Carlisle 0 Arsenal 1
There was no way to win this. If the Arsenal had won 5-0 everyone would have said, ‘it’s only a shitty little team from the ends of the earth, they should have hammered them 10-0’ And if by some grim twist of 3rd round logic Carlisle had pulled off a miracle win, then the pundits, the moaners and the tabloid journalistic scum would have turned around and smugly confirmed their own opinions of Arsenal being definitely on the slide. So, a 1-0 win while being somewhat mystifying in a long term historical context makes a fair bit of sense to us.
Arsenal controlled most of the afternoon, playing a basic keep ball game that gave Carlisle little opportunity for having a kick. Indeed, the only time they really got hold of the ball was from a two footed tackle on Vieira that prompted the usual pushing, shoving and finger wagging bout that we seem to do so well. The goal was a classy sliding pass from Vieira that Wiltord ran onto and just rolled it past the keeper. The sort of thing you see on a training ground everyday of the week. The rest of the game was a tactical runabout that looked two computer controlled side of disproportionate strengths dancing around one another.
Still in the Cup then, but no one we know is banking on a long run. Spurs scored in the 92nd minute against Leyton Orient. I reckon they’ve got one hand on the trophy already.
Man of the Match: Vieira looked sharp.
QPR 0 Arsenal 6
See, told you. 0-0. Well, you can get anything wrong. But as usual the score didn’t tell the whole story. Two own goals, a deflection, a slow motion volley from Wiltord, a smart one on one with Pires putting it to one side of the keeper after receiving a superb ball from Ray Parlour, and a genuine old style Bergkamp perfectly timed lash at the ball- they were the highlights. Early on it might have been a different story. Ashley Cole kicked a QPR header off the line and generally the Loftus road boys ran the game for the first twenty minutes. Then one of their players put through his own goal, from that rarest of beasts, an accurate Lee Dixon cross and then Gerry Francis’s boys just went to pieces; chasing a game that was always one goal or more ahead of them. You would have felt sorry for them, but seeing the permanently frowning Francis in the dugout still sporting that ridiculous mullet, sympathy was a bit thin.
With the injuries to Keown, Ljungberg and Edu, Wenger opted for a strange formation; Stepanovs with Adams, Cole for Silvinho and Lauren ranging about in the middle. Perversely, Henry warmed the bench, whilst Bergkamp partnered Wiltord. Wiltord, amply supplied by both Lauren and Parlour, had one of his better games, but to be honest, the opposition was a bit whiffy. You can’t help wondering if Wiltord is only going to look class against crap teams or anyone from the Scottish League. Oh well. Bergkamp, relishing a rare run out, had a blinder, but that performance was eclipsed by yet another scorching outing by Ashley Cole. He can run, pass, defend and attack; there’s not many Arsenal players that can live up to that.
An odd afternoon. Absolutely anything poked in the direction of the goal went in. Great result, but a blip rather than a curve.
Man of the Match: Ashley Cole.
Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1
Killing Chelsea’s season stone dead was the best thing about today. It’s a bit galling that under FA rules we have to give the whole of the Clock End to the stupidest, most venal, most single- celled set of supporters in football today. There they were with their shaved heads, car coats, laughable attempts at facial hair and the most ridiculous set of songs ever heard outside of a nursery. They lambasted the Highbury supporters for being quiet (we’re famous for it- being noisy is no sign of intelligence) but as soon as the chips were down they shut up. It’s all very well singing to the Arsenal, ‘you only sing when you’re winning’ but we win rather a lot, so that’s that argument flushed around the u-bend then. And their team is no better; a rag-tag collection of financially motivated asylum seekers skilled in off the ball fouling and moaning in 200 languages. Disgraceful.
Mind you, we didn’t fancy the Arsenal line-up much. No Adams, no Keown, no Parlour, no Silvinho and no Grimandi. At the back we had Dixon (just chalked up something like 600 odd appearances. Not bad that, at least two good crosses in all that lot), Ashley Cole (looking absolutely awesome. Check him out) Luzhny (looking absolutely bovine) and Stepanovs (looking big and confused. ‘Tell me about the rabbits, Lenny.’) Bergkamp got the nod over Wiltord and got to partner Henry and the midfield consisted of Ljungberg, Lauren and Pires. The muscular bit of the middle was Vieira and Vieira.
Chelsea had obviously learnt something from their previous outing to Highbury and had discontinued the hilarious experiment of using Desailly and Wise as wingers instead reverting to Ferrer as wing back and using Wise at what he does best- get up everyone’s nose.
After a goalless first half that Arsenal shaded on effort but Chelsea won hands down in the sheer thuggery stakes (Babayaro trips Bergkamp, Hasselbaink does the funky chicken on Stepanovs's mush and Wise should have walked for thumping Henry) the second half began with Lauren being shoved in the Chelsea penalty area and Arsenal being awarded the inevitable spot kick. We weren’t that excited; too many penalties this season have ended badly. Even Lee Dixon, hunkering down in his own half, wasn’t tempting fate by looking. Henry stepped up and lashed it into the corner well beyond the keeper. Bingo. The Chelsea fans promptly shut up. The silence of the shams.
