“Are you ready for some serious Arse action?”
That was the question I asked Jo as we exited Bellingham train station on the way home last night. I can’t believe you said that out loud, she said. Well you know what I meant, I said. Could be a good blog title… but only if we win, I said.
As you know, we very nearly didn’t win. I had been on Twitter on my way home, confidently predicting a relatively straightforward home win, something that was haunting me as the minutes ticked away last night. It should have been straightforward, god knows we had the chances to win three football matches, but the ball somehow (thank you, crap finishing, players on the goal line and Tim Krul) just wouldn’t go in. It seemed a bitter irony that Gervinho did put the ball in the net, off camera, following a quick free quick but Howard Webb was too busy actually booking a Newcastle player- I forget which one- to allow the goal. Even more ironic to hear Matt Le Tissier say something like “that was a great finish by Gervinho” moments before (or after?) he somehow put the ball wide of a gaping goal following Mikel Arteta’s best ever corner in an Arsenal shirt.
As it was, we were left hanging till the fifth minute of injury time at the end of the 90 for Thomas (Vermaelen) to go charging through the midfield, ©Brian Moore, and slam home a RamPersie flick from Theo Walcott’s umpteenth excellent cross of what I make Theo’s finest Arsenal performance. Has he ever been so lively, so consistently dangerous, so full of end product? The tendency with Theo has been to follow up a performance like this with passive anonymity, and that’s why I don’t think he deserves top wages. However, last night was very definitely a top class performance, the highlight of which- apart from the crosses that both led to goals- was the moment he sat a Newcastle defender on his arse to present Rosicky with a clear shot on goal. That Rosicky, inexplicably, managed to put the ball in a different postcode to the goal shouldn’t detract from the quality of the set up. Well done Theo, and can we have more like that please?
Speaking of Mr Rosicky, whilst that second half miss was a bit of a shocker, something else it shouldn’t detract from was his industrious, inventive, performance at the hub of our midfield, with a freshly inked new contract tucked into his shorts. Okay, so there may be questions to be asked over where, exactly, this player has been for the last two years. But, I’d answer that by saying he was fairly obviously being wasted on the wings whilst King Cesc of Barcelona was master of all he surveyed- in north London, at least. Seriously though, it doesn’t seem that fanciful to suggest that players will function best in the position he is comfortable playing in.
If last night’s last gasp win was mostly about the effervescence of Walcott and Rosicky, the desire of Vermaelen- the two Thomases coming closest in the second half- and, again, the goals of Robin van Persie, then you also have to give the entire team immense credit for the way they kept plugging away at Newcastle. Ok, so Robin had an off night, by his standards, in front of goal, but his instant reply to Hatem Ben Arfa’s opening goal was masterful. As I said on Twitter last night, “pure Bergkamp”. A new verb, perhaps?.
To Bergkamp- To control a ball instantaneously, probably bamboozling a defender, before calmly stroking the ball past an equally bewildered goalkeeper.
What was even better about that goal was that it came just seconds after Newcastle had subjected us to one of the crappiest team goal celebrations I’ve ever seen. Idiots. Speaking of them, was Shake Tiote- and, yes, I know that’s not how you spell his first name- wearing an invisibility cloak last night? He reminded me of van Bommel at his most thuggish; a stamp on Alex Song after eight minutes should have seen him booked and we didn’t even get a free kick, foul after foul ignored by Howard Webb, culminating in an elbow to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s jaw also unpunished. Tiote did eventually get booked, about an hour late, Newcastle withdrew him soon after. I will resist, here, the temptation to say anything about Tim Krul. The bottom line is that Newcastle paid the ultimate price for some time wasting that even Brad Friedel might have balked at.
On second thoughts, probably not. But Robin let him know in very amusing fashion. I don’t get why Krul got so wound up about it, he knew what he was doing and he knew that he was winding everyone in Arsenal colours up last night. So, he shouldn’t have been surprised that, when it all rebounded on him, he was made aware of it. There I go again, expecting a footballer to show self awareness, what am I like?
And on that note, what does everyone think about Kenny Dalglish’s call for the FA to look at Arsene’s comments on the cheating Luis Suarez, comments that fall safely into the “stating the bleeding obvious” category? Luis Suarez, more misunderstood than a David Lynch film. Allegedly.
Anyway, to close this blog, I mentioned Brad Friedel above. I said a while ago that his club, whilst they were cruising along as we stumbled from disaster to disaster, would be better judged once they’d got through a very sticky set of fixtures in February and March. Happily, our comeback against them at the end of last month appears to have galvanised us, at the same time as destroying them and the net result is a 10 point gap has become 1 point in just two and a half weeks. With thirty points to play for, clearly, there’s still a long way to go, but the balance appears to have been restored to the force. Never mind finishing in 4th, with momentum behind us, 3rd place feels like ours to lose.
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