The Big Fat 2007 Review
It's that time of year, when the creatively barren simply trot out hours of recycled material in a vague attempt to sum up 365 days of drama, hilarity, ineptitude and delight in manageable bitesize chunks. So I thought I would, well, do exactly the same. The difference with my review of the year? Mine isn't presented by Jimmy Carr....... Anyways, without further ado, the 2007 Tim Stillman awards run as follows:
I thought about William Gallas' winner against Chelsea here, but the importance of that will not be truly chrystalised for a few months. So I have instead opted for Thierry Henry's last gasp winner against Manchester United way back in January. The Gunners' trailed United in the second half, before Robin van Persie grabbed a late equaliser- which would come at a heavy price as he broke his foot scoring it. The match moved into inury time, with title chasing United wasting time in an attempt to hang on for a draw. But in the 94th minute, Eboue careered down the right and sent in an inch perfect cross which Thierry Henry headed past Edwin van der Sar. The Grove erupted. The significance of the goal superceded the obvious delight of a last minute winner against the Mancs, it marked the precise moment that the new ground became ours, the moment it stopped being a beautiful arena and it became our beautiful arena. It was also the last great act of an Arsenal great.
Absolutely hands down, the appalling capitulation against PSV Eindhoven that sent us tumbling out of last season's Champions' League. A late winner from Alex cemented two poor performances against the Dutch no marks and possibly the most depressingly average and defensive side ever to make it to the knockout stages. When I saw the PSV players cavorting with their fans at the final whistle, it really struck me that they had exceeded the ceiling of their ambition, whereas we were still dusting the carpet of ours. This elimination felt infinitely worse than the CL Final defeat of the previous year, on this occasion, there was little to feel proud of.
Here I am going for sheer entertainment value as opposed to any one upmanship value (although the game I have chosen did have that). Being an Arsenal fan, there are a great many candidates, the recent win versus Blackburn, the 6-3 win at Anfield and the 7-0 win over Slavia Praha are contenders. But I have plumped for the extraordinary Cup replay at the Reebok stadium in February. A truly bizarre match that had absolutely everything. Adebayor gave Arsenal an early lead, before missing an open goal. Gilberto sent a second half penalty ballooning over the bar. Abdoulaye Meite equalised in the last minute, forcing the game into extra time. Freddie Ljungberg gave Arsenal an extra time lead, before Ben Haim was sent off and Julio Baptista missed a penalty. Adebayor would wrap the game up in the fourth minute of injury time in extra time. It was a truly exhilirating match which swung pendulously in favour of either side, with twists and turns aplenty. A match that absolutely defied analysis and one of the most bizarre cup ties I have ever witnessed.
As with last year and van Persie's ripsnorter (TM Paul Mustchin) at the Valley, there is a stand out candidate here. While the flowing football that led to Cesc Fabregas' second goal against Slavia is worth remembering, Emmnauel Adebayor's volley at White Hart Lane is head and shoulders above the competition. Denilson ran through on goal in the final minute, with Spurs committed to finding an equaliser, but Robbo got his sizeable frame in the way of the Brazilian's attempt. The rebound fell to Cesc, who pinged the ball into the feet of Adebayor. With his back to goal on the edge of the box, Ade flicked the ball up, swivelled and smashed it into the top corner to seal Tottenham's fate. It was a goal of extraordinary technique and precision, expertly executed, putting one in mind of Paul Davis versus Aston Villa or Thierry Henry's famous lob over Barthez. The fact that he did it at White Hart Lane made it all the sweeter, the irony was that he missed two absolute sitters previous to this awe inspiring attempt.
PLAYER OF 2007:
Speaking in a non Arsenal context, the form of Cristiano Ronaldo takes the acclaim. He is to United now what Henry was to Arsenal 2001-2004. But for Arsenal it has to be Cesc Fabregas whose performances have been consistently world class. As a raw teenager, everybody could see his talent, but last season, it was noticeable that he added some steel to his game. Crunching into challenges and verbally jousting with opponents, admittedly bouts of petulance have come with the territory. This season, he has added goals to his already burgeoning arsenal. Boy wonders currently litter the globe, with Messi, Giovani and before them Rooney and Ronaldo belying their years. But Cesc's position makes him extra special, the aforementioned can afford to disaapear for large chunks of games and light up a game in fleeting moments. For a boy of Cesc's age to have the maturity and composure to dominate a game from the centre, being constantly involved for the whole 90 minutes, is simply astonishing.
THE IAN HOLLOWAY AWARD FOR MEMORABLE SOUNDBITES:
'I don't know why he came out and said that. Maybe it was another case of 'I am the great Arsene Wenger' again.'
