500 And STILL Not Out!
Greetings fellow Gooners!
First off, I want to congratulate somebody who achieved an amazing feat for our mighty club today. Not Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott or even John Terry (although a special mention must go to the England captain after he practically gifted us the game today!). No, today’s most amazing feat award goes to none other than the most successful manager in the history of Arsenal Football Club, Arsene Wenger.
Today Arsene Wenger passed the incredible milestone of 500 matches won during his tenure as manager of Arsenal. After being tipped as the first manager to be shown the door this season by almost all bookmakers, Wenger, after eight wins from nine matches, currently sitting atop our Champions League group, in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup and moving up to 6th place in the league, only three points behind “The Title-less for 50 Years” following today’s fabulous result at “The Bus Stop In Fulham”, has once again confounded both critics and boo-boys alike.
I think that in these somewhat more difficult times, what with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Citeh all more than capable of buying the majority of the trophies on offer as well as the players to go with that desire, Wenger continues to perform nothing less than small miracles. For example, Koscielny after all the abuse, criticism and down-right confidence-destroying performances for us, has been consistently offered the full unequivocal support and unquestioning confidence of “Le Boss” and, it certainly appears, has hurdled the mental and physical barriers that he was so clearly suffering from and is now producing man of the match contender performances game after game.
Robin van Persie is another case in point. So, so many “fans” questioning Wenger’s decision to keep him at the club and not get him off the wage bill after so much time spent in the treatment room and yet can anybody, ANYBODY not registered clinically insane seriously suggest that his decision has been anything other than totally vindicated?
Henry was never the same after he left us. For that matter, nor was Wrighty, Vieira, Petit, Campbell, Overmars and quite a few players more that one could easily add to that list and yet when they were leaving we were told it was the worst decision at the worst time and we would surely not survive.
How many seasons have we had to hear how Wenger is dragging the club down, that we won’t even finish in the top four, that the Spuds will finish above us “this year”? How many times have any of those things actually come to pass?
And if there was ever a match that epitomises all things Wenger, today’s defeat of Chelsea, on their own ground, after going behind twice in the game, then I don’t know which game it would be!
The line-up sported a defence of Szczesny, Djourou, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Santos, the flourishing partnership of Song and Arteta in the deeper midfield roles, the attacking midfield roles handed to Ramsey, Gervinho and Walcott again tasked with providing the bullets for the van Persie Gunnergun and Wenger clearly told the players that attacking Chelsea was the order of the day, and attack we did!
A game as breathtaking as any blood and thunder cup-tie saw Chelsea almost score in only the second minute after a poor piece of play from Swiss international Johann Djourou saw Ca$hley with the freedom of the city in which to pick out Torres with his cross. Luckily for Djourou the aforementioned great form of Koscielny continued and a great saving challenge saw the ball cleared for a corner. On five minutes Chelsea had a clear chance to take the lead once more when a pass from the entirely disappointing Sturridge, intended once again for the even less impressive Torres, ended up being nothing more than a sloppy side-foot to the “Pole Between The Poles”. Phew…Again!
At this point the warning signs that a humiliating result or even total demolition could be on the cards were certainly there and the away support, incredible as ever, were almost silent for this short period. Thankfully the mighty Arsenal were to ensure that this was not the norm and the full voice of the best away fans in the league made themselves heard as loud and proud as ever.
On 11 minutes Gervinho, on the receiving end of a fabulous cross from Walcott across the six-yard box that followed a wonderful run that left Ca$hley for dead, contrived to put the ball wide of the goal. One minute later saw an even more unlikely miss as again the highly impressive Walcott whipped a delicious cross into the box only for van Persie to half-volley over the bar from very close range. Very unusual considering the Dutchman’s form of late, well, of the past year, but he was to more than make up for that miss later.
However, before Captain Marvel was able to work his miracles, Chelsea put us through an emotional ringer for 55 long minutes! On 14 minutes a cross of the highest quality from Chelsea’s best player on the day by far, Juan Mata, found Lampard with enough time and space (too much to be fair although the cross caused as much damage as the marking) and his header flew in the bottom right. 1-0 and already those missed chances were starting to look like they may have been the best chances we would get.
