Partizan Belgrade 1-3 Arsenal
That was a very good win. Traveling to Serbia is not easy, traveling to Serbia, facing a capacity crowd creating a fearsome atmosphere, fielding a team without your core players and preparing for the game via the light of mobile phones (good Cashley weren’t about, eh?), due to a power failure and getting a win is a very good thing indeed.
You could tell from the images in the stadium that the crowd was a hostile one, it was so loud and when you see a fan at the game claiming that they were throwing bottles full of urine at them it just shows why so few fans traveled out there.
The build up to the match centered around one player, goalkeeper Lucasz Fabianski and I am delighted to say that when he was called upon he did his job very well, there was not one single fumble. I think that is when the mistakes happen… when Arsenal are up the other end and a player loses the ball, and all of a sudden the keeper has to regain their focus.
In the first ten minutes we were outplayed which was pretty worrying, was it the light or the atmosphere? Who knows, but it wasn’t looking too good until Arshavin got the ball and ran right at the defence, he poked the ball to Jack Wilshere who somehow managed to roll the ball to the side and back heel it back to Arshavin in one movement. Arsha finished the job.
Wilshere is an amazing talent. It is far more influential than Cesc and Ronaldo were at 18, more-so than Wayne Rooney too. I’m not going to make any comparisons in a public forum but there is one player I would liken him too in respect to his influence on the pitch. It is quite scary.
It is encouraging that we were not really under threat from set-pieces, instead it was in open play when we looked at our weakest with the defensive combination of Squillaci and Djourou not clicking early on – however they improved as the match went on and only a harsh award of a penalty for a handball in the area gave Belgrade a route back into the game. Fabianski was deceived by the eyes and the fact we should have been out of sight didn’t matter at all.
Arshavin and Wilshere combined mesmerically after our first goal, however Partizan were spurred on and until we made it 2-1, were right in the game despite never really threatening.
The header from Chamakh, his 5th goal in a row in the Champions league, and 8th in 9 games (I think), was very, very important. Soon after Squillaci netted his first Arsenal goal, job done… but there was still time for one more story to be made.
Gibbs lunged into a clumsy tackle just outside the area, the ref gave it as a pen. Fabianski dived to his right again and this time pulled off a brilliant save, the resulting cross into the box was also claimed like we had not seen him do in a long, long time. He repeated that trick again before pulling off a stunning point blank save. Redemption? No, but it was brilliant to see. He knew he was under the microscope and would be the most scruitinised player on the pitch regardless of the score and this is the reaction the penalty save drew:
Maybe that will be the turning point for him, hopefully it is because he has bounds of natural talent and it is amazing what a little bit of confidence can do. It certainly lifted the spirits of the fans who now will hopefully get right behind him, the boss has a selection dilemma ahead of the Chelsea game that is for sure.
Given the circumstances last nights win was a very important one, it means we can travel to Ukraine in the deep winter with no pressure – though hopefully Arshavin will thrive – and one more win will put us as good as through. Two games, nine goals. Not bad.
It was also the first win away from these shores in Europe since the comeback over Liege last season for us.
Now for Chelsea…