Doubtless I could've written a few thousand more words on this one! But lucky for you I've got to go to work.
I'm not sure I was right to single out anyone below, in what was truly a great team performance and besides, when I got home, I rewound the Sky gadget and watched it all over again, where I reappraised some of my opinions about those who I thought hadn't had the greatest of games, simply because I was so impressed with the amount of graft they got through
Now if only the title was decided on our efforts against the top three, we'd be running round Stamford Bridge, Anfield and Old Trafford, with our todgers hanging out!
Arsène Wenger’s vision for the Arsenal’s future was instrumental in the development of our 60,000 seater, concrete, glass and steel Gooner cathedral. After waiting almost six months to the day, since the birth at Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial back in the summer, we finally got to wet Wenger’s new baby’s head at the weekend. In the presence of the Premiership’s high-priests, we witnessed the sort of dramatic encounter on Sunday that was akin to the new ground’s christening, communion and confirmation all rolled into one.
Obviously we enjoyed spanking Spurs and the Scousers at our new gaff. But we didn’t go a goal down in these games. To savour a euphoric turn around against the old foe, with a 93rd minute winner, when we were a mere 10 minutes from a disastrous defeat, that would’ve probably handed the Red Devils the title on a plate and seen us cast adrift with the also-rans, not to mention putting them in the box seat, where they’d be relishing the prospect of returning to our new place in the future, this was the sort of historic stuff that will begin to lend our new home an illustrious legend all of its own.
Listening to the Five Live phone-in as we floated home from the game, still high on the adrenaline rush of those thrilling last few minutes, I heard a bitter Cockney red suggesting that we celebrated as if we’d won the Premiership title itself. Indeed there was absolute pandemonium, as we all went bonkers barmy when Henry headed home the winner. But personally speaking my own delirium wasn’t down to any fanciful notions of battling our way back into the title frame.
I’m sure this season’s marathon still has plenty of surprises up its sleeve, but I don’t think Sunday’s triumph will have an impact on the ultimate destination of the domestic crown. If anything I felt there were aspects to Utd’s performance, which only confirmed their title credentials and I’ve a feeling that in the long run they might well end up benefiting from this defeat. I didn’t think much of Evra when he came on as a sub against us at Old Trafford, but he’s beginning to look the Premiership part and I’m afraid that in Vidic, Fergie has finally found a partner for Ferdinand, of the sort who gives the heart of the Utd defence a solidity that hasn’t been seen since the days of Bruce and Pallister.
Old Red Nose is likely to make the most of their misfortune, as a means of refocusing on the run-in. I’ll be most surprised, if between now and the end of the season, his team ends up blowing another three points in the last 10 minutes of a match - and I wouldn’t fancy being in their shoes, bearing the full force of a Fergie tongue lashing if they do! Moreover, if required, the Utd manager couldn’t wish for more perfectly timed ammunition to persuade the Glazers to rustle up a few quid before the transfer window closes, to strengthen their squad for the big push. Whereas a win might well have had the opposite effect on the owners willingness to open their wallet.
To my mind there was only one team who couldn’t afford to lose on Sunday. This was epitomised in the build up to our first goal, in the way Fabregas and Rosicky refused to concede possession to Scholes and Evra on the edge of Utd’s area. And yet it was both sides fear of losing which prevented the sort of smorgasbord of wizardry that some were hoping for, as both sides grafted their socks off, thereby cancelling each other out. Although I was blaming our groundsman early doors, as instead of the slick sort of surface that suits our passing game, the ball appeared to be sticking in the puddles which had resulted from his over zealous pre-match watering.
My hope began to disappear down the same drain as the water, soon after Rooney struck. I envisaged us being caught on the break by a sucker punch, as we threw caution to the wind chasing the game. Earlier in the season and against less despised opponents, we’d have probably settled for a point once we’d scored the equaliser. However for the first time on Sunday we discovered the full potential of 60,000 Gooners, as we refused to accept a draw and drove the team on, raising the decibel level beyond anything we’ve heard at the new gaff to date. In truth Utd’s time wasting tactics only fuelled this fire, leaving them on the back foot, unable to change down a gear after Van Persie’s goal.
The subsequent discovery of Robin’s metatarsal injury was the only dampener on an otherwise magical afternoon. Considering the frequency of the fairly innocuous incidents which seem to result in these troublesome, long-term injuries, I’m convinced that it must be the flimsy, modern day football boot which is at fault?
Above all, it was wonderful to demonstrate an ability to grind out a win, even without the aid of such experienced campaigners as Gilberto and Gallas and when some of our most talented stars struggled to influence the game. Apart from the likes of Adebayor, Clichy and Flamini (at least as far as his defensive duties were concerned), there weren’t many impressive individual performances. I know Arsène praised our captain’s all round contribution, but as far as I can recall Titi ended up with the Man of the Match champers, in return for a sum total of two headers. But then who cares, so long as the guv’nor keeps conjuring up last minute winners.
The shoe will be on the other foot at White Hart Lane this week. Aside from the fact that Spurs will be desperate not to be embarrassed by our reserves, the semi-final of any competition is a big deal for our neighbours. They won’t want to blow possibly their best chance of guaranteeing European football next season. By contrast, I’m hoping our Carling Cup kids won’t feel under nearly so much pressure. With a bit of luck, they’ll relax and lay the Lilywhites to waste with a reprise of the absolutely bewildering display we witnessed at Anfield?
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Monday, January 22, 2007