The agony and ecstasy of being Arsenal: Bendtner was big

Arsenal 2 Fulham 1.
To watch Arsenal start this season against Fulham was to watch another piece of theater as the ridiculous, the sublime, and the strange all played out in 90+ minutes. It left you with a myriad of emotions ranging from despair to delight. Jens Lehmann’s bone headed fumbling which led to a disastrous goal within a minute of the start of play when all that was needed was a simple clearance brought back memories of other ways Arsenal have managed to shoot themselves in the foot. This time it was David Healy, another one of Laurie Sanchez’s NI signings that gratefully accepted Lehmann’s ghastly little flub.
And then it was deja vu all over again as wave after wave of beautiful Arsenal build ups broke down with one pass too many, the errant final pass, too few options up front, a physical Fulham defense led by Zat Knight and Carlos Bocanegra winning the aerial challenges, and underscoring Arsenal’s lack of inches in attack. I became tired of hearing how good Tony Warner was at goal. It was not Warner’s good goalkeeping as much as Arsenal shooting the ball straight to him after that extra pass ensured Warner was in the right position to stop the ball. He is a journeyman goalie, not Petr Cech, fer cryin’ out loud!
Wenger’s introduction of Nicklas Bendtner very late in the game was the key to Arsenal’s pulling this game out. Wenger must have seen how the Arsenal attack was being shunted aside by the taller Fulham defense. The Danish lad has height, strength, quick feet, and was physically assertive. He went up against Zak Knight and Carlos Bocanegra winning the aerial challenges and showed (gasp!) good goal poaching instincts. You could see the Fulham defense becoming less sure of themselves with Bendtner around. I think it was this bit of doubt that paved the way for Toure’s sizzling little run, being brought down by Bocanegra desperation tackle, and Van Persie’s penalty kick equalizer.
The ball was then hogged by Jack Warner who would not let it go. Flamini stripped him off it and a strange rugby like scrum ensued with both teams milling around trying to tear the ball away. Papa Dioup came up with it and Fabregas chased him down swiping the ball from his hands. All part of the age of Aquarius. It resulted in three yellow cards.
Lehmann must have heaved a sigh of relief that was bottled up for almost 83 minutes. But he had to deal with Toure, the hero of a few minutes earlier almost scored an own goal in a typical casual mix up that seemed to plague Arsenal’s defense in this match.
But the best little piece of play came from “long overdue for a big game Alexander Hleb”, as he chested down a nice lofted pass from Cesc, stayed on his feet after being challenged by Zat Knight, and angled his shot across the goal mouth, finding the left corner of the net. Nice bit of work and the best part was the undersized Hleb managed to stay on his feet.
Eboue still has some ways to go before he can rove effectively on the right and transition into an attacking midfielder. Walcott again showed great pace and some nice skills but I have always found his cross and shot making decisions suspect. He really needs to work on those to become threatening. Gallas needs to provide defense and his involvement in the game should be more than arguing with the referee and poking his nose in an altercation. Bakary Sagna performed very well and the Auxerre lad showed why he is so highly rated by Les Bleus. But the performer today was Nicklas Bendnter who in his 10 minute appearance showed that he could provide an exclamation point to all those dazzling Arsenal build ups.

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18 comments on “The agony and ecstasy of being Arsenal: Bendtner was big
  1. Spot on, and absolutely agree. Bendtner was the key, he did very well. You touched on it, but the one thing that worries me about the team is size and height. We basically look like a team of midgets – am I the only one who really thinks this is a problem?

  2. you have just show how ungrateful you are…dont you have anything else beside moaning cheaply…this isn’t good article seems arsenal had given all their best…you have no right to write since you are not that supportive…wake up dude…

  3. being critical is not necessarily ungrateful… and anyone who watched the entire match would agree bendnter did shake things a little, enough to open up space for others
    those guys need to practice shooting higher up in the goal, not just along the ground and towards the middle and make the other goalkeeper a hero in the process
    … hleb (or rosicky) could simply chip the ball in the 1-on-1 and it’d have been 1:1, in the first half; why oh why had they needed to always shoot along the ground… same as the fabregas 1-on-1; lift the ball and RVP would ahve an empty goal, instead he tried to flick the ball on the ground and hit the trailing leg in another excellent piece of goalkeeping!
    also, where is diaby? in a home game what’s flamini really doing on the pitch??

