Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday January 30 2008
With Manchester United not due to play for another twenty four hours, and the freak result at Tottenham (getcha DVD and commemorative mug) firmly behind us, the more important business of three points was top of the agenda and the chance to apply a bit of pressure to Yoonited. (Can I be the first to say, Play up Pompey?!) My evening began in most unfamiliar circumstances, as myself and Jon enjoyed some pre match nibbles in the Star Café on Blackstock Road, a fight very nearly broke out between two Arsenal fans, something about confusion over seats or something, I sincerely doubt that they were debating U.S. Presidential candidates or the situation in Kenya. Anyway, after that surreal encounter, Rich injected some much needed reality into the situation in the Tavern by declaring that he had bet on Adebayor to score. Not to score the first goal, but to score at any point in the game. Well, they do say simplicity is genius! I think I might have a flutter on America`s next President being a unilateral, war mongering bastard. Or perhaps I`ll have a pound on at least one Spurs fan to be seen on camera sobbing his eyes out at the final whistle of the Carling Cup final.
On with the game and it was a carbon copy of Saturday`s cup tie pretty much. With the Barcodes desperately short of playing personnel, they started with two holding midfielders and looked to be much less naked in the defensive third than on Saturday. As a result, the opening was slightly cagey, Arsenal have always been a team that looks to organically grow into a match rather than a side that comes charging out of the blocks. The first real opportunity did not arrive until the half hour mark, Mathieu Flamini made an uncharacteristic charge down the right flank, before clipping in an inch perfect cross which Adebayor caught full toss but volleyed over inside the area. As it would happen, both the Flamster and the Togonator were just heating up. Seven minutes later, Fabregas and Hleb played a delightful one two, with Cesc sending Flamini roaring down the right, he beat N`Zogbia and clipped in a delightful cross which Adebayor out leapt Steven Taylor to head into the corner (in the process gifting Rich the easiest money since Michael Owen`s last pay packet). There you have it, the Flanimal providing the creative catalyst; next he`ll be belting thirty yard screamers into the top corner with the outside of his boot!
Newcastle looked to be shaken but not stirred, Hleb received Sagna`s angled pass, touched the ball past the onrushing Given, only for Steven Taylor to mop up on aisle three. With Owen looking typically reticent upfront and Alan Smith catching some kind of crazy form of fouling tourettes where he simply could not help impeding Senderos, Newcastle had little outlet as the Gunners took consummate control of the second half. The Flamster proving to be the battery, Adebayor was simply too much for the Geordies backline, Diaby looked like he gave a shit at long last and Fabregas played the match with the air of a man walking his dog so untroubled was he by Butt and Rozenhal. Flamini got ideas above his station, fine work on the edge of the box by Fabregas saw him tee up Flamini, whose low shot was saved by Given from the edge of the area. On 63 minutes, it was Flamini again, who received a pass from Fabregas some thirty yards from goal, he looked up before despatching a sublime thirty yard bending shot into the top corner which Given got nowhere near despite a full length dive. It was a breathtaking strike and a well deserved moment in the limelight for Mattuso, the man of a thousand nicknames. Though it is with some lament that it takes a moment of genius such as this for those outside of the Gooner circle to notice the sterling job he has done for us. If I had to cast my vote for player of the season now, he would definitely be in my reckoning, let`s hope he signs a new deal sooner rather than later. (Though I would prefer later to not at all). In the ensuing celebrations, precious Mickey Owen was booked as he complained about Arsenal time wasting in their acclaim of the goal. If Owen ever scored goals perhaps he would understand. Given Owen`s Newcastle career thus far, it`s pretty rich for him to complain to anybody about wasting time!
Newcastle`s dehiscence was now beginning to show with the Gunners conducting proceedings at walking pace. Joey Barton came on, he tried to kick the ball once or twice, presumably it looked at him funny, but luckily no one was harmed. Wenger decided to bring Bendtner on to partner Adebayor, possibly the two managers had taken their dual tag of Premiership entertainers to heart and tried in earnest to give the punters a good old bust up. Everybody likes watching a good old bust up, so long as you`re at a safe distance and not in the insalubrious surroundings of a North London greasy spoon. Alas, it did not arrive and we all had to settle for another goal instead. A long punt forward from Almunia saw Bendtner brilliantly bring the ball down on the edge of the Newcastle area, look up and pick out the marauding Cesc Fabregas who ended his goal drought by slicing the ball into the top corner with his left foot. Adebayor ran over and acknowledged Bendtner`s contribution, Bendtner turning to Ade and shouting, "who`s shit now, huh?" Possibly. There was time for old Mother Riley to try and help his Mancy mates by denting our goal difference, Alan Smith fell over the ball on the edge of the area and Riley gave Newcastle a free kick on the edge of the area, before ruffling Smith`s hair, patting him on the bottom and remarking, "you lovable little scamp." Nicky Butt`s free kick clipped the crossbar and Willy Gallas alleviated the tedium of marking Michael Owen by rushing over to clear the rebound. Some of the fluency appears to have returned to our play at the right time, let`s hope that our indifferent performances over the Christmas period constitutes the brunt of our 'wobble` as we managed to get a decent points return. Now, there are a fair few ex Gooners down on the South Coast who could really cement their legend within the Arsenal annals with a winner at Old Trafford for 'Arry`s boys. Who knows, maybe in twenty four hours time, we`ll all like Lassana Diarra again?LD.
Date:Wednesday January 30 2008
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