One of the creepiest films of recent(ish) times ends on a joke. Having ratcheted the tension up to thigh clenching levels, Silence of the Lambs concludes with the escaped Hannibal Lecter telling Clarice Starling that he’s having an old friend for dinner. The “old friend” in question is the director of the asylum Lecter escaped from and a man who has revealed himself to be, variously, pompous, obsessed with his own celebrity, utterly incompetent and, very possibly corrupt. The joke, of course, being that, for Doctor Lecter, having a friend “for dinner” has a slightly different meaning.
Why have I opened today’s blast of Arse by talking about this asylum director? Well, I guess the main reason is that when I thought of Phil Dowd’s performance in the middle on Saturday night, it reminded me of the asylum director a little. Okay, a lot. Oh wait, you thought I was going to say I wanted a cannibal to invite Mr Dowd over for dinner? Noooooo, perish the thought…
We have our own history with Phil Dowd, obviously. Suspicious decisions at home to Spurs and away at Newcastle costing us points in seasons gone by. That’s past history now, but what isn’t past history- at least not in the same way- are the following decisions:
1) The failure to award Mo Diame a second yellow for a nasty foul on Mikel Arteta. Ok, to be sent off for two yellows when one yellow is awarded for celebrating a goal, is slightly ridiculous. But the rules is the rules.
2) Having chosen not to card Diame for that foul, he compounded that decision by booking Gervinho for a foul he never made. And even if he had made it, look at the two tackles and tell me which one is worth a yellow card.
3) Ricardo Vaz Te’s rather cynical boot left in on Vito Mannone. Ok, so the West Ham player came off far, far worse and it may not have been the easiest spot. But it’s one I feel sure Dowd would have made were the roles reversed. Or, so to speak, the boot was on the other foot.
4) That was, clear as day, a penalty on Aaron Ramsey. Fouled+In The Area= Penalty. End of discussion. Referees in this country don’t seem to want to give us penalties anymore. I’m not sure why, but it’s beyond ridiculous now. When you think of the penalties Dowd has given against us, then his decision not to give us one here beggars belief.
Four dubious decisions, two of which could have directly affected the result. Happily, a very good Arsenal performance ensured that the points came back to north London. But boy, did we have to work hard for it. Sitting and watching Arsenal’s peerless opening demonstration of keepball and listening to the commentary team enthusing over it, I remarked to Jo that it was a near certainty we’d be 1-0 down before 20 minutes were up.
Okay, so I was a few seconds out but on 21 minutes Diame danced past Aaron Ramsey like he wasn’t there, exploded into the gap left by the recalled Mertesacker and whipped the ball past Vito Mannone into the far corner of his goal. It reminded me a little of a game we had at Bolton a few years back. Total domination but, somehow, a goal down. Like that game, it never felt as if the early goal would be a terminal blow. Although I’m not sure how we’d have fared had Kevin Nolan put his chance away towards the end of the first half.
Happily, we went in at half time level. And it was all thanks to Olly Giroud- can we call him Olly now? Ok, thanks. He sent the ball wide to Podolski, before burning into the penalty area and, imagine this, making a near post run… Podolski’s cross was serendiptiously aimed at the near post so when Giroud stuck his leg out, he flashed the ball inside the post for his first Premier League goal. Wahey!
The second half saw Andy Carroll flash a header wide from a near identical situation to the one he decided a terrible game of football from a couple of years ago. But it was our substitute, Theo Walcott who decided this game. Following a series of annoying James Collins interventions, a beautiful Arsenal break saw the magical Cazorla receive the ball facing our goal in our half. With a swivel and pass, he found the goal machine, Giroud. Giroud played the ball into an ocean of space on the right side of the pitch. An ocean quickly being filled by Theo. No defender in the country is going to catch Walcott once he’s got a start, no goalkeeper in the land would have saved his finish, curled past Jaaskelainen and just inside the near post.
Theo celebrated in a manner most unTheolike, which is to say he went batshit mental. Which was nice to see. Although, our officious Mr Dowd didn’t agree and showed him a yellow card. Passion=Bad. Scything through someone’s legs=Fair game. Apparently.
Perhaps the force was still strong in young Walcott because minutes later, he had the ball on the right. His control wasn’t great, he lost it. But he fought for it and so the ball arrived at the feet of Cazorla. With Walcott desperate for a pass, Cazorla looked up and, er, Cazorlazo’d it into the far corner. With his “wrong” foot, no less. What a hit. Pace, dip, swerve. I recorded Match of the Day just so I can watch that goal again and again and again.
There was still time for Cazorla to find the kind of pass that a certain Mr Bergkamp made his stock in trade, taking out the entire West Ham defence with a straight ball, only for Jaaskelainen to deny Giroud. But it was academic, so academic in fact that Big Sam couldn’t bring himself to show his face for a post match interview. Which I found odd, I mean he’s not usually so reticent… is he? Perhaps he was having an old friend for dinner.------------
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