The Word is “Character”

By on January 18, 2010

Despite the managerial change, it was the same old trip to the Reebok on Sunday afternoon. Bone-crunching tackles, frustration taken out physically, and slightly questionable sportsmanship, yet Arsenal persevered and showed great character in a match that was much harder-fought than your average 2-nil victory.

Bolton’s place in the table notwithstanding, no one could have expected this to be an easy fixture despite Arsenal’s recent record against the club. In fact, it is delusional, whether on the part of fans, commentators, or pundits, to think there is anything resembling an easy match in the Premier League, even for the Big 3.

However, with Fabregas just returned from injury, a debutant in a central midfield that was missing its lynchpin and enforcer, and a third-string left-back, Arsenal turned out a gritty performance and secured maximum points. It’s even more impressive because the club comes into this home-and-away with Bolton knowing that two wins with a goal differential of 4 will tie them for top of the league.

As expected, the match got a bit testy and a bit dirty at times, and Bolton surely created enough chances to come away with a point. Yet, Arsenal took their chances, including an inspiring one-two capped off by Cesc Fabregas’s 10th league goal of the season (in 16 matches) and even better-taken goal by our supposedly want-away youngster.

Despite a few bad turnovers in midfield, Diaby showed the increasing presence he has developed this season, as he uses his strength and build to his advantage making him one of the hardest players to dispossess. Eastmond made accepted debutant mistakes but, overall, looked calm and confident. Armand Traore, once again,  struggled in the defensive third as Bolton tried to exploit our biggest defensive weakness reminding us why he was switched to playing left-midfield in the reserves last season. On the other hand, Gael Clichy looked fairly sharp on his return, even playing a more advanced position to afford Traore a bit more help on the left than he had received for most of the match.

But the day belonged, once again, to the little Spanish maestro. Early on in the match, the commentator called Cesc “just below world-class.” I don’t know who he’s been watching but if Cesc’s form this season isn’t world-class, no one’s is. 10 goals and 12 assists in 16 Premier League starts? Give me a break! He is 8th in the league in goals-scored, but all 7 ahead of him are strikers. And none even come close to being able to dream about his assist total. I know many English fans have an ingrained aversion to statistics, or doubt their ability to quantify a game like football, but these numbers tell the story. But, perhaps, not the complete story…

Cesc’s contribution to this club cannot be measured in goals and assists alone. One must consider his brand of leadership as the side’s captain. He doesn’t say “Do this because I’m telling you!” Rather, he says, “Do this because I do it!” No one worked harder on the pitch yesterday than Cesc. With the one-nil lead and Cohen just about to rip a shot from just outside the box, Cesc slid in front, taking the hit, to block the shot as if it was a cup-final. THAT is how you lead by example.

Cesc’s outstanding form, and his performance in the Villa match, has led to some pundits questioning whether or not Arsenal are a one-man side. But even when Cesc was out, we still got results. When Liverpool are missing either Gerrard or Torres, they fold like house of cards. Arsenal, rather, continue to grind out results and got big performances from the now-injured Aaron Ramsey during the captain’s absence. Any world-class player is missed when he is not on the pitch, but to say that Arsenal are over-reliant on Cesc is wrong.

The ineffectiveness of the front-line continued but, as they have all season, the midfield picked them up. It’s almost the same dynamic as earlier in the season when the forwards weren’t scoring.You get the feeling that we can’t go on like this for too long, but the goals keep coming. Sooner than later, Bendtner and Walcott will be back and Vela’s role should grow as the season goes on. If this team actually does on to win the league, despite missing their best goalscorer for most of the season, and I truly believe we can, it would be an awesome achievement.

One wonders if the stories in the papers about Fran haven’t forced Wenger into giving him enough time on the pitch to make a final decision on him. He looked nervy when he first came on, with a few errant passes, but gradually grew into the match, and was into it enough by the last ten minutes to be in the right place at the right time and execute a collected finish.