On 30 minutes Sturridge made a total pig’s ear of a stunning first-time pass from Lampard from around the half-way line as he totally miscued his shot and a relieved Arsenal defence watched in relief as it trickled harmlessly past the far post. A terrible effort from a player who seemed to be doing all he could to ensure that Drogba comes straight back into the side the moment he is available.
On 36 minutes, a little against the run of play to be fair, a great through ball from a player that is impressing more with each passing game, Aaron Ramsey, saw Gervinho free and clear with only Cech to beat. Just at the point when it seemed he would dispatch the ball to either side of the stranded goalkeeper he chose instead to square the ball to van Persie, totally unmarked and with the entire goal at his mercy. moment of huge unselfishness and perhaps a very big clue as to why things appear to be changing for the better for the club overall…Teamwork.
Needless to say, Rockin’ Reliant Robin calmly side-footed the ball into the empty net and parity was gained.
But Chelsea were certainly not down-heartened by this, in fact, they seemed even more determined to get the result that would keep them within one point of Manchester United. Pushing forward almost in waves, although not entirely without reply, the Arsenal defence were being to repel mounting pressure. On 39 minutes that was almost brought to bear when the quite awful Santos let fellow Brazilian Ramires almost walk past him (again) and the cross delivered low and hard into the six yard box was turned into the net by Sturridge. Thankfully Mertesacker’s “Tony Adams’ Offside Arm” impression was ruled valid and the goal chalked off. It was a close call, but correct nonetheless.
If this was a stern warning, it was not one that the Arsenal defence heeded and on the stroke of half-time the wonderful, brilliant, yummy, handsome and heroically heroic hero John Terry headed home after another poor piece of defending from a set-piece, this time a corner. I have to say, I am starting to actually feel the nerves emanating from the pitch every time the opposition have any kind of set-piece anywhere near our goal, although I am also starting to think that we defend these things far too deeply, creating a mass of bodies in a small space where anything can happen, and usually does! Hhmmm…Maybe I will write to Arsene and save our skins, hair and fingernails!
Anyway, half-time, 2-1 and those missed opportunities looked even more like the ones that got away. Three points seemed to be a distant dream of the past and one could only hope that we could nick a sneaky one and get out with a point.
However, yet again the magical Arsenal oranges did their job and the team came out from the break looking refreshed and motivated and with that dangerous edge that, with the exception of our goal, had gone missing almost entirely in the first half. With only two minutes gone in the second half, Gervinho produced a defence splitting pass of the highest order only for Ramsey to lift the ball over the bar. Another chance gone and the fingernails were really starting to feel the pressure! However, that is where the old Arsenal would fall apart, but this is not the old Arsenal, this is Wengerball 4 and with a spirit that has been lacking for quite some time, the team continued to probe, push forwards and, most importantly, believe.
Only two minutes later that belief paid off as the very off colour Santos found himself on the end of a glorious pass from Song who, after turning the ball in the style of Dennis Bergkamp, then played a pass that the Dutchman himself would have been proud of. The Brazilian was running full steam ahead into a decent amount of space having left Sturridge wandering around looking fairly disinterested somewhere near the halfway line and brought the ball just inside the Chelsea box before slamming it hard and true through the legs of Peter Cech and suddenly the 2-2 scoreline meant that we only had to fight Chelsea off for the remaining 40 minutes or so and we would get out alive and with an unlikely point in the bag to boot.
Obviously the Arsenal players had failed to read the script yet again as Theo Walcott, having literally tripped over his own feet trying to dribble through a crowd of about 5 Chelsea players, got back up, salvaged the ball, dropped his shoulder to leave the amazing, exciting, gorgeous John Terry and a couple of his team mates wondering exactly where the little fella had gone and, as if that wasn’t enough, he then rifled the ball, no, THRASHED the ball into the net at Cech’s near post and before you could say finishing of the highest quality, we had taken the lead! 3-2 and it couldn’t get any better than this, could it?!
