The day has finally come and all you gooners can exhale again, the premiership season returns and Arsenal have the privilege of being first up on the roster in the early afternoon summer sun.
The gunners started at fortress Emirates against newly promoted West Bromwich Albion who are no strangers to top flight football themselves. A good start at the Emirates is what all fans wanted as we all remember that Lehmann howler and last gasp goals which made such hard work of Fulham last year.
Captain William Gallas led out a team which has been hurt by injuries, Wenger has said himself that this is the worst crisis he has seen at the start of a season as Eduardo, RVP (bench), Fabregas, Rosicky, Toure (bench), Senderos and Diaby are all out injured and Nasri who started only just made it himself.
The teams lined up
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Walcott, Eboue, Denilson, Nasri, Adebayor, Bendtner
WBA: Carson, Hoefkens, Robinson, Cech, Barnett, Greening, Brunt, Kim, Meite, Morrison, Miller
The match kicked off and the Emirates crowd roared with delight as the new season kicked off and they knew that their passion for Arsenal can now take precedent for another 9 months 🙂
Last season the home fans had to wait 84 minutes for their first Arsenal goal but this season the wait was under 4 minutes when new boy Samir Nasri scored a sweet debut goal and with it the first goal of the 2008/2009 premiership season.
A tight passing move in the midfield led to a through ball down the left for Clichy to run onto, when he picked it up the crowd half expected him to do a bombing run into the area which is one of specialities but instead he put a through ball deep into the area for Denilson to cut back. A temptation to try and score the opening goal from a tight angle could have succumbed Denilson but he resisted and cut it back to the incoming Samir Nasri who slotted it cleanly past Carson and into the back of net.
Nasri ran towards the crowd clearly delighted with this wonderful start, sometimes that first goal can be a real problem for some players when they move to a new club but the Frenchman bitchslapped that stigma in record time.
Many may have expected a rout from that moment but what that goal didn’t show was a very professional and resilient West Brom defence which did itself proud and set a good standard for the rest of the season. Whilst their attack (bar one man) was not much cop the defence was solid, organised, discliplined and despite a couple of hiccups had a very good game.
The next threat came from an almost identical attack which put Adebayor in the same position as Denilson was in for the goal but instead of a one time cut back Ade took a touch and placed a dinky cross onto the head of Walcott who’s effort was blocked and the acrobatically cleared from out side the area. However the clearance was only as far as Clichy who beelined for the box despite being amongst a crowd and he set the ball up nicely for Ade but his shot was easily caught by Carson.
The best cameo of the match was when captain William Gallas decided to become Gabriel Batistuta and thunderstrike one from 35 yards after working himself some space. The shot just curled wide but it was mighty close and at that pace, if on target, was going to be as dangerous as a jellyfish off the shores of Cornwall.
Gallas had a really good game overall, he was strong, determined and played with alot of conviction, hopefully we will see more of this from our captain who is looking to make up for past mistakes.
In the 18th minute another rampaging Clichy run in space down the left got the Frenchman in a good position to cross which he duly did and the ball was headed clear by the defender. However it didn’t go far and Sagna hit an exquisite half volley with his left foot which was blocked by the defender, it was obvious to all that if it was allowed to continue on it’s travels then Carson would have a challenge ahead, such power and accuracy but unfortunately the defender was well placed.
A corner in the 24th minute was met beautifully by Niklas Bendtner but the header was wide of the mark.
On the 30th minute West Brom had their first flicker of a chance when a long ball was flicked to Do-Heon Kim by Miller and the left footed strike was scrambled wide by Almunia.
A midfield battle continued until the half time whistled blowed and the fans clapped the gunners down the tunnel as the finished the first half of the season a goal to the good. Nasri had looked a class above so far as his running, dribbling, passing and overall effort was a joy to watch and the looked like he knew his role very well. Walcott was struggling a little, Eboue was managing in his emergency central midfield role and unfortunately for him Adebayor was looking very very rusty. Overall this was a game for Adebayor to forget.
They came back out for the second half with no changes on either side and the referee blew up to continue the game.
Whilst the West Brom attack was largely inneffective there was one man who was a constant pain the side of the gunner’s defence, Ishmael Miller! His strength, pace, power and determination was a genuine threat and he never looked tired of running at Gallas and Djourou, this was an impressive match for the ex-Man City striker.
In the 50th minute a WBA passing move saw Miller run onto a delightful through ball and fire his shot into Almunia which rebounded back to James Morrison inside the box. Almunia had no chance of reaching Morrison’s shot but Djourou was smartly positioned on the line and he deflected it to safety with his legs. Almunia subsequently expressed delight at the outcome of the defending but also frustration with the way the defence was breached.
Two minutes later Nasri went on a run and played the pass of the match when he fed the ball upfield through two defenders perfectly for Adebayor to run onto. Ade was in the clear, away, looking odds on to score as he made himself the angle with his run but to the frustration of the crowd he curled the ball wide of the far post. This was a great opportunity to score the goal that should have put the game out of West Broms reach but Ade was not on great form and the resultant finish showed that.
Ade dithered on another opportunity later which ruined a move in a great position and the frustrated crowd started booing him from some quarters. Slightly unnecessary but he was having a poor game and he demanded triple wages from the club so he does need to step up and put in the performances to match it.
Another passing move outside the box was patiently worked about until Eboue got the ball and as usual decided to have a crack and as usual it flew well wide.
Time was up for Niklas Bendtner who had an ok game and on came Robin Van Persie with 20 minutes to make his mark on the match. Kolo Toure followed 4 minutes later for Theo Walcott and it was a great sight for all arsenal fans who were concerned for Kolo after he contracted malaria.
In the 80th minute a weak but accurate cross from Adebayor was met at the far post by Van Persie but the keeper was able to catch it comfortably.
Six minutes later Adebayor came in from the left and passed the ball across to RVP who was shadowed by two defenders. He brilliantly swiveled and turned to fashion a shooting chance with his back to goal and he flicked a shot goalwards with the outside of his left foot but it flew agonisingly wide. Class play from the Dutchman but it did not lead to the goal it deserved.
The game came to a close and the referee blew to end the first game of the new season and the gunners had completed a very comfortable 1-0 victory. West Brom had defended well and had many positives to take but Arsenal too had done well with the injuries they had and played some good football during the match.
Samir Nasri was without doubt the man of the match and i am sure Arsenal fans will keep a keen eye on him from now on because a couple more performances like that and he will cement himself into the first team for sure.
All in all 1 game, 1 goal, 3 points, happy days, bring on the Fulham 🙂
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