Wenger’s West Ham redemption + Arsenal shirt winner announced

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After last weekend’s win over Everton I was exceptionally critical of Arsene Wenger’s managerial performance. I thought his decision to play Alex Song at right-back and Denilson in the middle from the start was a huge error and the major reason why Arsenal went into the break a goal behind. In the end the manager’s blushes were spared when an injury to Kolo Toure forced him into making the necessary changes and the team improved almost immediately, scoring three second-half goals before eventually running out comfortable winners.

Despite this I was frustrated with Wenger and the decisions he had made and hoped to high heaven that he would make the defensive changes that I and most other Arsenal supporters believed were necessary to improve the side. It gives me great pleasure to say that Wenger did just that in the 2-0 win over West Ham last night and completely and utterly redeemed himself in the process.

I posed three questions prior to the match against West Ham which I thought would shape the nature of Arsenal’s result at Upton Park. The first centred around Denilson being taken out of the side and replaced by either Abou Diaby or Alex Song. He was, with Song coming into the side to partner Cesc Fabregas in a 4-4-2 formation and putting in a composed and controlled performance.

The second looked at whether Wenger would play the ineffective William Gallas-Kolo Toure partnership or whether he would continue to play Mikael Silvestre. He did, and Silvestre and Gallas ensured Arsenal kept their first Premiership clean sheet since the 4-0 win over Blackburn on September 13. Unsurprisingly their combination had great balance and both had excellent games.

The final focus point was whether Emmanuel Adebayor needed a rest and Nicklas Bendtner should have been brought into the side as a result. He was, Bendtner having a decent match and Adebayor eventually making the telling impact from the bench, having the opener deflected in by Julian Faubert before sealing the game in stoppage time after a wonderful long pass from the big Dane.

The manager had some big decisions to make and I thought he got them absolutely right. As a result he was rewarded with arguably the most complete Premiership performance the boys have put in this season. They might have smashed Newcastle 3-0 and Blackburn 4-0 but the satisfaction of this win came through solid defence and a relentless belief that we would get the right result. Despite Robert Green having a superb match and Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie both being denied by the woodwork our boys continue to knock on the door until it crashed down.

As a fan I found this performance and result particularly satisfying. Virtually every player on the pitch contributed and perhaps most importantly, so did the manager. His decision to pull off Walcott and Nasri for Adebayor and Diaby seemed a little strange at the time given the Englishman’s apparent danger, in particular, but the switch to 4-3-3 confused the West Ham defence and broke the game apart. Adebayor was afforded more space than van Persie and Bendtner had been given all day and the team was rewarded as a result.

To put the icing on the cake of a lovely team performance was a nice moment between Bendtner and Adebayor. After a lovely interchange of passing which saw Adebayor fire agonisingly wide the Danish man ran over to pick him up off the ground and pat him on the back. There’s no secret that the pair are hardly the best of friend but this moment as well as their combination for the final goal showed that they have not let previous troubles interfere with their willingness to work for the team.

Apart from the West Ham game there were favourable results for Arsenal everywhere you looked over the weekend. Liverpool ended Chelsea’s 86-game unbeaten streak at home to go top while Everton held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park. It leaves Arsenal fourth, four points shy of Liverpool, one off Chelsea and four ahead of United. Not a bad place to be in such a close title race, in my opinion. What’s more, Tottenham got their first win of the season which means the pressure to beat us this week will be nowhere near as high as if they had failed to win again.

Moving on now and it’s time to announce the winner of the SoccerPro Arsenal Shirt competition which had been running on the blog all last week. There were 65 people who entered the competition – I’ve randomised the lot and I’m about to use a random number generator to see who the winner is. The number is… 23. Which is… Abdul Jebar Nesredin. Congratulations – I’ll be in touch with you via email very shortly to get your address and a size. As an aside, thanks to everyone who entered and stay tuned for more competitions in the future. Cheers as well to SoccerPro for donating the shirt!

If you haven’t already gathered today I’m pretty bloody happy today. A very satisfying three points against a tough opponent and an excellent performance to boot. Let’s hope we can back it up with a thumping win over the old enemy midweek.