  4. Bit harsh on Gallas. Poking his nose in is what he should be doing. Unlike Henry, who only seemed to float along without showing any real leadership or player-welfare concerns.
    You can see Gallas is proud to be captain of this club. So don’t be too harsh on him just because he feels the need to get involved.
    As for Arsenal, heart-attack stuff again. Last season all over. Definitely 2 world-class players short.
    1: A striker in the Anelka mould – raw power, lightning quick, awesome shooting ability.
    2: A midfielder in the Appiah mould – tackles strong, is quick, never takes a backward step and can score.
    Fabregas would play the Gilberto role as I believe he lacks the pace, scoring and tackling ability required.
    As for this game, at least until the last quarter, build-ups were just too slow.
    Fabregas needs to move the ball quicker (hence the Gilberto role). Toure should not be so wasteful with those silly long balls. Eboue should play within his own ability, not finesse.
    Hleb was a revelation in his new position as was Bendtner in his cameo role.
    A shaky start but thankful for the 3 points.

  5. Err, ya wanna correct Zat Knight’s name, too?
    I do agree Bendtner was key to this game. Marvellous addition. Wolcott does need better decision-making, and AW can coach that. What can’t be coached is the sort of pace that puts both the left mid and fullback into complete panic whenever Theo runs at them. I do think he’ll grow into a player who puts enough pressure on defenders to open gaping holes for his teammates on counter-attack. And I think that will happen this season, barring injury.

  6. This game showed that Arsenal can be different; able to vary their game. In the past two seasons, we were one dimensional, relying on Henri for one piece of magic to get back into the game. But, now, we could put in two additional stikers when we needed a result. Taste of better thingsto come for this team.

  7. Ive been impressed of what i have seen of Sagna, a good addition there. Hleb seems a different player playing centrally. He is also taking the workload off Cesc by playing there as there were times when the two combined and opened up Fulham. Though this leaves RVP isolated but i think he has the individual brilliance to play on his own up front

  8. what a game ,. what a comeback .. as everyone, i thought it was one of those days .. until toure surged forward and earned a penalty .. and hleb .. what do i say about hleb … brilliant .. the pass master finally scored at last .. hopefully he carries on in the same manner and gets 10+ goals this season …
    oh and btw .. lawrie sanchez = muppet = sore loser trying to blame everything on some apparent simulation by Arsenal players … brilliant strategy but theres something called video replays which he could check after he went home and be ashamed that he actually made those comments .. but what else can a desperate man do ?!!!

  9. Bendtner did make the difference, but maybe this was because we switched to a 4-4-2 when he was on the pitch as opposed to the fruitless 4-5-1 that we had been playing up until that point, with Hleb lurking behind the RVP. At the back though it was comical. We’ll continue to let in goals until we start keeping clean sheets. Vieira used to move around the pitch snuffing out attacks and switching the ball forward for our attacking players to capitalise on. We need to smother attacks earlier in the move, not rely on last ditch tackles and clearances.

  10. It’s funny, all last year we wished the Arsenal could win ugly. Yesterday against Lawrie Sanchez’ Fulham, we did. But it seems even after just the first game of the season, we still can’t be positive. Despite Wenger’s credentials, we are unwilling to let this new Arsenal develop…some SUPPORTers you lot are. The word support means just that SUPPORT! Not bitch and mourn about shortcomings that will most certainly be corrected as the season develops. Everyone is at the same stage but the cream always rises to the top.
    Why aren’t you silently confident and patient enough for your/the ARSENAL’s CREAM to rise to the top…of the Premiership???

  11. Note how when Rosicky went off, Arsenal became more effective. I don’t believe Rosicky and Hleb should ever be on the same pitch at the same time.

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