Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday April 10 2007
This shouldn't take long should it? Having witnessed the Graham years, it would be foolhardy to call this the most boring game I have ever witnessed, but it comes pretty close. There isn't really a lot to report to you, save for the fact that St. James' Park has a worse atmosphere than the Grove. But something did become apparent on my journey home, I can finish better than Arsenal. Permit me to elaborate.
As we boarded the coach North at around 6.30 am, I completed a number of regular rituals. Firstly, having once again been first in line for the coach, I was once again able to bag the back seats for about the two hundredth time this season. In fact, even when we are not first for the coach, people just tend to leave those seats anyway such is the regularity with which we place ourselves there. I removed my faithful chum Mr. i-pod from my bag and, as is my custom for journies of this length, I was to begin reading yet another literary masterpiece. On this occasion, 'We All Live In A Perry Groves World' was to add itself to the literary canon that is my book shelf. So gripping, brutally honest and entertaining was it that I read the entire book in the duration of the journey. It is only the second time I have read a book (of considerable length) in one sitting. (The other was Iain Banks 'The Wasp Factory' for those that are interested- I thought not). Entertaining, endearingly honest (sometimes unendearingly honest) and hilarious, I thoroughly recommend it. Spite is not the only reason it has so consummately outsold Ashley Cole's andrex offering. I stopped reading sportsmen's autobiographies some time ago. As much as I was gripped by the offerings of Merson and Adams, something happened when I was 19- I read the autobiography of Malcolm X. After that, reading about some geezer what kicks a ball around seems a little trite. But Groves's offering comes from a delightfully offbeat angle. With no particular reputation or commercial interests to safeguard, his is not the ego filating, self serving piece of **** served up by 'enthralling' pampered characters such as Rio 'err, innit' Ferdinand. (Groves at no point blames his misgivings on a 17 year old and, though he swerves a few cars off the road, none of them were Bentley's). Get yourselves a copy, seriously, I guarantee enjoyment. (If I tell you there is an amusing incident with Colin Pates' foreskin will that sufficiently provoke your intrigue?)
The fact that this report has so far consisted of a book review says everything you probably already know about the game. As you may have gathered from the title of the article, I spent the majority of the second half trying to work out which Smiths album is best (I just plumped for 'The Queen is Dead', but 'Strangeways Here We Come' was only denied by a superb stoppage time winner from 'Frankly Mr. Shankly.') It was a dire affair between two sides lacking energy, enthusiasm and, in our case, confidence. Abou Diaby played a withdrawn striker role which was not so much a tactical shift as a requiem for the Arsenal careers of Baptista and Aliadiere. Arsenal began brightly enough, with Hleb once more determined to open up the Newcastle defence, reassuming his positive link up play with Manu Eboue. Hleb charged forward and shuffled past Onyewu, but shot tamely at Given. Bar a goalmouth scramble which saw Dyer clast wide, that was about it. Shay Given had the right idea and decided to do one in the first half, Steve Harper came on in his place, but he really need not have bothered.
The second half played out, inexplicably, in an even more tepid fashion. Milner's mishit cross cannonned off the bar, while Adebayor failed to collect a Fabregas pass which would certainly have seen him through on goal. Gilberto produced a stunning block to deny Martins. (Look, I'm even having to talk about blocked shots!) Not only is it painfully clear that our midfield just does not contribute with enough goals, but Hleb and Fabregas are clearly running on empty. Their efforts are manful, but both have really visibly run out of steam, and without these two architects the Gunners' really do not create much. I won't talk about Ljungberg's 'contribution' to this game as I feel I have already laboured the point. With the two teams playing at an embarassing pace, it was left for the travelling Gunners' support to mock Newcastle's silence. How on earth they have ascertained this reputation as rumbustuous crusaders I have no idea. Just check the attendances for their UEFA Cup games.
With minutes remaining, Arsenal had their one glorious chance, but were denied by a superb piece of Nobby Solano defending. Eboue's pull back found Gilberto, who managed to divert the ball goalwards, only for Solano to hook the ball straight back to the Brazilian's foot. Bert scooped it goalwards only for Solano to clamber from the floor and head it over his own bar. It was a goal we did not deserve, but I did not concern myself with that as I took out my frustration on the back of Jon's chair. As the final whistle sounded, there was a collective intake of relieved breath as were freed from the prohibitive shackles of this cure for insomnia. From our point of view, the build up play was o.k, the passing triangles in midfield were good, but there was just absolutely nothing going on upfront. Even Adebayor had an off day. It is difficult to see how we resolve this, as Henry and van Persie are not going to be back this season. Somebody's going to have to take some responsibility in our next game, because the Bolton match is now of critical importance and I would really like to see Rosicky played behind Adebayor. If we do not win the Bolton game, well I don't even want to contemplate that, but suffice to say, it would be time for panic on the streets of London. Arsene, please, please let me get what I want!LD.
Date:Tuesday April 10 2007
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