Have your say on Arsenal’s win over West Ham by leaving a comment.


32 thoughts on “Wenger’s West Ham redemption + Arsenal shirt winner announced

  1. Well-written and I agree with most of what you said even though I’m not as harsh in mycriticism of Wenger. But Song at right back made no sense. And I’ve read other blogs where people say Song was poor or average! In my view, the best players for Arsenal were Gallas, Song and Almunia. That is a great thing to say when the three best players after an Arsenal game are defensive players! It bodes well for a team where the offensive players get all the accolades.

  2. Dont be surprised that sagnas back we might have an all french back 4 at least they speak the same language. still would like to see more of vela but then again he will be used in the cc games. can’t wait for the spud match and hopefully we will flog them silly and congrats to little hull who keeps beating everyone.

  3. I want more Vela… And I tried to sign up before the competition but it didnt work- never got the conformation email…

  4. D gunners played like d team of 2003,van persie’s outside shots showed that d gunners needed a goal,d game is one of d best for d team.

  5. @ MoMoney – I’m sorry that it didn’t get through. I wish you’d sent me an email letting me know it wasn’t working. Perhaps you popped in the wrong details?

  6. @ LB – Thanks for the words of support. I was quite critical of Wenger last week and I’m very happy he changed things around this time around. He can be a stubborn old man sometimes but this week he showed he has the capacity to adapt which I think bodes well for the rest of the season.

  7. No problem but it still isnt working… any suggestions…

    And Almunia’s foot save on the shot off the Parker through ball was pure class…

  8. Loved that all three questions raised by you last week were what mattered in this win!
    Personally I don’t think we played well, but at the end of the day, these are the wins the guys need to eke out to convert draws into 3 pts.
    A clean sheet was even more important, given that it’s been such a while since we had one!
    Personally, I loved that pat from Bendtner at the end… I know exactly what you mean, & yeah, it shows that they’re trying to work together.
    Brilliant stuff 😀

  9. Spanish- generally agree with your comments, but I can’t honestly say I thought the defence looked that durable- we relied on another excellent performance from Manuel Almunia to keep us on level terms. Alex song is looking better and better the more he plays. I wasn’t sure he was going to be good enough when his progress during the last 2 years has been slow. However, he seems to have made a big leap forward this term. He was confident and assured on the ball yesterday, and his movement off the ball was much improved. I know I might be in the minority, but I’m still not impressed by Bendtner. Yes, I know it was a superb pass that led to Adebayor’s late goal, but he just doesn’t look an Arsenal player to me- he runs down too many blind alleys and his first touch is still poor. I hope he proves me wrong. Silvestre’s bedding in well, and I think he may prove to be a barrier to your preferred Gallas-Djourou pairing in the centre of defence.
    Overall a very pleasing performance: grinding a result out away from home against determined opponents has been difficult for us in the last 2 seasons- this bodes well for the rest of the season.

  10. I have one point that Wenger need to tell the players.the y should know that most of the premereship teams will not give them the open games like the one agaist fener,the games will be purely defencive with ten men rallying behind the ball and one man upfront.They have the possesosion but they will find it difficult tofind the back of the net. sothey need to master this and not have too much of the ball to pull such teams.

  11. this post was spot on. I agree with everything you wrote. song was a very important player yesterday and no doubt many fans will under-estimate him and the role he plays in the team just as they did with gilberto for many years. west ham were unable to play balls in between our midfield and defence because of his positioning. thats never the case when Denilson is in the team. keep Song in the team please wenger!

  12. Good point caeser. It’s no surprise we looked good against both Porto and Fenerbache, who both gave us time and space that we just don’t get in the Premiership. It’s precisely for this reason that we need players up front with both pace and the intelligence to drop off, vary their runs and create space for supporting players to exploit. Walcott’s getting there, Bendtner isn’t.

  13. A decent performance, Almunia is looking brilliant, most underated keeper in the league in my view. Song looks to be progressing well. Bendtner always gives 100% and chases everything. Defence was solid and I lied what I saw.

