No chance Bug Eyes
Gooners away and a bit of a free hit after winning at Old Trafford the last time out. With Arsenal having their best chance for years to win the title and still smarting after our relatively recent 4-0 dicking of them – it isn’t going to be easy.
You kind of feel that it has to be Arsenal’s year this season as both Chelsea and Man United are poor and we’ve just had the news that Man City will have Pep Guardiola as manager next season which will not only bring a brilliant manager to the wealthiest club but also the ability to attract some really top players. Pep doesn’t usually come second. Wenger’s probably stubborn enough to think Arsenal can finish above City next season with Giroud as their main striker, no decent defensive midfielder and Mertesackofshit at centre back.
Wenger ‘s pre-match press conference of course revisited the 4-0 defeat at St.Mary’s and he once again needlessly brought up his assertion that the first three goals should have been disallowed and our perceived (by him) strong arm tactics. He didn’t mention the two disallowed goals we had that should have stood. All of this is moaning and revision of history is designed to put pressure on the referee, who today is Lee Mason who is one of those referees that I don’t think anyone likes. I guess Arsene must be worried about playing us and so he should be. I can’t think about Arsenal though with thinking about last year at The Emirates when we got a complete bag of shite off the referee in the league game and I’m expecting the same today. It never happens in favour of Arsene’s team though.
The transfer deadline day was a bit of a non-event for Saints, as promised, with just Jack Stephens going out on loan to Coventry. I’m a bit surprised at this to be honest as we are currently playing three centre backs and we only really have Goal-a-game Yoshida as a backup. Florin Gardos isn’t fit yet and Jack is the most senior other than that.
To The Emirates and my seat is right on the very edge of the Saints allocation and I’m next to a gangway which is about a metre wide and then it’s the massed ranks of Gooners. I got chatting to a steward who told me that the season tickets for behind the goal next to the away end cost over a grand and were the cheapest in the ground. For that price I guess they have the right to do whatever they want, even if that’s sitting there very quietly, taking abuse from the away fans. I can’t imagine the fans in that area have much fun when Spurs are in town. One amusing thing that I found out about the expensive Arsenal season ticket is included in the astronomical price, this season they get 5 home cup games. Unfortunately for the fans, the 5th was a shite FA Cup tie against a Championship side and the 6th and therefore not included is Barcelona at home which many season ticket holders won’t get tickets for and you can’t imagine it’ll be a Category Cheap game for the one’s that do, so they’ll have to find near on another hundred quid if they want to go. The steward might have been talking shite so don’t shoot the messenger. Whilst we’re on about ticket prices though, our tickets tonight were priced at £26 whereas my Palace supporting mate had to pay £46 to sit in the same seat at the Emirates last year. Bollocks isn’t it?
I was expecting a more or less unchanged team as we were off the back of three wins in a row but no. When the list of names was read out I first noticed that there was no Matt Targett so we’re obviously going with 4 at the back. Romeu was in for Clasie and JWP was playing. No Charlie Austin due to a slight knock apparently – bollocks! Still, Graziano is back and on the bench. Arsenal, clearly mindful of the mauling that Shane gave them last time have left out Captain Mertesackofshit and have picked Gabriel who I assume is quicker. All I know him for really is allowing himself to be wound up a treat by Diego Costa and getting himself sent off. When you see names on the team sheet like Ozil and Sanchez you do think that it’s going to be a tough one. Calum Chambers and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of whom were linked with loan moves to us during the past month, are continuing their career breaks by taking up their positions on the Arsenal bench. I wonder if they have a seat with their names on it or at the very least, I wonder if they always sit in the same bench seat?
It’s a promising start all round as we settle down and play some decent stuff and the referee allows a couple of hard but fair tackles from Big Vic and Romeu. Ramsey is already having a whinge and we’ve only just started. We win a free kick of our own out on the left as Tadic is trashed by Bellerin. It looks like Mason is going to let a lot go cos that would be a booking in a lot of games. JWP curls it in and it just goes over Virgil’s head and bounces goalwards, forcing Cech to shovel it round the post.
We’re looking good and dominating possession but then Arsenal get the ball and Dirty Sanchez looks up and pings an amazing ball over Virgil to Ozil, whose eyes are clearly offside. One ridiculous bit of ball control and he shoots but Fraser is down to block with his feet. Bit of a warning there.
