Arsenal played Portsmouth yesterday and a sense of deja vu creeped into me. The scoreline was exactly the same as it was at the Grove, 4-1 to the Arsenal. Rather ironically, Man United also achieved the same scoreline against Wigan, which kept their distance to us to 2 points. But more importantly, the win meant that we are now only 4 points away from Chelsea at the top, with a game to spare.
The scoreline itself was very reflective of the game in general. Portsmouth were showing all the signs why they were the bottom side in the league (it’s a wonder how Liverpool manage to get defeated here recently) and we were in control for the better part of the game. To a point that Wenger can afford to give Craig Eastmond his Premier League debut. Without Fabregas in the side, we had to look for inspiration elsewhere. It’s the first time for me to say this but Aaron Ramsey was the one who stood up for the count. Always asking for the ball and looking penetrative overall. He scored a wonderful third goal for Arsenal that was all his own doing. Giving one defender the slip and rifling home from outside the box beyond the reach of Amir Bergovic. Hopefully that puts him in good form ahead of the FA Cup tie this weekend.
Portsmouth were doing the all the running in the early part of the game when a Song slip in the middle of the pitch allowed Kevin-Queen Boateng to speed clear. A good reflex save from Almunia at his near post prevented Portsmouth from taking the lead. From then on, it was all Arsenal. The first was rather fortuitous but a goal all the same. For the third consecutive games, Arsenal scored via a direct freekick. This time it was Eduardo’s turn as his shot deflected off Younnes Kaboul and landed in the bottom corner of the net.
We increased the lead just before half time. Song played another one of his increasing familiar chip into the box which found Eduardo. Patiently waiting for the opening, he in turn found Ramsey who quickly release another diagonal ball for Nasri, who duly planted the ball into the bottom corner. Good goal as it showed the understanding of the players and the awareness of where each other was.
If it had stayed 2-0 and Portsmouth reduced the deficit, it might have served up some nervous moment for Arsenal. Luckily we got to 3 before the opposition pulled one back. Nader Belhadj got the consolation for Portsmouth that came after Vanden Borre managed to escape the attention of Traore on the left of Arsenal.
Then came the goal which warmed my heart. Alex Song, so dependable and so consistent this season, finally opened his accounts. Nasri’s delightful dink into the box found Song. The ball arrived slowly and at an awkward angle. However Song, strained every sinew in his neck to add strength to the header, and again Bergovic had no chance. Arshavin’s part in leading to the goal was disappointing as he didn’t seem to want to get out of Nasri’s way.
Again the Russian had a quiet outing. If it means that he continually becomes a pedestrian in an Arsenal game but we ended up winning the game, then I have no qualms about it. You can see that every time the ball didn’t get to him, his shoulders just dropped a little more. Surely he is waiting for Bendtner to recover so that he can move back to his preferred position behind the main striker.
Armand Traore was one of the bright spots from yesterday’s game. He was clam and collected on the ball and never tried to rush things. His reading of the game has improved as well, on more than one occasion, he managed to intercept the opposition’s pass. He also showed more ambition in going forward (something which he did not do against Villa on Sunday, just shows you the discipline that the French boy has).
Overall it was another good team performance, without trying to be too fancy, even though the opponent was very very poor. I would prefer us to keep a clean sheet but I don’t want to find too much fault when we’ve just won 4-1 away.
Perfect end to a perfect month. This has been a very good year for Arsenal in every footballing sense. May in continue next year and the next and the next…(you get my drift).
Till then, I would like to take this chance to say thank you to all of you who readers out there. All your comments are very much appreciated and fingers crossed, things can continue in the same vein in 2010.
Have a happy new year!!!