At halftime yesterday I sat down to write the start of this blog. I don’t know why. Perhaps I didn’t want to waste the anger I was feeling, or, perhaps I had an inkling that if things continued on in the same vein, I’d not want to speak about Arsenal for a few days. We were 4-1 down, away at Reading, a side who hadn’t yet managed to win a game in the Premier League, and while this was the Capital One Cup, it seemed as if Arsenal’s charitable leanings when it comes to struggling sides had not only swung in to action but was taking some steroids as well.
This is what I wrote:
Where do you even start with what happened last night? With excuses? Rationalisations? Sure, we made 11 changes and played players who lack experience of both the recent and actual kind, we were bound to be disjointed for a while until we settled. But what of the lack of passion? The dropped heads and the clueless looks on their faces? What do you say about 11 players who looked like they would have rather been anywhere else than on that pitch wearing the red and white that any one of us would cut off an arm to wear?
What do you say about that?
What do you say about an away support that has sung with all their heart while Manchester United tore us apart last season and never questioned the team are forced to start singing ‘We want our Arsenal back’ such is the embarrassment they are forced to watch up close and personal?
What do you say about what we must teach our goalkeepers in training, because I’m pretty sure that Martinez was one of the most highly rated young keepers in world football until we got our hands on him?
I stopped here and went to ponder just what exactly was going on before settling down for the second half.
When it started, it didn’t seem as if things had got much better, we still looked jaded and disinterested and Gooners across the world were pondering the humiliation that was to come at the full-time whistle, not the defeat itself, but the manner of it.
And then we made changes. Not in the 71st minute as is Arsene’s tendency, but the 60th. Off went an Emmanuel Frimpong who is so far from being ready for the first team he struggled all night and Serge Gnaby who, while he showed glimpses of his talent seemed, like the rest of the side, was not quite with it (he did offer one of the main talking points of the first half, how do you pronounce his name, Gnabry like ‘gnome’ as most Gooners insist, or Gernabry as the commentators insist? I was told by people that it’s *actually* both so I’m still none the wiser) and on came Olivier Giroud and Thomas Eisfeld and boy oh boy what a difference they made.
Two minutes is all it took for Giroud to get his magnificent French head on the end of a corner and drill the ball home, 4-2, maybe this wasn’t impossible after all? The team lifted, they started to fight, the temperature on the pitch rose and with it the standard of Arsenal’s football. Eisfeld was impressive, Giroud a beast, and those two lifted everyone around them. Theo awoke, Chamakh looked like the footballer we thought we’d signed all those moons ago and Koscielny remembered how to defend. Mostly.
Another corner, up popped Koscielny this time. Boom. 4-3 and game very much on. Could we do it? Surely, when it comes to games which are thrillers like this, the Arsenal way is to be on the wrong end of the scoreline? Would we get so close and then blow it in the last minute? That’s become the Arsenal way right? That’s what we do these days? Get so close and then smack ourselves in the face with a wet kipper.
Injury time. Four minutes. It’s up. But wait, the referee is playing on? What is this madness? Does he think we are Manchester United? He’s playing until we score? And that’s what he did. Theo got the goal, but his wasn’t given, and as the defender flicked his hand at the ball in a vain attempt to keep it from crossing the line the referee raised his whistle to his mouth, was he giving the goal? The penalty? We’ll never know because the clearance fell to Carl Jenkinson, Arsenal fan through and through from a family of Arsenal fans, who slammed it home. 4-4.
Giroud and Coquelin ran to the crowd and threw their shirts to the Arsenal supporters who had sung so loud for the entire match that they were all you could hear on the television. Not once did Sky Sports mention them. Not once. But there was extra time so the fans threw the shirts back to Oli and Coq, they had a giggle, did a little fist bump, and on we played.
As extra time started I tweeted ‘Chamakh scoring the winner would be hilarious.’ I’ve never been as down on Chamakh as many, aware that personal problems have played their part in his poor form, but even I wasn’t expecting him to do a little flick to start the move and then riffle the ball in to the corner of the net from outside the box. I think I almost choked laughing as we took the lead for the first time all night.
But any Arsenal fan who has watched Arsenal with any sort of regularity knew that the match was far from over, the wet kipper still very much in our back pocket waiting to make an appearance and out it popped as Reading equalised. No problem some of us thought, there are still a few minutes left, we can easily score two (we didn’t really, we all thought ‘ah ball’s penalties and we’ve only got one German on the pitch).
Magic happened last night for what else can explain Andrei Arshavin, as the 120 minute mark approached, not only still being on the pitch but running, running, running, and then picking out a sublime cross for Theo to slam home. 5-6. Then, just to make sure that we used up the full allocation of crazy for the evening, Chamakh popped up to make it 5-7 with a lob, once again from outside the box.
Arsenal fans went mental.
Never before had Arsenal come back from four goals down to win a match, I don’t know if that stat includes games with extra time, but it was nice of football to give us an extra half hour to make up for the first 45 we didn’t show up. Chamakh scored twice, we scored from two corners, Arshavin played for 120 minutes, Kos scored at both ends, the scoreline. Never before have I seen a match like it.
It was Arsenal in a nutshell, that whole match. So utterly abject and so wonderfully brilliant and wins like that, even if it was just the ragamuffin fringe players lifts the entire club. To see that spirit, that desire that, dare I say it, mental strength. To pick themselves up and come from four goals down, to do it again when the score hit 5-5. That’s all us fans have ever wanted to see. I can take losing, what I cannot take is no fight, no heart, no desire or passion.
“You cannot play for Arsenal and give up, no matter what the score is” said Arsene Wenger post match.
Aint that the truth.
Oh, and football fans? Arsenal said to tell you ‘you’re welcome.’
If you’ve been having problems accessing this site on your work computer using the URLS globalgooners.com and gossip.globalgooners.com should sort that problem for you.
Get your free LadyArse app here for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phone [iPhone coming soon]
Get your free Arsenal wallpaper, Facebook covers and Twitter headers here