old negative behaviour…particularly after being our best player on the pitch the first 30 minutes.
GAEL CLICHY: I hate to kick the guy after getting hurt BUT…I am not going to pull my punches. Gael has got to do a better job of handling the oppositions wingers…he really struggles with the small, quick and slick wingers…Palacios lit him up earlier this year, Mendy a couple weeks ago and today Lennon was toying with him and getting crosses over all match. Gael needs to attack these guys more instead of showing them so much respect and playing off them so much. With Gallas back at CB playing inside him Gael shouldn’t be sagging inside so much and hold a firmer perimeter against these guys.
I am really really really proud of The Arsenal today. Nearly to a man they delivered a sterling effort against our bitter rivals, in a derby match, on the road and down to 10 men for 60 minutes. They showed a tonne of effort, commitment, passion and character today. We haven’t seen that kind of team spirit since maybe the Liverpool match…its a pity they can’t dial into that zone more frequently because when they play like this there is no reason to think they can’t be holding a trophy in May and be in the Top 4 in the EPL again. Even though he hasn’t been playing anywhere near his potential…the loss of Butta’-legs is going to hurt us…hopefully he can find fitness in time for AS Roma…but the way he went down…it looks more than a 3 week hamstring pull. Hate to have to rush Eduardo back but it might just be time to give him a run out with the Starting XI in our FA Cup replay and see where he is at with his speed, touch and timing. The acquisition of Arshavin just got a lot more important. 4-4-1-1 with Arshavin playing behind Robin might be a good formation for the road trip to Roma. Anyways, we kept our 10 year run alive (no EPL loss) against the scum from Totteham and we tapped into a good spirit. Lets hope we can channel that spirit over and over again for the rest of the season.
GUNS IN GUNS OUT