Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday December 14 2006
I apologise in advance should this report drift into the realms of the surreal. Having not slept last night my head is full of dream filled thoughts which would probably be better suited to pretentious art house cinema. But grogginess permitting, a pervasive sense of satisfaction is present for a hard earned three points. Despite walking through my front door with just enough time to shower, change my clothes and then promptly leave for work again. (With not even enough time left over to watch the goals on sky sports news).
Given the current trend for midweek away games I found my enthusiasm for this fixture somewhat depleted as I picked up the coach on Queensland Road. Especially in the knowledge that my night's sleep would be conducted against a coach window. Anyhow, I need not have been so apprehensive about the impending sleep deprivation as the first half gave everybody present a chance to catch a decent forty winks. A complete lack of urgency was pretty obvious in Arsenal, although the hosts did not appear entirely keen to seize the initiative. The omission of Fabregas stuck out like a drag queen at a Tory Cabinet meeting, and without Alex Hleb and RVP there was little guile to speak of. This left Adebayor to largely feed off scraps in the first half. Many of you have been calling for the unconditional inclusion of Baptista, but I have not been so sure myself. His frame is a bit of a misgiving, a hench so and so he may be, but this does not mean he is physically adapted to the Premiership yet. If one is to look at messrs Toure, Senderos, Ljungberg, RVP, Lauren, Henry, Clichy, Eboue etc, they were bled in slowly to adapt to the pace of our game and it paid dividends, some patience with Julio please.
The second half livened up inestimably with both sides deciding they might fancy winning the game. Arsenal lived on their wits at times, Wigan's best chance falling to the hilarious Heskey who contrived to try and delicately chip Lehmann in a one on one situation. In keeping with his comical attempts at being a footballer, he scuffed it badly and fell on his ample posterior. This led to one of my favourite examples of terrace wit this season, 'YOU'RE (expletive deleted) Heskey.' offered one young upstart, to which the gentleman behind drily retorted, 'you rate him much higher than I do then mate.' The sedate, monastic nature of the first half was forgotten as Walcott raced through on goal and attempted to square to Adebayor, but a horrible bobble took it away from the lanky Togolese.
Time drew on with both sides making forrays upfield. Djourou and the magnificent Toure (his official title) were kept busy by the lively Henri Camara. While the Latics adventurous spirit left plentiful holes in the Wigan backline, without Cesc we lacked the vision to exploit them. I began to make eyes at the scoreboard at ten second intervals from the hour mark onwards, wondering, pleading for Wenger to unleash Cesc and van Persie. Sure enough, on 76 minutes (see I really was paying attention) le boss relented. First off Fabregas floated a fine through ball over the top to an increasingly potent Adebayor, but Ade's touch let him down. Ade's hunger grew as he raced onto a Gilberto through ball, only to be foiled bravely by Kirkland. But Cesc's piece de resistance was to come, challenging Camara and floating another telling through ball to Adebayor, who calmly poked home to the delight of the travelling hoards. (Some friends I caught the nightbus with later were to tell me how they had somewhat overelaborated their celebrations, jumping the advertising hoardings in ecstasy).
Initially I was confused as to why the Wigan fans were so indignant towards the officials. The obligatory radio phone in on the way home suggested Cesc had fouled Camara in the build up, I've not seen it back, but from where I was (admittedly a good eighty yards away) it seemed a fair challenge. The goal was perfectly timed in more ways than one, one of those delightful moments in a football ground when a goal is preceeded by a healthy exchange of abuse between rival fans. Following Kirkland's ire at Adebayor for a challenge a minute earlier, we exchanged pleasantries with the fans to our left, only for the net to bulge seconds later. Don't you just love it when that happens?
The game revealed Wenger's selection quandary. Sunday showed that Gilberto is indispensable to us, last night showed that Arsenal without Cesc is like Ljungberg without a zummer frame. They both have to be picked, yet their selection reveals a physical inadequacy in central midfield, but with our captain not happy to play in a 4-5-1, what is to be done? Last night also revealed a quality that deserted us last season, playing below our best but winning. Many observers have called for us to win ugly- we did that last night, yet it appears on other blogs fans aren't happy. It comes down to the fact that football supporters are like voters, we don't really know what we want. I know what I want though, my bed. LD.
Date:Thursday December 14 2006
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