Arsenal are now a win on Wednesday away from being level on points with Chelsea. We are a 3-nil victory away from being clear top of the league. The media and other supporters laughed at us after the Chelsea match, when Arsene and many optimistic supporters, claimed that we were still in the title race. The team has proven those of us right. I just could never see Arsene giving up on this side or the players giving up on themselves.

Both the players and the supporters have come too far and been through too much disappointment in the last few years to just walk away because of one defeat or even a double-digit deficit. That is not the Arsenal way.

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  1. Daxxjoker

    January 18, 2010 at 8:37 am

    We get by minor clubs with this kinda squad,and with such a big list of injured players.But come 10th of february late at night . . . after we’ve finished period of 4 matches with Villa,Manutd,Chelsea and Liver . . . and gained only 3 points from those matches . . . Wenger will regret not buying a striker and a midfielder.He’ll say “We had RVP out,we had Song away on ACN and Nasri injured – that hurt us.”
    But no one will buy that story,cause everyone is sick of excuses.He won’t remember that he had a whole month to buy 2 players.Noooo,ofc not ! He thinks our squad is good enoguh as it is,and he will once again see that’s not the case.
    Then everyone with a blog will stop praising Diaby and Ramsey,and will begin writing the worst stuff.Unless AW realizes that he must spend,and spend big . . . we are in for a couple of more seasons full with excuses.

    • RedandDread

      January 18, 2010 at 10:10 am

      You plonker.

      • Daxxjoker

        January 18, 2010 at 10:57 am

        Since you have no opinion (football wise) – I’ll consider you a moron.

  2. ClockEndRider

    January 18, 2010 at 9:05 am

    You’re so right. I just hate us being third and possibly going top on Wednesday as it makes my facile, puerile analysis look really silly. I too think Wenger should spend his way to oblivion, throwing money at second rate has beens,never were’s and never will be’s like managers at so many other clubs. That way, when Arsenal go bust I can feel truly proud that I agreed with the “spend, spend, spend” strategy and can then go on marches proclaiming “Wenger/the board/whoever out” and appear on equally facile sensationalist news channels professing my undying love for the club and how my life is ruined and will never be the same, claiming my Warhol 15 minutes thus helping me forget how truly thick I am and how utterly worthless my existence truly is.

  3. Daxxjoker

    January 18, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Oh . . . we have another sarcastic,blind man.That’s just what we needed.Sure,we’ll go top on wednesday,having played one game more than Chelsea.And it will only be goal-difference advantage.We’ll see what’s your story after season ends.Actually,in mid-february.
    Also,you are one of those thinking Arsenal will face bankruptcy if Wenger buys two 20mill players ! Don’t be plonkers all your life ! Yeeees,we will shut down ! That happens ! Well,it does happen – but to clubs like Portsmouth.What do you think – Manchester,with all its debts – will disappear tomorrow,just like that !?! Don’t be a fool.In the meantime – they’ve won 3 titles over last 3 seasons,played in 2 CL finals,and won 1.
    What can we say ? Well,we can say – we were top of the table from 20.01.2010 to the end of that month.But then – we failed to beat ManUtd.And after that – we went to Stamford and got blown away,humiliated once again by Chelsea.That’s when our title push ended,but we believe we can go all the way next year.
    Also,Wenger says he can’t find a striker which will improve us.Well,ofc not ! With wanting to spend 7mill on a striker – ofc he won’t find a striker that’s good enough for Arsenal ! He can’t buy Dzeko for 7mill cause that guy is really worth 20-25mill ! It’s as simple as that.But he would repay the club every single pound
    Now,even Birmingham or Sunderland don’t pay that ridiculous amount of money for a player.Yet,they didn’t vanish – they still play in Premier league.
    From now on – with ManCity,Chelsea,Real,Barca,Inter being ready to pay 70-80mill for a player with no prob – prices will only jump for every single player out there.And you wont be able to buy someone for 10mill and improve your squad with him.Unless you’re Stoke City.
    And I never said we should spend 150-200mill.We do not need a whole new team,we need 4 players.Gk,central defender,midfileder and a powerful striker.First two can wait till summer,but second two are needed now.
    And if the fact that every team in PL except Burnley,Wigan and Blackburn has a better gk than we do – is not sad to you – you can’t consider yourself an Arsenal fan !