Well, for 25 minutes, it didn’t get any better than that. The game pulsated from end to end with both teams refusing to stop trying to score, all the while Chelsea looking that little bit more dangerous when in and around our penalty area than we did near theirs. On 80 minutes they and, in particular, Juan Mata got their reward. A stunning curling shot from about 20 yards after god build up play saw the Spaniard leave Szczesny diving in vain for a ball he could never have reached even if he was 8 feet tall and wore jet-powered boots!
3-3 with ten minutes to go and the draw was looking like a good escape again.
So when van Persie was chasing down the fabulous, wonderful and exciting figure of John Terry who was obviously just going to pass the ball 30 or so yards back to Cech, it did seem a little like wasted energy. But John Terry is no ordinary player. John Terry is yummy. John Terry is the hero of the hour! John Terry inexplicably fell on his great big overpaid arse after turning like a geriatric buffoon trying to collect a back pass from that foul-mouthed, ill-tempered, spoilt little brat Cole and let Robin in at somewhere around the halfway line with only Cech to beat. The Dutchman bore down on goal, Cech came out to narrow the angle but Robin calmly took a touch to knock the ball around him before passing the ball into the empty onion bag! Simply incredible stuff from the Chelsea and England captain and, believe you me, the favour will never be forgotten as long as this Gooner has breath in his body! Thank you John, you squishy little scrum-pot you!
Cue Chelsea pouring forward en-masse looking to get an equaliser and leaving huge gaps all over the park. Huge gaps that we were only to happy to exploit whenever they found the simply magnificent Koscielny standing in their way screaming “None Shall Pass” at the top of his lungs whilst spitting out the bones of each and every fool that tried to cross his line of death!
On 92 minutes the joy that everybody was simply waiting to see destroyed was only further amplified when the best player in the league by far, Robin van Persie, received an incisive pass from the again excellent Arteta which, from the left hand side of the penalty area, saw him smash the ball past Cech and leave the result on no doubt whatsoever. 5-3 and the first time that Chelsea have conceded five goals at home in Premier League history.
In truth, the scoreline flattered a little, but at the same time it was nothing that we didn’t deserve. Chelsea played well, make no mistake about that, but they didn’t deserve any more than three goals and that is what they got. Arsenal fully deserved their 5 goals for the combination of clear chances created and spirit shown alone, let alone the heart and raw courage to refuse to know when they were supposed to play the part of Premier League also-rans after only 10 league games!
In truth there could not have been a better way or even a better example of Wengerball than today’s performance to mark the 500th win of Wenger’s reign and for it to have taken place at the home of Chelsea, where points are hard to come by at the best of times for any club, it really was a cake well iced!
Overall Santos and Djourou didn’t have the best of games and Mertesacker was decidedly suspect in a couple of moments. Song and Arteta continued to show why Wenger plays them together whenever possible. Szczesny did all that could have been asked of him. Gervinho, Walcott and Ramsey were outstanding whilst Koscielny would have won a man of the match award for his excellent performance today had the captain not put in a 5-star, 3 goal shift.
Special mention should go to the welcome sight of Thomas Vermaelen back on the pitch for a Premier League game too, albeit for only 7 or 8 minutes. How interesting and novel is it that Wenger now has a centre back selection headache that doesn’t involve wondering how he will manage to field two good ones but instead which two of the three excellent players we have in that position will play? Pretty interesting and novel indeed, I would say!
Next up, Marseille and, depending on the results of both group matches on Tuesday night, we could even seal qualification to the knock-out stages with two games still to play.
And to think that they queued up to protest for the removal of Arsene Wenger after only 3 league games had been played!
Silly really when you look back, isn’t it?!
And on that note I bid you farewell.
Come on you Title Challenge Isn’t Totally Off The Cards Yet Goooooonnnnneeerrrrrsssss!