Fergie in January, responding to MATHIEU FLAMINI'S assertion that Wenger had instructed his troops that United tend to tire in the latter stages of games.
'I'm ready to take the blame for all the problems of English football if that's what he wants.'
Arsene Wenger, in response to Fergie's assertion that there should be a limit on foreign players.
'Any trip to the Emirates Stadium. Beautiful stadium, beautiful football. Arsenal season ticket holders are the luckiest people on earth.'
Journalist Martin Samuel when asked to name his moment of 2007 on last week's Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement.
'Because England do not have a player like Elano.'
Sven Goran Eriksson, when asked why he is doing a better job with Man City than he did with England.
'What a player Alex Hleb is, great skill, great technique, his balance, his dribbling, beautiful to watch. My only problem with Alex Hleb is that he is not English.'
Alan Green echoing Eriksson's guarded sentiments above.
THE 'SHUT IT PLEAT' AWARD FOR VERBAL DIARROHEA
'Estonia are trying to contain England and defend in numbers. Bless em.'
The emminently unpalatable Alan Shearer's supersillious chiding of Estonia's part timers in a 3-0 defeat at Wembley. Of course. England subsequently failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Bless em.
'Arsenal have conned the supporters, the competition and embarassed the sponsors.'
Scouse apologist Alan Hansen on Wenger's decision to stick to his principles and play the kids in the Carling Cup Final.
'You need more foreigners! You need more foreigners!'
Arsenal fans stick it to the Little Englanders.
'Have you ever seen England play like this?'
Gooners again, on any of the plethora of occasions the foreign legion produce sublime football.
'Oooooh, Big Sam is a wanker, he's ugly and he's fat, his son gave him a briefcase, he said I'm having that!'
Me and some mates come over all sympathetic to Allardyce's bung allegations.
'We're gonna deep fry your croissants!'
The Tartan army in Paris.
'And you can take 500 million, you can take 500 million more, cos he's got another 500 million underneath his bedroom floor. Shinawatra, Shinawatra!'
Citeh fans make light of their controversial owner's, ahem, questionably obtained fortune.
THE DIMITAR BERBATOV AWARD FOR SERVICES TO SULKING
Big Jens. Not only does he now refuse to warm up with Manuel Almunia since losing his place, not only did he then belittle Almunia's career and his manager's decision to the press, but he spent the entire hlaf time breaks versus Sevilla and Villa sulking on the bench, refusing to join his team mates. Put the dummy back in son.
THE NAYIM AWARD FOR 'YOU KNEW IT HAD TO HAPPEN'
After spending his one year tenure at Arsenal struggling to decipher the difference between a cow's posterior and a banjo, Julio Baptista has predictably muscled his way into Madrid's starting line up and scored a sublime winner against Barca at the Camp Nou at the weekend. I remember being in a bar on holiday (I use the word 'remember' in its loosest possible definition) and seeing a Brazil player score a stunning volley in the Copa America final. Having admired the goal several times on the replay, my heart sank when I saw the legend of SCORER: JULIO BAPTISTA across the bottom of the screen. Aside from that, Gallas grabbing the winner against the Chavs was, as Peter Griffin would say, pretty freakin' sweet wasn't it?
THE 'EH? WHAT?' AWARD FOR CONFLICTING STATEMENTS
'You are a very nationalistic country, I do not believe the England team should be managed by a foreigner. It would be like going to war and choosing an Italian or Portuguese General.'
Arsene Wenger, November 2007.
'All I can say to England is to take advantage and call him up.'
Arsene Wenger, one week later, on Manuel Almunia, who will be qualified to play for England unless Spain call him up before the summer. So should foreigners be in the England set up or not?
THE PETER KENYON AWARD FOR LACKING CLASS
Who else but Chelsea F.C? Who had their backs turned when Arsenal collected their runners up medals in the Carling Cup Final in February. Particularly harsh when Gary Lewin collected his medal, having saved their captain's life some thrity minutes earlier.
WANKER OF THE YEAR
John Terry. No explanation required.
GEEZER OF THE YEAR
William Gallas. He began the year by infuriating most Gooners (much to my confusion) by having the gumption to point out Arsenal's flaws. He has since gone a long way to fixing them and since being appointed captain, has added a sense of steel and purpose to our mesmeric passing play. Most of his colleagues attest that he has a great deal to do with the renewed sense of team spirit and he has lead the line with important goals for his team. His form has returned and we are now seeing the world class defender we signed back in August 2006. Bon faire Willy. As we move relentlessly into 2008, I'm glad we have a Willy as opposed to a c**t.LD.