    • Davi

      January 18, 2010 at 11:27 am

      Villa,Manutd,Chelsea and Liver
      Id have us as major favourites for all except the chelsea game there, even with all our injuries.
      And if thats after the ACN, chelsea might be without essien, so they will drop points.
      I agree signings would serously improve our chances, but we seriously have an insane amount of talent coming through. And it makes sense to try to make the most of it. We have at least 2 excellent prospects for DM in coquelin and eastmond, so if we got a new one in his prime, theyd end up leaving in all likelihood. We have bendtner to come back, as well as vela. Barazite might have had more chances this season if he wasnt injured. Then there’s other possibilities like watt, sunu and simpson.
      Some of those i named might not make it, but theres no point in wasting the ones who could.

      Even if we dont win the title this year, we have a proper team again that are enjoyable to support. You shouldnt care so much about winning anyway. Utd cheat their way to so many points its ridiculous,and they get so much help from the media and refs, it’s not a fair fight really. But if all you care about is winning, then thats who you should support.
      Btw, only a few teams have clearly better keepers than us (friedal, hart, given, reina – that’s all i can think of). Almunia is not brilliant, but its not like our rivals have amazing keepers either. Again, we’re just waiting for szczensny to come through in a year or two. Hes going to be world class.

  4. ClockEndRider

    January 18, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Sarcastic, certainly. Blind, I don’t think so.
    Where does your sense of financial reality start? Do you manage your own life in the way you propose Arsenal should manage theirs? How many buy to let properties do you have? How much do you have on your credit cards? Are you paying off this months CC bill with further borrowings? Are you wagering next years bonus against house price increases?
    Football is no different to life in financial terms. If you don’t spend within your means, a man comes and takes everything away from you. Asset prices can go doqwn as well as up and past performance is no guide to the future. Economic reality is biting at all clubs which do not have a sugar daddy willing to throw money away. We are not in that latter bracket. Nor will we be if Usmanov or for that matter Kroenke get in. Try to understand this. It’s quite important and is the bedrock of what the club and Wenger have been trying to do for the last 5 years. Wishing it were different may make you feel better but it is not going to be a reality any time soon. Thankfully , Arsenal is under the stewardship of people who understand this.

    • Davi

      January 18, 2010 at 11:32 am

      It is rather a selfish and small-minded attitude.
      He really wants his team to win, so i guess its justifiable to ask the club to spend tens of millions of pounds just because the other teams do it. Just so he can have the satisfaction of seeing his team win.

      • Daxxjoker

        January 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm

        Do you think before you write ?! Small-minded attitude ?!
        Are you being stupid for fun or . . . ???
        You probably have Arsenal wallpaper on your desktop,and that’s it.You are an Arsenal fan.Get outta here !
        Every single fan wants his club to win ! If you’re a girl and you chose this club by its colors – switch to Manutd – they have nicer kits.
        And once again – I’m not saying tons of millions ! I know we wont (cant) do that,so I don’t write stuff like that.
        If you wanna be cool arounf the world – become a West Ham fan.Your satisfaction is probably just watching Arsenal on tv.That’s enough for you to consider yourself a fan.I won’t be discussing with you any more.

        • ArsenalStation

          January 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm

          Questioning other commenter’s level of support for the club will get you nowhere, Daxx. Arsenal has many supporters from every continent on the planet. Those of us that live outside the UK are no less a supporter of the club than someone who has a season ticket. Where you are born, geographically, is a matter of chance, how you feel about the club is not. Many of the club’s biggest supporters, even in the UK, simply cannot afford a season ticket at the Emirates or to even attend matches at all. It does not make them any less of a supporter. Let’s keep our debate civil and to the point.