Arsenal’s next attack is on 20 with Bellerin crossing under no pressure from Tadic, Giroud flicking on and Ozil, eyes clearly offside, stabs it goalwards from about 4 yards but Fraser throws up his left arm instinctively and knocks it away for a corner. It’s not quite up there with his save from Charlie Austin at QPR last year but it’s pretty close.
There’s a guy two rows in front of me who is taking time out from watching the game to check his phone and he’s found out that Spurs are 2-0 up at Norwich and is enjoying baiting the nearby Gooners with the news. Amazingly, they don’t bite, not even one of them and they just carry on sitting there quietly.
We are creating chances of our own though but we seem to have a lack of conviction. Firstly Tadic picks it up on the edge of the box and makes space before curling a tame effort into Cech’s midriff, then following a half cleared corner, Virgil flicks a ball across and for a second Mané looks like he’s in but instead of hitting it first time he delays and allows a defender to get close before squirting a shot across goal and wide. Romeu also tries a long range curler which is over Cech and flicks the roof of the net as it goes behind. With a bit more quality from the front men we could have a great night here.
The second half starts with Arsenal in the ascendency. Having refereed the first half very well, Mr Mason seems determined to give Arsenal absolutely everything in the opening few minutes and I wonder if Wenger’s been in his ear at half time. Our first sniff is from a shocking pass from Flamini which is intercepted by Long and he takes off before treading on the ball like a twat and now Arsenal are away and on the edge of our box. Giroud curls one towards to top corner and Fraser takes off and flips it over the bar.
More over playing from Arsenal and this time it’s Bellerin giving it away and Mané is running at the centre backs but instead of burning past Koscielny he allows himself to be pushed wide and then scuffs his shot straight at Cech from the edge of the box. There are ironic cheers on 61 as Mason books Cédric for pulling back Dirty Sanchez and the first ex-Saint makes an appearance with Theo Walcott coming on for Joel Campbell who has done very little but more than Oxlade-Chamberlain.
There’s an immediate chance for Walcott as the ball somewhat fortuitously breaks for him on the right and he has a free shot by Fraser gets a big boot in the way and then pushes the follow up effort round the post. The Wall is back. Dirty Sanchez then gets up well at the back post and heads across but Fraser is down again to push it around the post. Another glorious chance goes begging as Koscielny meets a Walcott cross from about 6 yards out and heads over the bar. Maybe it’s going to be our day. The Meerkats are still silent and still not rising to the bait being offered from in front of me. ‘Spurs are winning lads... so are Leicester’.
Graziano is on for Tadic and Mané has moved to the left wing. It makes sense as we’re now going very direct anyway and Fonte goes down injured and the Arsenal fans get really annoyed about it. Two minutes later with a turban bandage applied to his head and they’re still getting irate about it even though he’s clearly not time wasting. I guess I’d be the same if the roles were reversed.
The sub has not stemmed the tide though and Arsenal and Dirty Sanchez actually get the ball past the wall but JWP is there to hack it off the line. WHAT ARE YOU DOING RONALD! JWP is going off and fucking Juanmi is coming on. We now have four strikers on... why not Clasie for fucks sake. We immediately win a free kick on the right and with no JWP to take it, Bertrand curls it straight to Cech. Aaaargh!
Mané is having a strange time of it at the moment. Back in the day when he was scoring goals and confident, he’d quite happily fall down too easily and get booked if there was a chance of a penalty. He had a golden opportunity as Gabriel went off his feet in the penalty area but he stayed up and nothing came of it. I’m not advocating taking a dive but it’s odd that he didn’t given his past history.
With 10 to go the only sub I’m worried about coming on for Arsenal is Oxlade-Chamberlain and from where I am it looks like he is as Flamini trots off but in fact it’s Coquelin coming on. Is Arsene Wenger taking a point? Hardly a game changer is he. The first thing he does is get booked for a cynical scythe into Long. Perhaps realising that we have too many attackers on the pitch, Ronald pulls Mané and puts Targett on the left wing and he immediately breaks forward only to be brutally taken out by Gabriel who really is a bit shit. We again waste the free kick. Threr is of course time for some pinball in our box as Arsenal go all Tika-Taka with Ozil, eyes still offside, at the centre of it and he’s about to shoot when Virgil appears like a missile and takes man and ball. For good measure, Fraser stops a Dirty Sanchez follow up with his face.
We got the ball up their end one more time and it broke to Juanmi on the edge of the box and he tried to take a touch and fucked it up and lost the ball which prompted my first serious outburst of swearing and a ‘hit it you useless little cunt’. My new steward mate was pissing himself laughing and said ‘you do realise you’ve been swearing at him since the moment he came on’.
