Nani / Almunia (o.g) – Arsenal vs Man Utd – 2010

9 06 2011

Here’s Tom Goulding with an excellent addition to the ‘My Favourite Goal’ series. You can follow Tom on Twitter @TomGoulding

I don’t think this goal gets enough credit.

The hashtag #goalswhichgetforgottenbecauseoftheircontext on Twitter (which never really took off, for some reason) was bandied around a few months ago, and you got the usual picks – Essien vs Barcelona, Goulding vs Ardingly 3rd XI. This goal should now be added to that glittering list.

The setting is Arsenal vs Manchester United on 31st January 2010. The game was 3rd vs 1st in a season in which Chelsea, 2nd at the time, eventually won the title. Now, as a Spurs fan, part of my enjoyment of this goal is undoubtedly that it is against Arsenal. As someone who has grown up with football in the Wenger era, the pleasure of seeing my rival team lose and get humiliated has rarely occurred, and if it has, it has usually been at the hands of teams better than my own. Enjoying the failure of my arch rivals is rarer than most fans; Arsenal have lost at home only 13 times in the past 8 seasons, and so when it happens, it is something to take pleasure in. You might claim that this is sad, and you’d probably be right. That is the unfortunate predicament a football fan is sometimes in – a bitter tribalist who finds it impossible to spin reality in a way which elevates his own team above his rivals.

To the goal. 32 minutes have gone and it is 0-0. Nani picks up the ball out wide and takes on the left-back Gael Clichy. It is great to see a player take on a man – it gives us a duel, a one on one battle in which somebody wins and somebody loses. It is a bare test of aptitude. However, Cesc Fabregas comes to help so there are now two men on him. What to do? Nani feints to cross and produces an inside chop in between both his opponents, undoubtedly learnt from the master of the chop. This leaves Clichy and Fabregas standing there helpless, rendered only spectators. He approaches Thomas Vermaelen with pace, drops the shoulder and glides past him.

When most people beat a couple of defenders, they get all excited, have a rush of blood to the head and smash the ball into row Z. Not Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha. He chips the ball, making it glide over goalkeeper Manuel Almunia towards the far post; a sand wedge chip shot, cutting across the ball, designed to get it over a particular obstacle and down as quickly as possible, whether that be the lip of the bunker or an opposing goalkeeper. With United players running in, Almunia has to do something; but he can only tip it into the goal.

Nani has forced the goalkeeper into a position where he has to palm the ball into the exact place from which he is paid to keep it away. Nani has left three Arsenal defenders completely bamboozled, with an extraordinary display of skill in the type of match where efficiency and keeping-it-tight is stressed at all times. He had the ball out on the wing, far away from the goal, with two opponents surrounding him, and he has said “I’m going to put the ball in the far corner of that net. And I’m going to do it with an exquisite level of skill, and I’m going to embarrass Arsenal Football Club while I’m at it”. That’s why it is one of the best goals of that season. And I mean that.

The goal was overshadowed by the emphatic scoreline, Arsenal’s continued lack of success against the big teams and United’s second goal in that game, a breathtaking counter-attack. But I remember it well. It had a linear beauty to it, from the chop inside at the start to the devilish spinning of the ball over the doomed goalkeeper. Wonderful.

The goal is surprisingly hard to find on YouTube… here’s a link to it on a Turkish site (0:45): Almunia (o.g) – Arsenal vs Man Utd – 2010

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3 responses

9 06 2011
Brian Labigalini

The chip is nice.. but the best bit has to be when Nani escapes his two man markers. Splendid.

15 06 2011
Joao

it wasn’t that good chap…

24 03 2012
Yohannes

b

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