Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday May 14 2008
Arsenal arrived in September in mint condition, competing at the top of the table, safely into the group stages of the Champions League and with Emmanuel Adebayor back to full fitness. The first match of the month made me very unpopular with my friends. In the summer we had booked the first weekend in September for a lads trip to Prague, me mistakenly believing the first weekend in September would be an international weekend. Usurping people for a home fixture to Portsmouth isn`t a good way to endear yourself to friends, take my word for it!
As it turned out, Arsenal would reward my lamentable negligence, turning in a performance of free flowing excellence against Pompey. Cesc Fabregas continued his rich vein of scoring form, scrambling home from van Persie`s corner. An Adebayor penalty made it 2-0 after Distin fouled van Persie. Philippe Senderos` professional foul early in the second period saw the Gunners reduced to ten men; but a quick free kick from Fabregas set Tomas Rosicky up for 3-0. A Kanu backheel reduced the deficit but Arsenal`s superiority had already made the Nigerian`s trickery a redundant side show. September`s pinnacle was lurking around the corner of another pointless international break. Let me put the weekend of September 15th into perspective. On the Thursday, I get a pay rise, on the Friday my sister announces her engagement, on the Friday evening I go out on the tiles and, let`s just say, achieve a pleasing result. So it was with some trepidation I travelled to White Hart Lane on the Saturday. Mindful of that line from Fever Pitch, "I still remember the League Cup defeat at Walsall. I got a pay rise; I got off with Caroline Walsh the night before. This lot (i.e. Arsenal) did a good job of fucking that up!"
Early fears appeared to be realised as Spurs took their traditional first half lead with Bale`s daisy cutter free kick. Adebayor missed an open goal and it all looked very, very doomed. Ade atoned for his error in the second half, heading home Cesc Fabregas` free kick. Hilariously, Fabregas` original free kick went horribly wrong, but the referee ordered a retake after a Spurs fan moronically ran onto the pitch to try and attack Cesc. Cheers pal. A Fabregas thunderbolt gave the Gunners a late lead before my moment of the season arrived. It`s 2-1 with five minutes to go, and Darren "I can`t believe I cost as much money as Henry" Bent inexplicably fluffed an absolute sitter with a comedy miscue with the goal gaping. How we laughed. Still counting the change from that £16m are we Darren? Adebayor`s sensational swivel and smash volley sealed the points in injury time, Liverpool`s draw at Pompey meant Arsenal were top of the league by virtue of taking the points at Three Point Lane. Carlsberg don`t do weekends blah, blah, blah etc. With spirits high on planet Arsenal, Juande Ramos` Sevilla side were battered 3-0 at the Grove. Fabregas` speculative shot deflected in off Escude, everything he was touching was turning to goal. Van Persie added a second before an injury time Eduardo strike. Though Ramos would exact a grizzly revenge later in the season.
You know the football Gods are smiling on you when you have just sauntered to the top of the league and the fixture computer throws out DERBY HOME at you. Diaby`s early range finder and Fabregas` customary long range strike sandwiched an Adebayor hat trick as the Rams were consummately swept aside 5-0. The younger players would now step up and leech parasitically onto the good times, as they masterfully overpowered Fat Sam`s full strength Newcastle side. Bendtner headed home a Traore cross and a late Denilson cracker ensured a 2-0 victory and progression to the Fourth Round. The month finished with a hard fought 1-0 win over West Ham at Upton Park, van Persie`s header from Hleb`s cross providing the solitary goal. That sentence seemed unimaginable last season. The game also saw Hleb stretchered off following a studs up lunge from Mark Noble. His rather ignoble challenge yielding only a yellow card. The effects of the leniency of the Premier League towards such acts of brutality would be tragically chrystallized in February.
If August was the launchpad, September was the take off as Arsenal won all of their games, most of them in style. Despite injury to Gallas, Senderos stepped in admirably. (I`ve said it before, but if you look at Arsenal`s best runs of form in the last three years, Senderos is usually an ever present. Coincidence? He also didn`t play in any of our domestic defeats this season scapegoat fans). Flamini was ubiquitous to the extent that Gilberto Silva found himself on the bench, Fabregas, van Persie and Adebayor were amongst the goals, Hleb was majestic and the team were revelling in their gregarious spirit. Chelsea and United were in the wilderness with indifferent early season form, Tottenham were still in relegation trouble. Summer may have been over, but the time was still right for Dancin` in the Street.LD.
Player of the Month: Mathieu Flamini.
Date:Wednesday May 14 2008
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