6 minutes added time said the scoreboard. Shit…. But it passed without much incident, the highlight being Virgil taking off from defence, pursued by Arsenal players and every time one caught up he put on the burners and ended up nearly at the corner flag in front of us before winning a throw. Brilliant.
Final whistle, 0-0, get in! It’s a great result coming as it does, on top of the United win. Four points from two away games at Arsenal and United. Snap. Hand. Off. Throughout the second half there was that horrible growing feeling that it was going to be like last year here and we’d concede late and go home with nothing and we certainly lived dangerously at times. It’s not lucky though as we have Fraser Forster. The Wall is fucking back. Four games after missing the best part of a year and he’s still to concede a goal. It’s been said that he didn’t really have to work too hard for the other clean sheets but it was obvious that just his presence is huge. It’s not that Maarten Stekelenburg is a bad keeper, it’s just that he’s not as good as Fraser but then, not many are. The big man has it all and aside from the saves today, his command of the penalty area was massive as well and much better than how I remember it pre-injury. Of the saves though the one from Bug Eyes Ozil in the first half and Walcott in the second stand out. The Ozil one in particular because it was right in front of me, his eyes were offside and the massed ranks of Gooners to my left were celebrating already… well stood up in full Meerkat pose anyway.
The Arsenal fans are a funny lot. They sit there as if in a silent prayer meeting for the majority of the game and then do Meerkat impressions if something vaguely exciting happens for them. That moment though will be completely random – winning a throw-in on the half way line etc. Mind you, paying what they do I guess they can do what they want.
All the headlines will be about Fraser and rightly so but there were other heroes as well including all of the defence and in front of them, Big Vic and Romeu were immense. Romeu was both brilliant and hilarious at the same time. He’d pile into tackles, win the ball, flatten the Arsenal player, then fight his way away from three more players before passing it five yards straight back to Arsenal.
The only disappointment is that we had chances and situations that should have resulted in clear shots on goal but we butchered them. The reluctance to shoot from the edge of the box was back again with Big Vic, JWP, Mané and Tadic all being guilty of not pulling the trigger at times. When we did shoot it invariably ended up as a back pass to Cech which he just picked up. Arsenal’s defence was there for the taking with Gabriel and Koscielny making it seem that Merteasckofshit was still out there.
There was a lot of Arsenal moaning about timewasting which was pretty groundless to be honest and how dare José get his head stitched up and a bandage put on it. Wenger was apparently at his moaning best after the game and it sounds like Ronald might have pointed out that he’s always moaning and it all got a bit feisty. I have a feeling that the ‘first three goals should have been disallowed’ shit from the St Mary’s game got right under Ronald’s skin. Wenger blamed the ref for the first three goals at SMS and he’s blaming the ref again today. He’s not blaming the fact that he had £200 million to spend in the last two transfer windows and he’s brought in one outfield player who is a lightweight squad player. I feel that most of the Arsenal players arm waving and moaning was down to the fact they weren’t winning and they were copying their manager and blaming the ref.
For what it’s worth, I thought Lee Mason refereed the game pretty well overall, especially in the first half. In the first 15 minutes of the second half he seemed to give us nothing but otherwise I thought he was fair. Last year in this fixture we had Andre Marriner and every time Big Vic went near Cazorla, Ramsey or particularly Sanchez, they hit the deck and got a free kick as the ref totally bought the dive or got ‘big club at home-itis’. For example, last year at The Emirates, Jack Cork was kicked out of the game and the next 6 weeks of the season by a Ramsey tackle and the ref didn’t even give a free kick. Wenger doesn’t mention this of course, just what goes against his side.
It really is a huge point for us. I heard an interview with Eddie Howe a couple of weeks ago when he said that you have to respect every point in the Premier League, so if you’re level with a few minutes to go, especially away from home, your first priority is ensuring you don’t lose. He’s dead right. A goal for them at any time in the second half and there looked no way that we would score. Mané has no confidence, Long was working too far away from the danger zone and everyone else seemed frightened to shoot. There was Juanmi of course... why bother. He’s fucking useless.
Ten points out of the last twelve and up to 7th in the league, above Liverpool on goal difference, nice! Next up is a chance to consolidate that against the team immediately above us and five points ahead, West Ham. Five clean sheets in a row anyone? Don’t bet against The Wall.