Look Arsenal up in the dictionary and you will doubtless find a mixture of the following; Lucky, fortunate and downright jammy. How the gooners got to be three up, and how they managed to hang on at the end, is a question that I cannot answer.If, in order to become Champions of the Premier League, you need luck like this along the way, then we will never – ever – lift the crown!
I cannot recall a game that has been as one sided as this one, certainly in terms of possession. First half? Maybe 60/40 in our favour. Second? More like 90/10. There can be no doubt after this that Arsenal owe us a massive debt. Firstly for 2 of their 3 goals, and secondly because – with the exception of De Lucas – we seemed unable to turn all of that possession into shots on target.
On the way to the game I remarked how much I hoped that Carlo was back as Ed does not inspire confidence in me. Carlo did return, but was sadly responsible for one of their goals and even ended up with Gallas taking his goal kicks.
The action? First half Arsenal one shot on target and one goal. Well it was not even their shot on target as a cross from the world famous diver Cole struck the boot of Marcel and looped over Carlos head. That was after 10 minutes and, in all honesty, it was the first time they had managed to venture into our half. The closest we came was when a shot from De Lucas was fumbled by Seaman who then just managed to grab hold of the ball with Jimmy inches away from reaching it. Just before half time Soxy got smacked in the penalty area leading to him going off for stitches but Rennie – surprise surprise – did nothing other than chat to Campbell (who wasn’t the culprit as far as I could see).
Second half and it was all one way traffic. Arsenal resorted to their old game of hoofing it at every opportunity hoping that Henry or Bergkamp would get on the end of it. It isn’t sour grapes, although I know it might sound like it, but if you have to play like this to win things, lets hope we never win another trophy. It was just like watching 14 year olds play on the heath on a Sunday morning. See how far you can clatter the ball, and see who is the fastest to get to it. Great tactics!
Of course, we were unable to cope with these bombs from outer space! First Van Bronckhorst shot wide of Carlo then Henry – with a really tame effort – saw the ball somehow squirm under Carlo who looked at first to be going the other way. At this stage three things happened. The Arsenal supporters actually started to sing, yes I know, as incredible as it sounds Arsenal do have people that actually make a noise! Although they clearly struggle to do anything until they are 3 goals to the good. After all, they have nothing to shout about, 5 points clear, reigning Champions, still in the Champions League… The second thing was that a lot of our supporters decided – foolishly – that they had seen enough, and finally we started to make our possession tell. Firstly Stanic – on as a sub after Zola had nearly been cut in half from a disgraceful challenge from Lauren (no booking though, shock!) – headed in after Hasselbaink had nodded a corner on. Then with 3 minutes left Manu knocked one in after Seaman and Campbell got in each others way.
Arsenal supporters – who had 5 minutes previously been singing ‘Champions’ were now shouting at Rennie to blow up (I wish he would!). We should have got a point when a cross from the dreadful Gronkjaer somehow missed Hasselbainks head. But, and it is a huge and massive but, we didn’t score again. We came away from the Library (which really should be called the Cemetery) pointless after having played the Champions off of the park.
A dreadful Christmas by any standards. 1 point from 9 is relegation form not the form of a team fighting for honours. Yet, through it all, I do not feel despair. If Claudio stops his stupid tinkering, and if Zola manages to have his leg reattached, I think we can go on from this on another run. Arsenal know they had a match today. Let us make sure that we give them a run for that big trophy.
TEAM; Cudicini. Melchiot, Gallas, Desailly, Babayaro – De Lucas (Gronkjaer 57), Lampard, Petit, Le Saux (Gudjohnsen 70) – Hasselbaink, Zola (Stanic 80). SUBS NOT USED; Terry. De Goey.