It was a strange Saturday of Premier League matches that saw both Arsenal and Man United, 2 teams with a stranglehold of the league for more than 7 years before Abramovich and his money came into the picture, both depended on players with an average height of 1.71 m. The former thrust into the center forward position while the latter as the tiny center back and both succeeded in the task that was asked of them.
Before Stoke took to the pitch at Ashburton Grove, they might have anticipated to face either Eduardo or Vela (both equally short) as the sole striker for Arsenal but was given an opponent of even smaller stature, in terms of height anyway. In light of the recent striking crisis that has engulfed the Arsenal camp, Andrey Arshavin started as the pivot of Arsenal’s attack, playing in the RVP role.
When I first saw the line-up, I have to admit that I wasn’t very comfortable with where the little Russian is positioned because it meant he was up against relative giants in Huth and Faye. However that did little to faze him and yesterday he showed once again why he was the most craved players in Europe after his exploits in the European Championship. Arshavin was very mobile in that role which sometimes confuses the centerhalves as they are caught between following him or staying in position. Dropping deep whenever possible his interplay allowed the other midfielders to get forward as an attacking threat. It was good to see a return to his usual standards but I will err on the side of caution as this season has proved that he is not consistent enough in his performance to warrant an over the top praise just yet.
While one shone in that match, another cuts a solemn figure. The captain, Cesc Fabregas played his part in the opening goal for Arshavin with a good assist but otherwise had a poor match. Discounting the missed penalty, Fabregas was a poor shadow of himself with numerous times where he was caught in possession. This may be a one off occasion but it is a worrying sight to witness as he is usually one of the toughest player to win the ball off from. The gruelling fixtures could have played a part and the expected rest from the midweek Champions League tie must be a welcomed one for the Spaniard.
With his 3rd start in 4 matches, Armand Traore is slowly but surely improving with every passing game. He was largely untroubled last night and showed good movement going forward. It is certainly pleasing to see him getting a run in the first team but it will be hard to envisage him still in the line-up once Clichy and Gibbs recover from their respective injuries. He does possess a wonderful cross in his left foot and could be ask to perform a midfield role should situation arise for high balls or crosses be required.
With Chelsea losing away to Man City, the gap has now gone back to where it was prior to the 3-0 reversal last weekend. Now, it’s time to not let the deficit increase anymore. Liverpool next but before that a small matter of the dead rubber at Olympiakos.