    Squad looked like it had alot more depth. I mean this as Diaby, Adebayor, Toure, Sagna on the bench will Djourou and Ramsey too. All good players. Denilson wasnt in the squad at all. Plus Rosick-note and Eduardo injured. Also would like to say, Eboue looks far more comfortable at right back than further forward.

  14. Folks you all have to be very careful with Walcottm Bertner, Song and Denilson. These kids are only 19 and 20 years old and still quite young, they will get better, in fact they will be very good. Look at the difference in Flamini play between the ages of 20 to 23, he was a world apart. We must be patient and let these young men grow up playing together and come of age.

  15. What a cracking game to watch. That was a very exciting match and I applaud West Ham for their efforts. They came out and played very aggressive. Just the approach that makes football an absolute joy to watch.

    Song slotted in quite well as the foil to Fabregas. I think his passing ability needs improvement but he clearly has the pace and defensive ability to fit quite nicely there. I’m not sure if he’ll have the robotic Flamini consistency but I think he’s got himself in the mix now.

    We clearly missed the pace of Ade up front. The point was to give Ade a bit of rest though and he got it. That means he’ll be set to explode next week.

    And cheers to the much maligned Gallas, and Silvestre. They were both quite a determined not to concede and even in a few cases where they blundered they both worked their socks off trying to make up for it.

  16. Ive formerly blogged by the name of jay, but as this blog seems to get more and more popular ill be using jay-jay , just so people know its me, and to help out bloggers like butterfingers and others who talk to me on here aswell.

    About the game, good to get a clean sheet, although great save from Almunias legs. Rvp struck a fabulous free-kick which I was sure was going in. But smacked the post. Song played well. Want to see more of Vela and Wilshere – cant wait for carling cup!!! Ade was the difference in the end but great pass from Niklas!

  17. Dont agree with C-Bass about WH ‘coming out’- they parked the bus just like Sunderland did. But they sure were agressive, both Parker and Green should have gone. This is the way most teams will now play against us- even at their ground and if our finishing is as bad as it normally is (Hull, Fulham) then we will struggle. Count how many shots we have blocked- yet oponents seem to get a much higher percentage through.

  18. Do people see that some times Nasri is lazy, or I have a little log in my eye? That’s why I really look forward to Eduardo’s come back so that he can get some one to prop him up.
    I still think Djourou is better that Silvestre and he should play. Also, Cesc, Gael Clichy and Eboue should now be given a little rest. We can compensate with Gibbs, Denilson and Walcott.

  19. Good call SF on your three questions. We did good although I think we struggled to controll the midfield early on. Song is as always solid and he did well, but from what I saw, he still hasn’t posed any significant threat to Denilson(who after playing almost 90 minutes of every game this season, including pre-season, got a deserved rest). The Nasri and Theo subs looks to me to have Wednesday and Saturday in mind. I loved it when we had 3 strikers on the field and hopefully we can add Eduardo in there when he gets back. That will like I have died and gone to heaven.

  20. song did well, but still don’t hav d pace 4 dat midfield. there were more markings 4 cesc, cos song is slow.

  21. Hi Evereyone,
    I want to thank all ye Gonners fans for your wonderful support week-in week-out.My little contribution is that AW should try and start the 334 formation and see what it will result to cos if yu ask me, that formation will unlock those clubs that wants to keep 9 players defending all 90 minutes. What I found out is that they play to frustrate us at important games

  22. The biggest plus of the game was I didn’t see ade get 1 offside imagine if he could do that for 90 mins we would be unstopable.

  23. Good post Spanishfry; was happy with a solid performance. Almunia, Gallas, Song and Adebayor were really good.
    Almunia: Brilliant save from Bellamy. Proving me wrong till now. He is improving game after game and hopefully he will continue the same form when we face big teams.

    Eboue: He surely loves to play at RB than in midfield. Remember he was the best RB in the premier league in 2006/07 season. Bad for him, Sagna is much better.

    Gallas: Had his best game of the season amid all the controversies and critics. He likes to play on the right side of defense. He is a winner and was best CB in the world when at Chelski’s. Still rate him.