          As I said below, I understand your opinions. And, of course, I would not be averse to Arsene spending 15-20m on a striker considering our current need. At the same time, I am not going to let the failure to buy this month ruin my enjoyment or support of the club, the manager, or the players while we are right in the thick of a title challenge. Besides, calling for transfers makes the huge assumption that the right players for Arsenal are even available in this transfer window.

          • Daxxjoker

            January 18, 2010 at 3:00 pm

            I am from Serbia,but I am a fanatic ! ! !
            Nothing will disrupt my enjoyment watching Arsenal play ! ! !
            I am a greater fan than more than half of those 60000 people that turn up on Emirates for every match ! ! !
            We were in a better position for wining a title last season,if you remember.But we didn’t deliver then,and we we won’t know.Particularly,this time around because of RVP injury.
            Playing Eduardo in his place is just sad.Maaaan,do I like the man.But he had an amazing final shot,and now,he misses 3 superb chances before he scores.As for Bendner – he’s worse.I just can’t believe we’re waiting for him to recover,like he’s Ronaldo (fat one) in his best years.
            We were lucky (and I hope we will be) that Tommy or Billy didn’t get injuries.I won’t even think that way,cause I think we would drop to 8th place.

          • ArsenalStation

            January 19, 2010 at 1:08 pm

            Exactly how do you judge that you are “a greater fan” than anyone?

            Last year we were out of the title race by November. So how were we “in a better position for winning a title last season?”

            Also, Bendtner scored 15 goals last season, why wouldn’t we wait for him to recover? It’s not like he’s going to be out as long as RvP. As a supporter, I would much rather believe in my team than go around thinking we won’t win anything. Otherwise, what’s the point of being a supporter?

    • ArsenalStation

      January 18, 2010 at 12:22 pm

      I can understand where some of the supporters who want to buy, like Daxxjoker, are coming from. But like clockendrider says, it’s just not realistic. I wouldn’t mind Arsene adding a striker this month, if possible. But you can’t always buy because of injuries, because players come back from injuries. I do think we need a new keeper, and I agree with Daxx that it can probably wait till the summer, but we all know that Almunia is not a top-level keeper. I thought he might become one in 2007-08 but he’s gone backwards since then.

      I think alot of it has to do with expectations. If you expect the club to be run like the other big 4 clubs, of course you will be disappointed in the relatively little transfer market activity of Arsenal compared to those clubs. But Arsenal are run differently throughout the club. So it should be no surprise. Getting mad at Arsene for not spending big money is like getting mad at a paralyzed man for not walking. You know that he won’t do that, so there’s no sense in getting mad about it.

  5. ruffneckc

    January 18, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Honestly, if we bought the players, no one would say, no Arsene we can’t afford it, send the players back. However, if we don’t buy, we should trust Wenger’s judgment. I really doubted Wenger’s judgment on Song, Diaby and others, who are performing quite well now and delivering the goods.

    I think Wenger feels this team can improve another 10% or so this season, with momentum and experience coming into play. He hopes that will take them over the line to the title. There is more fight in them this season and they want it bad – all of them.

    I will trust Wenger’s judgment on whether we should buy or not. I will trust Wenger’s judgment on Bendtner coming good, like Song has.

    I just hope we get more luck with injuries, because THAT and NOT lack of expensive signings is the real threat to our title tilt!

    • ArsenalStation

      January 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

      Absolutely correct, ruff. If the side could stay relatively healthy the so-called “need” to buy would seem a lot less to a lot of people.

