Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday May 29 2007
With our campaign effectively over in march and the battle for second place, much pledged by the players', never materialising, it was with a sense of anti climax that we undertook the formailities of May. It was not so much a longing to begin the summer, I don't know about you lot, but despite my life being very hectic at this moment, I am bored senseless. No, us Gooners' have been waiting in ernest for August to begin since March 8th.
Our month commenced with a visit from 'considerably richer than you' London neighbours Chelsea. With Manchester United winning away at local rivals Citeh the day before, the lotto chavs needed nothing less than maximum return from our gaff. Mourinho would well and truly bottle it by resting key players (do you honestly believe that Drogba was injured?), proving the extent to which media management and preserving his ego matters more to him than his football club. Arsenal opted for a narrow midfield to nullify Chelsea's threat which seemed to work early on. But in a deadlocked game, Arsenal put together a neat move of one touch passes, but Adebayor lacked composure and screwed his shot straight at Cech. But the breakthrough arrived just before half time, a long punt upfield from Lehmann saw Baptista muscle past Boulahrouz, the hapless Dutch defender hauled the hapless Brazilian forward to the ground. A red card and a penalty were the only correct decisions (though that did not prevent John Terry stopping marginally short of physically assaulting the official- a ploy that worked for him brilliantly). Gilberto slid home the penalty for his tenth goal of the season. For my money, unquestionably our player of the season. (In fact, some stats have been posted over on the forum suggesting he had won the most points for his team of any player in the Premiership).
But in the second half, it was Arsenal's turn to bottle it by refusing to put a ragged Chelsea side to the sword. With seventeen minutes remaining, Michael Essien headed a Wright Phillips cross past Lehmann and Chelsea went for the jugular. They had no choice, their title was on the line and they needed one goal. Now I will not deny that they completed the match with an impressive authority that belied their one man defecit. However, quite why they were painted as these grand apotheosis fallen hero types escapes me. A team that spends hundreds of millions of pounds and then complains when they get a normal amount of injuries is really not deserving of this great outpour of sympathy. Especially when said team wantonly sold two centre backs without replacing them on deadline day. Khalid Boulahrouz could have easily plugged their gap at the back caused by their one defensive injury, but he sat dormant in the reserves. Isn't it a manager's responsibility to purchase good players? Then again, when the footballing media is populated by talentless Stuart Hall wannabe twerps like Henry Winter, one really stops wondering. Joe Cole had a late effort ruled out for offside, whilst Emmanuel Eboue smashed the crossbar with the last kick of the game. Chelsea's title had been surrendered, but Mourinho's impeccible sense of egotistical media management after the final whistle ensured that his poor billionaire's would be painted in beggars rags. As they were jeered from the pitch, Chelsea sarcastically applauded the Arsenal public.
Moving into the final weekend, a shadow Arsenal side travelled to UEFA Cup chasing Portsmouth in a largely forgettable occasion/ encounter. Julio Baptitsa began the game on fire, forcing a terrific save from David James. But when Linvoy Primus fouled Eboue in the area, the Beast had the chance for a richly deserved goal. James beat out his spot kick, and the Beast remorphed back into the luckless, forlorn figure we had seen in the months previous, missing two headers that my Mum might just have buried. Controversy ensued when Nico Kranjcar was correctly flagged offside for his effort to be chalked off. Only trouble was, the linesman had a bit of a brain fart and forgot to put his flag up. Or maybe he was a Southampton fan playing a big practical joke, because he allowed the Pompey players to celebrate the ill fated strike for a good 60 seconds before he bothered to inform Graham Poll that it was actually illegal. One is reminded of that scene from Life of Brian,
Offender: Nah, they said I've been so good they're gonna let me go.
Guard: Really? Oh well, off you go then.
Offender: Nah, only joking. Crucifixion.
The final whistle sounded and a lifeless 0-0 draw was really quite an apt way to end the campaign. The last two minths of the season were a bit like a fish wrestled from the water, flapping frantically before the fisherman brings the mallet down and puts the little blighter out of its misery. Even watching hundreds of Arsenal fans dressed as bottles of vodka, or luminary characters such as Spiderman could not really inject any life into proceedings. The sense of anti climax had now been lifted as we all awaited the beginning of silly season. Transfer gossip never excites me, I don't read newspapers or consume much in the way of media at all, so I rarely speculate on who we might sign or should sign. It strikes me that many people like to colourfully identify prospective targets as the must have signing without more than media gossip in their amrmoury. For example, for all the talk about Gareth Bale, does anyone honestly watch Southampton or Wales on a regular basis to see this kid play? I guess hear say and media tittle tattle are powerful objects nowadays. Personally, I feel two, possibly three quality additions are necessary, preferrably with Premiership experience. But in all honesty, since the appointment of Arsene Wenger it really is not worth pontificating at great length. After all, who felt a tremor of excitement when we signed Gael Clichy?LD.
Date:Tuesday May 29 2007
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