Wednesday 25 February 2009
Arsenal 1 - 0 Roma. Half way to Rome?
A much improved performance from pretty much every player on the pitch. And also a much improved atmosphere within the stadium to recent weeks as well. It does make you realise how much fun the Champions League can be, and how important it can be to maintaining the support of the fans. We do get fed up watching rubbish like West Brom coming to park the bus in front of our misfiring strikers. But a team with Totti, De Rossi and Baptista trying to play some football suits both our players and our fans more.
So, as the song goes, we're on our way to Rome (obviously the song doesn't quite go like that) and I am pretty sure we know how to get there for the next leg. Here's hoping we'll find a way to be back there in a few months time.
To the game itself – the intensity in our play from the first whistle was spot-on. We played with a high tempo and looked to carry the ball forward at every opportunity. On the few chances Roma threatened Almunia looked like the #1 so many claim we are lacking. Diaby and Eboue both carried the ball with feet, and with Nasri roaming the pitch and Denilson mopping up and keeping the ball circulating it was hard to see how we have struggled in recent weeks.
I personally felt that Roma were walking a red-card tightrope very early on – some highly cynical “tackles” and an x-rated lunge from De Rossi on Nasri set the tone. But this was Europe and the referees are, unbelievable, worse than the standard wanker-in-the-black we get every Saturday. Theatrical tumbles were rewarded with free-kicks, the second half kicked off with 9 Arsenal players on the pitch (poor Kolo has to leave the changing room last, and I think Billy was just dropping the kids off at the pool) and somehow Mexes wasn’t sent off for bringing down Van Persie when already on a yellow.
However, as is the way of the Arsenal and us Gooners this season there were some complaints. We didn’t take our chances (Bendtner and Eboue the most guilty) and dropped the pace in the last 20 when Song came on. I personally would have put Rambo in there, as he is more suited to replicating the more expansive style of Diaby. News on his injury will be important as the difference in our style when he starts ahead of Song is noticeable.
All in all a good night, and the best overall performance for many a week. I am sure we will follow this up with a spineless 0-0 against Fulham this weekend, but such is a Gooner’s lot.