Diaby Delights Whilst Vela Disappoints, Transfer Gossip & Win A Home Shirt
No wins for any of the Arsenal contingent in yesterday’s opening World Cup games, no defeats either. Carlos Vela had departed the field when Marques salvaged a draw for the Mexicans who seemed intent on avoiding victory. They started brightly and dominated the South Africans, spurning chances which suggests that progress through this group is going to be a struggle for them with a cynical Uruguay and unfathomable French side to face.
Vela will not be overly pleased with his performance. The offside decision which rightly denied him the tournaments opening goal was entirely avoidable. The Mexican had a perfect view of the defenders and goalkeeper, could see who was where and how to stay onside but failed to display the positional awareness which would have allowed him to break the deadlock. Nerves or the sense of occasion must have clouded his judgement.
He was not the only culprit, former West Ham striker Franco spurned more opportunities, some of them criminally. Credit to South Africa for weathering the storm and Tshabalala found the perfect finish to a slick counter-attack. The hosts might, and perhaps should, have won the match at the end, the woodwork denying them the opportunity to top the group.
Vela though was infuriating in his inability to assert himself on the South African defence, despite a bright start. His link up play as the Mexicans set about getting an early goal hinted at what is to come later in his career. He was lively in the penalty area and was at times only an interception away from giving his country a deserved first half lead.
In the evening match, France blundered their way to a goalless draw against Uruguay. Apparently, there hasn’t been a goal in a fixture between the two nations for over twenty years and it wasn’t hard to see why with a French attack that was extraordinarily blunt after an initial burst of life. Sidney Govou was once perennially linked with Arsenal; on that performance, no-one should question Arsene’s decision not to sign him.
Not that he was the only culprit. Ribery did nothing to suggest that he would have altered the outcome of the Champions League final had he been available whilst Anelka’s most telling contribution was to intercept Diaby’s pass to Govou and deny his colleague a clear run on goal.
Gorcuff started well, had a couple of interesting attempts on goal from set pieces but then became like the annoying kid at school, his mantra seemed to be, ‘I nearly scored with one so every time there’s a freekick, I’m going to shoot‘, which would drive any club manager beyond distraction and into the welcoming bosom of despair. Despite that, you have to say that he possesses an accuracy that will give Robin van Persie some ideas for next season.
So to Bacary Sagna and Abou Diaby. The full back had a good evening, solid defensively and supportive of the attack. In short, nothing less than we have come to expect from him on a weekly basis. I think it is three yellow cards and you miss the next game, so Gael Clichy is one third of the way to getting a runout in at least one match with Patrice Evra’s booking. It’s either that or injury which is going to give him the left back berth because the French captain did little wrong otherwise.
Diaby played how you want him to do so every week for Arsenal. He does sometimes but lacks the consistency of performance although like everyone last season’s midfield merry-go-round helps little. Running from deep he was able to pull the Uruguayan midfield all over the place and his link-up play was excellent. Defensively he has learned from his mistakes at club level and to be honest, if he can produce this sort of display on a regular basis, the bout of Diaby-bashing may well come to an end. A shame Dunga did not pick Denilson and perhaps we could have knocked it all on the head in one summer.
The World Cup though really kicks off today with England taking on the USA! USA! USA! Media memories of 1950 are rehashed, the subsequent victories ignored, the 1976 win over NASLs finest erased from the record books. Fair play and all that for it was the only competitive match between the two nations in this sport.
It is not hard to see why USA! USA! USA! fancy their chances against the seemingly disjointed England squad but having qualified with relative ease for this tournament, Capello is not going to let anyone stand in his way as England head towards a quarter final exit. Potential opponents at that stage are Argentina and they have a tricky encounter with Nigeria this afternoon although history is against the Africans, two defeats in 1994 and 2002 whilst in the past, do not give comfort.
Quite what the world will make of Emile Heskey is anyone’s guess but he is likely to start alongside Rooney with Lampard and Gerrard seeking to make their usual hash of things in midfield. Still, if we think we’ve got it bad at least our hopes don’t rest on Clint Dempsey or the manager’s son.
Arsene will take a break from Eurosport’s awful Soccer City programme to watch Joe Cole with as much interest as he paid to Steven Pienaar. No wonder Blatter was keen to twit… wait, no, that is what he is. Sorry tweet that he met the player soon to be signed by Wenger according to reports. If only those pesky Catalans would nick our best player…
He could be joined by a nearly England international in the shape of Phil Jagielka as Arsene seeks to solve his defensive riddles with Campbell seemingly on his way to The Jungle. Perhaps a cheeky £20m bid for Vidic would be more acceptable to Old Red Nose than seeing his prize defender nip over to the Other Side?
WIN A HOME SHIRT
Arsenal Football Club has kindly donated a new home shirt (to be released on July 29th) to the winner of this question:
Which Arsenal managers have played in the World Cup Finals?
Send your entries, along with your name and address, here or to aclfcomps[AT]btinternet[DOT]com, changing the bits in square brackets, with ‘New Home Shirt‘ in the subject line, to have a chance of winning. Closing date is midnight, Sunday 20th June 2010.
Good Luck to all who enter.