I wasn’t taking much notice of the Blues attack, they had two players clearly offside and even that dozy linesman must flag in a minute, when Hasselbaink, thirty yards out smacked a hit and hope shoot that bent away from Seaman and billowed the net. Lucky bastards.
A couple of minutes later Chelsea hit the post and that was that for them. Even their troggy fans started to get the message that the next time the Blues would play a game that meant something would be the opening fixture of the 2001/2002 season.
Wiltord came on for Pires (which I moaned about) and promptly 1. Made a right old nuisance of himself. 2. Scored twice. And 3. Made me look a bit of a dick.
His first goal came from a long clearance in the Arsenal area that he met with a lob shot that he lifted over Cudicini. The North Bank saw the trajectory of the ball clearly and were up off their seats before the ball dropped sweetly into the net. The second was from a great Lauren cross on the right that Wiltord met in a running football text book kind of way- strolling stride, marvellous first time hit, crept it in just inside the post. Wham.
All Chelsea had left in reply was a few bleating moans from that little shitter Wise and a couple of Poyet arm waves. You had to laugh. It reminded of all those great Chelsea jokes of yesteryear: ‘What’s blue and slides down tables’ ‘Chelsea.’ And ‘I hear that Chelsea went to Fantasy Island - and lost.’
Man of the Match: Stepanovs was great (honest) so was Cole but it has to be Vieira by a whisker.
Arsenal 3 Blackburn 0
This was nearly a repeat of last week’s West Ham game. Three nil up at the break (actually, two nil up after five minutes) against fairly woeful opposition, it was all over before the traditional half time piss and fifteen solid minutes of Dreamcast ads. Blackburn, however, were in slightly better nick than the Hammer’s, but you could tell they had one eye on next week’s Birmingham game and the other on what Bolton was doing that afternoon. Which left exactly no eyes on anyone in a red and white shirt. A couple of mates who support first division sides gave us the skinny on Blackburn, which basically boiled down to ‘kick them before they kick you’. A footballing variation on Sean Connery in ‘The Untouchables’- ‘Yesh. If he putsh one of yoursh in the hospital, you putsh two is hish in the morgue.’ Certainly Blackburn were a big fan of the lingering tackle that usually terminated in a nasty tap. However, one glorious bit of long term retribution came to light when Adams took the old carthorse, Mark Hughes, from behind and nearly brought a long annoying career to an immensely satisfying end.
Wenger, with one beady mincer on Wednesday’s potential night of the long knives, wisely put Vieira and Henry on the bench. Wiltord partnered Bergkamp up front whilst the midfield consisted of Lauren, Ljungberg and a wild headed looking Grimandi.
After about thirty seconds of play Blackburn worked the ball down the wing, crossed and just skimmed one over the bar. After ninety seconds Arsenal were one up. A cracking bit of running and interplay pushed the ball wide to Pires who crossed it back into the centre for Wiltord to whack it home. Blackburn could only stand around like old people waiting for the half nine slot to come around so they can use their bus passes. Within five minutes Arsenal had a corner, Adams went up about twenty feet and powered the ball into the net with a textbook header.
It was now that the Blackburn supporters went into overdrive. Never the quietest of mobs, they clapped, chanted and moaned with a collective sensibility not seen outside of an ant colony. And then they started to get nasty- or at least they thought they were. The trouble is none of us could understand what they were singing; as the bloke next to me commented, ‘I understood the Russians more on Tuesday.’ One chant that slipped through the language mangling larynxes of the northerners was the frankly confusing, ‘you’re just a small town in Tottenham.’ I think it was meant to get us riled up but ended up as a rather good cryptic crossword clue. Though, I did enjoy them singing, ‘we hate Burnley and we hate Burnley, we are the Burnley haters.’ That’s probably on par with us chanting, ‘we hate the new Coconut Toffee Crisp.’
Arsenal’s third goal, just before the break, came from a wild looping ball that Pires caught on the far corner of the area, brought it down awkwardly and lashed it back across the goal. Bingo. Game over.
The second half saw a much better Blackburn performance. Jansen and Duff made the world of difference to them. Arsenal brought on Vieira and a somnambulant Henry (bit of a worry that) and Blackburn carved out a consolation of hitting the post with the best shot of the match.
A quick word about Wiltord. Maybe we’re on the verge of changing our minds about him. He had a great game; looked strong, interested, read the game brilliantly and knew where the goal was. Let’s hope this lasts until Wednesday.
Man of the Match: Wiltord.
Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1
The big schism amongst us lot was between the mob who were prepared to go to Manchester and the others who resented being bullied into going to the ends of the known world and putting money into United’s coffers for the privilege. So some of us went north and the others went around the u-bend and into the nearest pub. Some of us took the newly re-invented ‘football special’ from Finsbury Park, a light bulb free train, a seat stripped toilet, hardly worthy of the epithet ‘special’. And the rest of us approximated the atmosphere of a bare minimum train, by finding the shittiest pub in the world to watch the game in. Actually, after everyone thought that boycotting the game was a good idea, in the end they all pissed off to Mankieland leaving yours truly nursing a warm pint in come cavernous hell-hole full of ten year olds drinking lager with Tango tops all wearing brand new Spurs shirts and feeling vaguely silly for making a completely pointless stand. Apparently the journey on the train was no better; my mate said the two phrases you never hear in the same sentence are ‘football special’ and ‘chardonnay’. After the game, the men of no principle rang from Piccadilly and reckoned they would be back to London just in time to take the train to Cardiff for the final. ‘They’re just hitching the flatbeds up to the Grumpy Train’ announced one deliriously happy mate on the crackly moby.
