Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday May 20 2007
October predictably began with another international snoozefest. England played awfully, Thierry Henry limped through ninety minutes for France against the loosely confederated states of Wiltshire and Robin van Persie played amazingly for Holland......probably, I can't really remember. The serious business began for Arsenal with a home match against the ever honest, yet undeniably terrible Watford at the Grove. Arsenal celebrated ten years under the glorious Wenger regime with a fitting presentation, the great man was presented with a scrap book of fans' tributes which I myself contributed to (what an honour for Mr. Wenger). Unfortunately, the comments in this scrapbook were never published for public consumption, but then again, I think we've all heard the 'shooooooooot' or 'you're sh*t (insert name as tabloids instruct)' screamed at ear splitting leveles without seeing them up in lights.
Watford's woeful form in front of goal made a few Gooners' feel better about our comparitive ineptitude when presented with a net and posts as Arsenal tried in earnest to be good hosts and present our guests with an obligatory one goal lead. A newly invigorated Emmanuel Adebayor headed a Fabregas free kick in off of Jordan Stewart for our opener, whilst the lanky Togolese striker flicked on a long Jens punt to put Henry in for our second. Manu wrapped up the scoring as the affable Henry selflessly gifted him with an open goal. If the previous league game at the Valley had seen us salivate over van Persie's mesmeric yin, Adebayor was beginning to bolster our arsenal with his bustling yang. The Gunners' Champions' League campaign hit the skids that midweek in freezing conditions in Moscow. A poor first half performance saw us lucky to trudge in at half time trailing only by Daniel Carvalho's wicked free kick. Arsenal appeared for the second half with renewed vigour, but were cruelly denied a late equaliser when Henry was harshly (and by that, I mean absolutely, one hundred per cent wrongly) ajudged to have handled Fabregas' flighted cross. It was probably karma for van Persie's lamentable theatrics in Germany, but it didn't stop Henry's outburst afterwards that Arsenal were not considered a big club in Europe. He was to cause further controversy in the build up to our next Champions' League fixture, it was just a shame Henry and his troops did not see fit to acknowledge the supporters who braved huge costs and freezing conditions to come and watch the team play.
After that Moscow result, I had the feeling that our new found comfort in Europe had evaporated. It was a display reminiscent of our old away offerings, toothless and naive. The 4-5-1 that had served us so well in the last campaign had been ditched, and Arsenal never really looked at ease again in the campaign. If Moscow was something of a nadir, then what followed that Sunday was to be the glorious peak, the flaming geyser in the Nevada dessert. Arsenal travelled to the Madejski Stadium, with heavy rain in the hours building up to kick off making for an unctuous playing surface. An Henry goal after 50 seconds was to foreshadow a display of footballing genius. With Fabregas in his irresistable pomp, Hleb at his kinetic best, Rosicky massaging his peerless footballing brain and Henry gliding around the pitch with the air of a man kicking rolled up socks around his front room, the Gunners' sauntered their way into a four goal victory. Hleb combined with Rosicky (a partnership that would bare fruit at various points in the season) for a neatly worked second. While Robin van Persie put the seal on a flowing back to front move which involved 316 one touch passes. An Henry penalty brought the curtain down on proceedings, but the footballing world was drooling, moving the usually reserved Steve Coppell to oppine, 'Arsenal maybe in our league, but they're not in our league.' Madejski Stadium? More like the majestic stadium.
The Gunners' began their Carling Cup run with a tricky away tie at a phycisal West Brom side. The fact that Arsenal sold out their three thousand allocation for a midweek Carling Cup fixture confirmed the level of excitement that Wenger's youngsters provoke at our club. We were right to be excited. The masterful Jeremie Aliadiere grabbed two in a match notable for my favourite comical nugget of the season. The woeful Jonathan Greening had been announced as man of the match over the tannoy, causing travelling Gooners' to laugh uncontrollably as Baggies' fans furrowed their brows in surprise. Seconds later, right down in front of the Arsenal enclosure, he shanked a routine clearance high into the stands. 'Man of the match? You're 'avin a larff!'
It was back to league matters at the Grove as a regular pattern re emerged against Everton. Tim Cahill gave the Toffees the lead as Arsenal defended a set piece with shocking naivety. With Arsenal wasteful in front of goal and struggling to break down a willful Everton, an increasingly frustrated crowd began to barrack and suffocte the players with their pedantic whining. A delightful van Persie free kick was not enough to assuage dissenting voices as the Gunners' drew at home again to defensive opposition (who were also extremely adept in the ancient art of clock eating), causing Wenger to remark in his post match diagnosis, 'the problem is not with Everton, it is with us. We must break them down.' Of course, this did not stop the ignorant Ray Stubbs producing a staltifyingly ill informed post match rant about Wenger's lack of sportsmanship. October ended, and our winning streak petered out. In October, the Gunners' were frustrating and delightful in equal measure, United were winning, Watford were losing, Chelsea were accusing opposing players of attempted murder and regional ambulance services of conspiracy to aid attempted murder. Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before. LD.
Date:Sunday May 20 2007
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