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"It was the winter holiday and I was back in Togo having a kickabout with friends when my phone rang.One of the boys answered it and said, 'Manu, it's Arsene for you'. 'Arsene who?' I said. 'Arsene Wenger', he said. 'Get out of it', I said, and grabbed the phone off him. But then I heard the voice. 'Allo'. F*****g hell. It is Arsene Wenger!"
-Emmanuel Adebayor

Hleb Impresses: Arsenal 2-1 Fulham

Can we at least say its an improvement? We complained when we only got draws at the Emirates last season and the Gunners have delivered 3 important points as it looks like the other big teams (Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Sunderland) all got opening day wins. Some positives to take from this game. We're going to see 4 strikers battle for one forward spot as Hleb is playing amazingly well in his new position. He has also kept his promise of shooting more as he had a few pops at goal, and what a finish for the winner! Bendtner is looking exciting, I had a big grin on my face when he beat the Fulham defender to a header by a couple of feet and nearly scored. He will definitely be challenging for a start if RvP isn't fit. Eboue, although not as exciting as he was against Inter, he still looks better than Hleb on the right and he links up with new signing Bacary Sagna very well.

Speaking of our no.3, he played well going forward and although he tackled very well when he was defending, he was caught out of position on more than one occasion, forcing Toure to move to the right and Flamini slotting in at CB temporarily while Sagna returns to his position. Without Gilberto, I think Flamini will have to play an important role as a DM, he is not only our only capable DM besides Gilberto (Song who?), but he also knows a thing or two about defending in a back 4. Toure despite a mistake looked very strong and looked like a leader throughout the 90 minutes. His partner Gallas, also looked good. Gallas looked invisible for most of the game, which is a good thing. And in the second half when we needed a goal, he didn't hesitate to makes runs forward to help the team. I didn't see this side of Gallas last season and I'm happy I saw it today. Clichy played well and proved that his speed will make him a force to be reckoned with going forward, his crosses still need improving though.

The biggest plus I can think of is the partnership of Rosicky and Hleb. They compliment each other very well with both players being very good on their feet. Rosicky wasn't afraid to take long range shots and it looks like his pre-season fitness worries are behind him. Hleb like I said earlier, was outstanding and looked like the most likely to score among the starters.

Now on to the negatives, lets start with the obvious...LEHMANN. After that horrible mistake I got scared whenever he touched the ball. And (forgive me all Gooners around the world for saying this) for a brief moment I mumbled, "Id rather have beach blonde Almunia in goal!". After realising what I said, I quickly said my prayers and apologised to the Arsenal gods. Another worry is that sides are beginning to realise that everything goes through Cesc and they put 2 and as Fulham did today, sometimes 3 men on him. Cesc managed to wiggle away from those mediocre guys(no offence to Fulham but you guys are not Man Utd) but if he comes up against Essien, Scholes or Gerrard he might have a few problems.

The biggest worry though remains that we over rely on Van Persie now. Its worrying when a guy that scored2 goals the whole of last season looked more threatening in front of goal than your main striker. Now, dont get me wrong I think van Persie is one of the best, if not the best striker in the premiership but when he is having an off day or the oppositions defence is dealing with him well, like Fulham did today then we may have a few problems. Theo Walcott came on late in the game and didn't make much of an impact aside from going very close from finishing the game off in injury time. Alex Song came on seconds before the final whistle.

Player ratings coming up shortly.

posted by highbury1913 @ 9:53 pm | |

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