Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday October 1 2006
The glorious Gunners maintained their momentum with a fourth straight win at the Valley. An absolute corker from Robin van Persie giving us the points. I'm sure you've all seen the goal from a multitude of angles and it was quite a stunner wasn't it? For a second two I stood dumbstruck. I simply did not believe that he had scored until the 3,000 gooners around me began to cavort in delight and RVP wheeled away in celebration. A true 'I was there' moment.
Now, as a result of a heavy night on the tiles in New Cross after the game I haven't had a chance to see any highlights as yet, so some of you chaps might have to correct me about a few things. (Given that I got home at 6.30 this morning, even goals on sunday was out of the question).
The first thing to say is that the victory was thoroughly deserved, it's true that Charlton created some chances in the second half, but so did Arsenal and we dictated the tempo of the game. Arsenal began the game in a high octane fashion, stating our intention to monopolise possession (don't we always?) and attack with vigour. But the Addicks took the lead completely against the run of play. Admittedly, I was sat behind the goal so I did not have the greatest angle, but Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink looked to be offside when he collected the ball on the right hand side. Unfortunately, the Gunners back four stopped, fully expecting a flag that was not forthcoming. That proved to be a fatal error as Darren Bent was left to tap into an empty net.
This was now a real test of our mettle, how could we respond to going a goal down away from home? One felt that this would go a long way to answering how much Arsene's charges had learned from last season. The sense of injustice was tangible and the team responded by playing faster and better. Tensions threatened to boil over thereafter and for my money, Robin van Persie should have definitely been sent off. In a tussle for the ball with Hreidarsson (I think) van Persie petulantly kicked out with the ball a bemused onlooker. As an off the ball incident, this is certainly a red card offence and van Persie must learn to curb his temper. Getting himself sent off away from home when we are one nil down would have been completely irresponsible. The referee relented and the genius that was to follow will be talked about for years to come.
The Gunners got their equaliser, crucially before half time and there was no looking back. Across came over from the right (I think from Cesc) van Persie controlled and shot firmly into the corner. van Persie's second goal was an unbelievable attempt, to fully appreciate the technical proficiency of that goal, you have to put yourself in van Persie's position. On the edge of the area, the ball arrives at you quickly at an awkward height. Not only the execution, but the idea was one of instinct and illustrated in a snapshot why we Gooners are so fond of the Dutch striker and why we probably brave some indifferent performances from him at times which bely his talent. The goal also elucidated our options upfront, the side is looking less reliant on Henry (who had an absolutely terrible game yesterday, quite frankly, he did not look interested). Would van Persie have scored Adebayor's goal at Old Trafford? Probably not. Would Adebayor have scored that volley?
The game continued apace with Darren Bent missing a gilt edged header and Fabregas and Henry missing good chances to extend our lead. I'm told that Charlton should have had a penalty with a Gallas handball (perhaps the referee thought he was still a Chelsea player?!). This happened down the other hand from where I was sitting so, in true Wenger fashion, I did not see the incident. But player reactions are always a good indication, and Charlton's remonstration with the referee appeared more indignant than usual, and the Arsenal players all looked sheepishly towards the official as though they expected a whistle. Anyway, it was a deserved victory and I just hope that international football (or f*&?%^g international football as I colourfully refer to it) does not disjoint the rhythm we have obtained of late.
With Chelsea drawing there was a feeling that we were in a title race now, five points behind with a game in hand and we've to play the Termites twice. However, I am not getting carried away. I still do not think we are ready to win the title. Next year I think we will do it, but the age of our side means that we will probably have to brave a few frustrating results as mistakes will be made. However, the introduction of William Gallas has had an inestimable effect. He hobbled through the match yesterday, clearly unfit. But he soldiered on with an admirable professionalism (which appears to make Chelsea's playground name calling even more pathetic) and his influence on the side is palpable. Gallas's positioning is beyond reproach, he always seems to have time to do what is needed and he is already looking to be a bedroock of this side a la Sol Campbell 2001-2004. Now we will really see how good John Terry is. However, this fact makes me even more enraged that our fans still choose to sing childish songs about Ashley Cole. I really lost my rag yesterday and told those around me singing that horrible (and homophobic) chant to shut up and support our own team. (Well actually I said, 'why not try making a chant about f*%#ing Gallas you ****'). Seriously, why are we bothering with the slimey piece of garbage? WE'VE GOT GALLAS FOR **** SAKE!!
Young Cesc was excellent as well yesterday, he might as well have had a target painted on his ankles as he was hacked to bits all afternoon. But he did not react and simply used his feet to take the p**s out of the laughable Andy Reid and Amdy Faye. I am a big fan of Dowie, I like his pragmatic approach and he is an intelligent and likeable fella. But he obviously sent his side out to kick Fabregas, which is more than a little disappointing. The other player who deserves commendation is Alex Hleb. Now I know I always say this, but that's because it's always true. His creativity together with his work rate are making him indespensible. Indeed, it was his industry that set up Henry in the second half chasing a lost cause. I find it a mite troubling that he seems to be received with lukewarm acclaim from some Gunners. Yet Freddie, who was entirley ineffective yet again yesterday, is served with apotheosis status. Freddie does work hard, but no harder than Hleb.
I realise I've been knocking our support a bit in this report, but we were in very good voice yesterday, mocking the hushed Charlton masses relentlessly. A contender for funniest chant of the season was in tribute to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, #You're just a fat Eddie Murphy!# I was bent double in laughter for a good few minutes (I also took to calling him 'nutty professor'), even Hasselbaink himself smiled and gave a sarcastic thumbs up. The only time I can remeber a funnier retort was earlier this year, readers that live in England will remember that a whale was bizarrely marooned in the River Thames. The chant, to the tune of Bread of Heaven, #We saw Lampard in the Thames.# Priceless. LD.
Date:Sunday October 1 2006
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