    Silvestre: His partnership with Gallas is looking better than Gallas/Toure combination. It does not mean Toure is a poor defender. He is very good player when he plays alongside big man like Sol Campbell.

    Clichy: Not happy with Clichy for last few games. Terrible defending and horrible crossings. Of course his commitment and energy is always 100% but he needs to improve. Watch Evra>>>

    Walcott: We all know he is a king for us. Could have scored with two good shots. He could have passed to Bentdner instead of hitting the bar after a fascinating run. No complains though. He has been excellent this season and always remember he is fu**ing 19.

    Cesc: Was solid. I cannot see any better playmaker like him in this planet. He is miles ahead of everyone. Heart and soul of this team. We will have a chance to win something if he can stay fit and in-form. I wish he score more goals though. Been watching this kid for 4 years and he is fun to watch.

    Nasri: This is his first season, so he is still adapting. Two poor games in a row from the man with high expectations is not good. Looking better than never-shoot-Hleb though.

    RVP: Without a doubt best technical striker or player at Arsenal. There are few things in him which only he can do in this team. Freekicks and shooting ability are always admirable. If he stay fit this season I am expecting him to score at least 25 goals. He was really good against Westham. Could easily had an excellent game with two goals except for Green to make worldclass saves.

    Bentdner: Dane boy also played a good game. What a pass that was! Its not easy to replace Adebayor at Arsenal but he did with a solid performance. He didn’t score but played a good team game. Combination with Ade was good. Expect more from him cause he has talents to be a good striker.

    Ade/Diaby/Song: Adebayor turned to be an effective substitute and a match winner. He always offers something xtra in our attack-line. If he can change his attitude and develop his first touch, he can be better than Drogba or Eto’. Diaby did what he was supposed to do: build more pressure to Westham defense. Sagna Gun: Good to see you son.

    Can’t wait for Spur’s. Thoughts later on.

    Come on Arsenal.

  24. @ Spanishfry; Yes, it was a big shot on Clichy.
    I am always a big fan of him. His pace, determination and energy-level is unmatchable(He is our Roberto Carlos). But to be counted as worldclass fullback, clichy has to improve his crossing and defending ability. Against Everton, Fenerbahche and Westham we were little bit shaky on left side because of Clichy’s exposure. I haven’t noticed him improving his crossings either. Everytime he brings the ball forward I would know that we are going to lose possesssion. I think he has been overlooked by French national team because of his crossing inability. He was voted best leftback in the league last season but I rate Evra more than him just because Evra can cross 10 times better than Clichy. He is still young, so we expect him to improve. Last season he produced some glorious crosses when Becks was training with us. Maybe Wenger has to train him with crossing specialists. If he improves his crossing, he will be among best leftbacks. Lack of competition in his position might be the reason he is not focused in some games.
    He is so good for Arsenal so I always demand more from him. His attitude and passion make me think he is a solid candidate for future captaincy for Arsenal.

    Clichy Gun:::

  25. In my earlier post I forgot to mention Song. I think Song was good defensively and positionally in our last match. He did much better than having Denilson in the middle. His performance was comparable to Gilberto’s. However, I am still not convinced that he is the CDM for this team. The main problem is his lack of pace, mobility and reactiom. It was a game against a decent Westham team. The question is how he will do when he has to face players like Gerrard, Essien and other top midfielders?

    P.S. I watched the game between Udinese and Roma. Inler looks like a CDM we need. He reminded me of last season’s Flamini with his workrate and ball winning ability. I wonder why he didn’t make a transfer to Arsenal?

  26. hey goooners,

    this is the lucky no 23, i was just back from my weekend camp and i am very happy to be the winner of soccerpro’s t-shirt. lol…thanks spanishfry and thank you soccer pro tooo…..of course i saw arsenal win on the weekend, but there were bad moments in the game where westham…(u know they hammered us for the first time in our new home)they missed chances which almost took my breath away…i loved the combination of “tha capi” with silvestre and cool to see the amazing song….and i hope i have started to win atrophy here…i mean t-shirt….thanks…i’m so glad to be gunner and i got the reward for i read tthe blog for more than a year.
    stay safe gunners!!

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