      • Daxxjoker

        January 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm

        First of all – Song came good,taking his first chance.Bendtner used dozen of those,but he’s simply not Arsenal material.He’ll end up like Aliadiere.Yeah ! Wenger made mistakes now and then,you all know that.But you won’t admit.Bendtner is another one.That’s that.
        Second – injuries are part of the game.You can’t expect to go through a season without couple of them.But – only in our camp is possible for a player to break his leg in the preseason and to be out 4 months.RVP is known for his injuries,Diaby also,and Clichy is putting together a nice piece of injured history.And Rosicky and Dudu – they’re thirds of the players they used to be.
        And what were you saying 5 years ago ?!
        Nothing.We had Campbell and Toure,Vieria and Gilberto,Freddi and Pires,Henry and Bergkamp.Wenger,ofc,wasn’t spending big then,neither.But this aces didn’t get hurt – and we were unbeaten ! ! ! Get it ? UNBEATEN ! ! !
        Now,you watch a game.You see a tackle on Diaby – he’s 3 weeks out for 15th time.You see Clichy run and stop – next thing you know – he’s out for 2 months.This one is 4-6 weeks out,that one was injured in training.He’ll be out for a month.Are you kidding me,people ?!
        I forgot about Denilson.He’s the newest usual absentee.
        We need another one like Song ! I mean,dude is a beast !
        We need that kinda player ! Player who stands his ground !
        Not players like Denilson and Eastmond.They may have 2 hearts each,but their bodies speak – YOU CAN NOT PLAY DM IN THIS LEAGUE ! ESSIEN WILL STOMP OVER YOU,EAT YOU AND STILL BE HUNGRY !

        • ArsenalStation

          January 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm

          To say Song took his first chance is stretching it. Many of us had been wondering for years what Wenger saw in Song as he never really seemed capable of being “Arsenal material.” Song has also been at the club longer than Bendtner. The kid scored 15 goals last season despite not being a regular starter. That to me shows far more development than Song had shown after being at the club for only two years. Bendtner deserves a chance just like Song received.

          Ljungberg, Vieira, and Campbell all experienced periods of injury problems and Pires was out for a long spell as well in 2002. There’s no doubt that team was stronger, physically, than this side but it’s a different brand of football that we are playing now and the players most likely to be able to fit in with it are not beasts, sadly.

          Also, no team has two top-quality DMs. With Song gone, his replacements are filling a role that is not their natural position. Not even Wenger thinks of Denilson as a true DM. Obviously the injury situation over the last few years is very frustrating for all of us and I, like you, would like some answers as to why it happens.

          • Daxxjoker

            January 18, 2010 at 3:15 pm

            Song didn’t take his first chance when he arrived.
            But once he developed his upper-body,he became an essential player for us.He’s a beast now ! He enters a duel,he gets in his opponent’s body – and he doesn’t finish on the ground.NO ! He wins the ball ! I can’t describe the tenth of the amount how much he impressed me this season ! He’s now in top 3 dm’s in the world !
            Bendtner may have scored 15 goals last season – but he should have scored 40 ! Take one game and just look at him.Only him.Count how many balls he loses,how many chances he misses,and how many times he doesn’t make a mistake.Numbers will do him justice.Also,for such a tall dude – it’s sad that he can’t score with his head.Unless he is in a position where everyone would score by head.
            Ibrahimovic also can’t score with his head,but he can score in 37 other ways.Bendtner will be sold in a year or two.Mark my words.

  6. johnboy

    January 19, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    And Bendtner wont be sold for at least the next 5 – 8 years! Before he came to us Wenger sent him on loan to Birmingham, which happens to be my hometown. As a 17 year old, Nik was instrumental in getting them promoted (not that that stops them from getting stuck into us) and the Blue part of Birmingham (we also have Aston Villa here!) were despertae to keep him here – even as a teenager his talent was prodigous. He’s added guts and determination to his arsenal and im of the opinion that he was instrumental in us qualifying for the champ league knock out stages last year. Anyway, the Wengerman sees him as one of the jewels in his crown – he aint going anywhere for a long time yet and the comparison to the Aliadiaire is way off the mark (no pun intended).

  7. Football Tips Expert - Wayne

    January 20, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Gunners will surely take 3 points at Emirate Stadium but I expect them to play safe because they clearly understood Bolton’s ability. Wenger’s side is confident to control the match after leading so Gunners will stop fire after score 2s and Bolton may has a chance to steal a goal in last minute.

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