Date: 14th January 2007 at 1:30pm
Written by:

I think it`s fair to say that yesterday was a real test of our resolve and a barometer for how far this young team has come in twelve months. That was my feeling BEFORE we went down to ten men, after Gilberto’s sending off I would have settled for the draw, but the performance was one of gritty composure. Blackburn kicked, pulled, harried, Styles said, ‘do carry on’, but the Gunners produced the best response- to win the football game.

What? It was cold! It was!

The game barely had a chance to settle into any sort of pattern, Lily Savage, drag queen extraordinaire, was to put in another of her legendary cabaret performances. Firstly, she flew in on Gilberto from behind, then not content with her skulduggery, she gave Bert a comical club over the back of the head. Gilberto, one of the game’s more composed characters, flicked out a leg which, from my position, made minimal contact (Certainly the contact was not any more significant than that of Lily’s forearm to Bert’s head). Of course Lily is very hard, a tough grafting midfielder, so she absolutely would not be seen rolling around in faux agony in an attempt to get a player sent off. (She also would not be seen dead in beige. ugh!) Of course, Rob Styles being the authoritative and wily figure he is, decided to take Lily’s bait hook, line and sinker (he also allegedly borrowed one of Lily’s fetching garters). Astonishingly, a tackle from behind followed by a forearm on the head is a yellow; a flick of the boot in retaliation is a red. There is a fundamental flaw in the rules of the game when talentless garbage like Savage can formulate a game plan that relies solely on winding players up, kicking them, hitting them and then diving around like the despicable piece of **** she is when she gets a reaction. The letter of the law condones and encourages this behaviour as time and time again the retaliator will be punished while the agitator will get off with a yellow card and get his team an advantage.

Rob Styles is predictably in the centre of the shot

Of course Mr. Authority Styles did not see fit to send Tugay off for his disgustingly cynical and calculated rake down Cesc’s leg, which could easily have resulted in a fibia break. Styles was one yard, ONE F*****G YARD, away. I was about seventy yards away and I could see what a nasty challenge it was and what an appallingly inept decision it was from a referee who was allowed to spread his cancerous officiating as far as an F.A Cup Final (I wouldn’t give him a bus pass). Brett Emerton, having already received a booking, was allowed a deliberate handball and then a rugby tackle around Cesc Fabregas’s neck without recompense. Lucas Neill was permitted a malevolent professional foul on Robin van Persie with only a booking. Rob Styles, if you are reading this, if indeed you are not the illiterate clown I suspect you to be, are you getting the message yet? There should be a thousand red and white clad Gooners outside your bedroom window this morning, Life of Brian style, screaming ‘RETIRE, RETIRE.’

Henry shoots narrowly wide

Arsenal provided the most sumptuous possible remedy following Neill’s ‘tackle’, as Henry swung in a delightful free kick, amazingly Arsenal had one player in the box. But that didn’t bother the Elastic Elephant, the ‘Magnificent Toure’ stretched every sinew of his neck to brilliantly direct a header beyond Friedel via the upright. Arsenal never looked back, digging their heels in Maginot Line style and keeping Blackburn at bay. Though Rovers had chances, Derbyshire had a free header at 0-0 which might as well have been gift wrapped, and Nonda and Derbyshire again found room in the Arsenal area but could not find a clinical finish. The Gunners, having shown the requisite grit, marshalled by Toure and Senderos, as well as an increasingly physical Fabregas, provided a move of poetic poise to seal the game.

Arsenal acknowledge the travelling support, so why don’t they do it when we lose?

Clichy cleared a Pedersen free kick, which Rosicky moved up the line to Henry. Now what immediately struck me as Henry nudged the ball up the left wing was the sheer amount of blue and white shirts that surrounded him. With only Fabregas in support, my initial thought was to manoeuvre the ball into the corner flag. But players of the quality of the aforementioned know better than some little oik like me in the stands. Henry bided his time before playing in Cesc and Fabregas, whose initial running had been with a view to getting in on goal, fully read his skipper’s intentions, and offered himself as a ‘sound board’ for the move, simply nudging the ball back into Henry’s path. The quality of the move and the players involved with it is exemplified when you realise the minute amount of space they executed it in. Cesc’s pass weaved between three defenders and allowed Henry to hit a brilliant first time curler to seal the points. Amusingly, my accompanice Lord Lowe turned away head in hands, believing Friedel had tipped it over. Only the sight of me leaping around like a lunatic confirmed that the shot had been inch perfect. Another goal in the North West for Henry and Thierry, while you serve up humble pie that readily, I will continue to wolf it down publicly, please keep it up.

The decision to give Henry a break has been inspired for three reasons. Firstly, Henry was in need of physical and mental recuperation. I also feel he needed his motivation renewed, which leads me to point two. It has also seen Wenger stamp his authority over the squad in a quiet, but firm way. If the captain can be pulled away from the team, anyone can at any time. Thirdly, van Persie and Adebayor have excelled in his absence, which has allowed the team to grow and find vigour in their own confidence (which in turn assures Henry further that he has to fight for his place). They have obtained big results without their talisman, and confidence to young players is everything. Greatness is best judged in adversity, Wenger and Ferguson’s careers have been marked by watershed decisions. People thought Ferguson had succumbed to senile dementia to sell Ince, Kanchelskis and Hughes in the same summer, ultimately, he brought through Scholes, Beckham and the Nevilles and United conquered Europe. For the first time in his time at Chelsea stint, Mourinho is ever so slightly up against it (he does have TWO players injured), he is about to run off to Spain. ‘Special One?’ You’re ‘aving a larff!

It’s the North Bank John, but not as we know it.

Possibly my favourite segment of the game arrived in the closing minutes, Fabregas had just been kicked off the pitch, but returned with the best possible response. Most players would have given Tugay a good kick back then swanned off. Not Cesc, he accepted the ball and positively took the piss out of Savage and Tugay, dancing with the ball and jigging past them with impunity. Exposing the enormous gulf in talent that exists between them (though Tugay is a good player). After being wrestled to the ground by Emerton, he got to his feet with two erect fingers, probably not signifying peace on earth. One more comment for the benefit of Mr. Styles, I very much doubt you are familiar with the law of physics, indeed I doubt you can express yourself without the advent of severe headaches, but for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Capisce? LD. P.S Cheers to my official photographer Barry who took most of these brilliant shots, cheers Baz