EPL 2006: Day 12 (Arsenal 3 – Sunderland 1)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
November 6th, 2005 • 6:02 pm

It was obviously not the most important game in the Gunners’ season, and it was definitely not the most important game of the week-end, but it was a game that saw the Gunners confirm their excellent home form and continue their recent good run.

Apart from a few wobbly moments in the second half (with a goal conceded yet again on a set piece), Arsenal thoroughly outclassed their opponents. The Highbury probably hoped for a few more goals to more accurately reflect the gulf between the two teams, but it would have been icing on the cake. It would have been really nice, for example, to see Reyes back on the score sheet, but his miss from close range early in the game reflected a certain lack of confidence that he’ll have to overcome in the coming weeks if he wants to play a real role this season.

It’s unfortunate that Thierry Henry’s bicycle kick hit the post, because that really would have been one of the goals of the season, with a great contribution from van Persie. The young Dutchman was in the starting line-up and his performance confirmed that he definitely deserved his spot. It’s fairly obvious that he’s on the path to greatness, and with Wenger’s expert coaching he could prove to be one of the revelations of the next few seasons.

Thierry Henry, for his part, has little left to prove, especially in this kind of game. It remains to be seen whether he can truly fill the captain’s boots in big games—but we’ll find that out soon enough.

Speaking of big games… It was crunch time at Old Trafford today, and the game didn’t disappoint in terms of its intensity. Still, if I were a Manchester United supporter, I wouldn’t be overly reassured by this win against the reigning champions Chelsea. Surely Fletcher himself would admit that his goal was a bit lucky (it’s hard to imagine he went exactly for that spot in the top corner above Terry’s head), and it was one-way traffic in the second half. There was more (controlled) commitment on the part of players like Smith, O’Shea, Fletcher, and the other players recently criticized by Roy Keane, but it was hard not to think that it’ll take more than what was on display today at Old Trafford to change the course of United’s season.

Still, it was Chelsea’s first defeat in a long time, and it’s good news for everyone else, including Arsenal. Their unbeaten record of 49 consecutive games and the 2004 season are safe in the record books for a while again. And it’s a defeat that maybe (just maybe) will keep the season interesting a while longer as a contest. After all, Chelsea are now only 6 points ahead of… Wigan (!), and both Manchester United and Arsenal have a game in hand. We’ll need more slip-ups by the champions, of course, but maybe there are a few cracks in the gold-plated armour after all.

I would also like to mention the performance of the referee Graham Poll. He was once again outstanding, even if the yellow cards started flying for a bit in the second half. Most of them were fully justified, whether it was for dissent or blatant cynicism. I really do wish that the footballing authorities would change the rules so that blatantly cynical fouls intended to prevent an attack from developing are punished by a direct red card. There would have been two Chelsea players sent off today (Makelele and Ferreira). And I really do wish they’d start using video replays to punish players like Terry, who constantly try to take advantage of the confusion in free kick situations. But until such rules are adopted, referees have to do their best, and Graham Poll certainly was in top form again today.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.