Me, on me jack, sat there watching the wonkiest telly outside of a Curry’s sale; with its arbitrary vertical hold and its beer spattered screen, it was like trying to make sense of a fish tank after dropping a tab of acid.
And the game?
All Arsenal. Total Arsenal. Arsenal to the max. Spurs had one proper attack. Ferdinand shoots, Seaman saves, Dixon heads out, a Spurs player whacks it across the goal, Doherty falls backwards, ball hits him on the forehead, ball goes in, Seaman looks to the heavens, all the little Tottenham girlies in the pub go moist (even the boys in Spurs shirts are honorary girlies) and I stare dejectedly into a nearly empty glass of Bass, the only pint of bitter ever, ever sold in La La Lagerland and wish that someone with a high powered rifle would take out L Ron Hoddle and wipe that patronising smirk out in an explosion of cordite and flesh . It all goes through the mix; Lucky for Spurs when the year ends in one, Hoddle, Chas ‘n’ Dave, Martin Chivers, Mark Falco, Garry Stevens, Graham Roberts, Danny bleeding Blanchflower, blah, blah and all those bullies at Highbury Grove school who invariably favoured the cockerel over the gun. I’d been staring at the brown muck at the bottom of the pint glass for rather longer than looked socially sane when I looked up to see Pires through one on one with Sullivan. A tame shot hit the Spurs keeper. Seen that one before. Hoddle, in typical Tottenham fashion, had gone for instant heroics and gratification and had rushed back from injury Campbell, Sherwood, Rebrov and Carr. They all contributed to make the game less of a testimonial than last week’s outing. However, it was Campbell’s over exuberance that contributed ultimately to Spurs’s downfall. Sol took out Ray parlour on the bi-line, injured himself and had to go off. The resulting free kick was floated in and up rose Vieira, flicked his nut sweetly and the ball whipped past Sullivan and billowed out the inside of the side netting. Forgetting I was in enemy territory, I leapt up, slung the beer everywhere and did my rather famous ‘fat bastard victory shimmy’. Not a pretty sight. And believe it or not all the Spurs fans melted into the walls of the pub rather than face the whooping speccy git covered in real ale dregs. Having successfully marked my territory I then settled down, smug in the knowledge that the game might now be all square but it would be only a matter of time before the Boys would be severely tanning some blue and white arse.
The second half was just like the first; Arsenal dominated embarrassingly, Andy Grey made no sense whatsoever and I had a new full pint to fling around. A small group of Spurs’s fans mopped beer stains off their new shirts and looked at me as if I were a giant wet bogie.
Ferdinand, though not one of the world’s great goal scorers (or not one of the world’s great anythings) had to go off. To be fair he’s one of the few centre forwards who can give Big Tone a tough time. Hoddle sent on one of those seemingly endless Tottenham reserves that usually go on to be so fucking average at places like Norwich and Portsmouth.
And then Vieira darted through one of Glenn’s peculiar tactical clumps of players, released the ball to Wiltord on the right wing, who ran like a Wiltord really (a kind of low centre of gravity wobble) crossed the ball sweetly to find Pires in space who sided it into an empty net. Marvellous. Even before the goal celebrations had finished the Tottenham supporters in the pub, wary of another dousing, were filing out. Arsenal 2 Spurs 1. Fat Arsenal bloke with lethal pint 2 Spurs fans 0. Game over. And the goal, a weird mirror image of the one that won France the European Championship, flashed around the crap tellies in pub, again and again.
Sure, the rest of the match was nerve wracking. Not because Spurs were good but because we know how friable the Arse can be. Still, Cardiff on 12th May. Can’t be bad.
Unlike Wednesday, the Valencia game, I can still speak. But who wants to speak to a wild looking bloke reeking of bitter? I think I’ll try another pub and help the Spurs boys drown their sorrows.
Man of the Match: Everyone did their bit.
Cheating Scousers 2 ‘We had it won but we threw it away FC’ 1
1. I’m far too upset about the game to think straight.
2. We lacked the killer punch to finish off Liverpool.
3. It was all our fault. But..
4. When people punch balls off the line and are allowed to get away with it you’re onto a hiding to nothing.
5. Bye, bye Wiltord.
6. Have a long rest Thierry.
7. Bye, bye Seaman.
8. Patrick Vieira. One day people will organise religions around you.
9. The Millennium Stadium is very, very impressive. It makes Wembley look like Underhill. Great atmosphere.
10. We’ll be back.
11. I’m off to sit in a dark room with my Leonard Cohen records and drink drain cleaner.
12. Wake me up in the middle of August.