At half-time yesterday Arsenal left the pitch to a chorus of boos. 2-0 down against Aston Villa, it looked as if we were heading for a fourth January defeat. We hadn’t played particularly badly, to be fair, but got caught out twice in ways we really shouldn’t have.
The first goal especially was rank amateur defending. We saw this happen earlier in the season, a short corner was taken and only one of our players reacted. Aaron Ramsey was left two on one and when Mallet-headed Rodeo Drive dwelling Liverpool failure of an ex-Sp*rs cunny lobbed in a cross, Richard Dunne rose above Koscielny to plant the header home.
It happened pretty much against the run of play but then that’s hardly unfamiliar territory for us. In first half injury time Villa broke, Bent shot, Fabianski parried, Bent squeezed home the rebound and it was 2-0. Not long afterwards the half-time whistle went, cries of ‘booo’ or ‘boo-urns’ went up and it all looked a little bit difficult. Could we respond? Did we have the gumption? More importantly, did we have the ability?
Clearly something was said in the Arsenal dressing room during that break. I’m sure Arsene Wenger had something to say but I’d like to think some of the senior players like van Persie and Vermaelen did too. If some home truths needed saying then I hope they were said. Whatever happened, it worked. Arsenal came out and immediately looked more dangerous. The possession was much the same as the first half but there was end product. We faffed about less and made things happen.
Mertesacker had a header cleared off the line from a corner, Theo Walcott was put through by a great Ramsey back-heel but stayed on his feet under a challenge which could have brought about a penalty. Ramsey himself had a shot from inside the box which he should have done better with and which made Thierry Henry fall over in dismay as he was warming up, and Thomas Vermaelen cracked one from distance which went not far wide. It was altogether much more positive.
And then came a seven minute spell which won the game for Arsenal. Richard Dunne, already on a yellow card for scything through the back of Rosicky in the first half, scythed through the side of Aaron Ramsey as he headed towards goal. Amazingly the referee gave a penalty. To Arsenal. I know! Quite how Dunne escaped without a 2nd yellow is anybody’s guess but no matter. Robin van Persie stepped up, placed the penalty to Given’s right and Arsenal were back in it.
Just two minutes later and we were level. When Theo Walcott scored against Chelsea, the comedy stylings of the goal were overlooked by the cracking finish. This time, he scuttered his way into the box, right along the byline and tried to flick it past Given at the near post. It was blocked, the ball bounced about, a Villa player tried to clear it but instead it whacked off Theo’s shoulder and went in. It would be fair to say that it was a jammy fluke of a lucky bit of fortuitous serendipity but hey, who’s complaining? Sometimes you need a bit of luck and it’d also be fair to say that we haven’t had much in recent weeks.
Just five minutes after that it was 3-2. Laurent Koscielny’s fantastic driving run from the back saw him upended in the box by Darren Bent. Robin took the penalty, went the other way this time and we were ahead. Three goals in seven minutes, two penalties in seven minutes having been denied about 5 in our last 6 games, it was nice to see things go our way.
The rest of the game played out without too much incident. A couple of vaguely scary moments at each end but nothing further in the goals department. We saw the long-awaited return of Bacary Sagna which was fantastic and it’ll build a little bit of confidence and belief ahead of the trip to Bolton on Wednesday. Afterwards Arsene spoke of the second half comeback:
I was very impressed because I felt that when you come out of a bad period like we are, and you are 2-0 down, you can feel sorry for yourself or you can show you have the mental qualities to play for this club. I was very proud that the team came out and showed they are not ready to lie down.
And look, while the first half might have been something of a showcase of our brittleness, it was only the first half. We know all too well that games are played and decided over 90 minutes. If there have been justified criticisms of the team over the last few weeks then it’s only fair to give them credit for the response they showed yesterday. Obviously there’s still a long way to go and they still have much to prove, but anyone who didn’t enjoy that second half yesterday ought to think of a better way to spend their free time.
One swallow does not a summer make and all that but we were 2-0 down and we came back to win. Leaving aside everything else that’s a fun thing to be on the right end of. It might well be too soon to talk of turning points in seasons, the next few games will tell us that, but sometimes you need something like a crazy seven minutes to get things going again. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s the thing that sparks us back into life, or if it was just a mad game, but fingers crossed it’s the former. We go into the 5th round (Boro or Sunderland away) and that’s exactly where we wanted to be this morning.
In other news, Alex McLeish is calling for Robin van Persie to be investigated for an alleged elbow on Carlos Cuellar. You might suggest that’s a bit rich when you consider Richard Dunne managed to get away with an awful challenge on Rosicky and then escape a 2nd yellow when flooring Ramsey for the penalty. Again this is one of those agendas driven by the media and a manager who wants to deflect attention away from the fact his team threw away a two goal lead.
We saw a fantastic game of football yesterday and that the papers this morning are focusing on this issue tells you so much about how the media operates. Sensationalism rules and it’s sad that a comeback from 2-0 down isn’t sensational enough for them. To me it looked fairly innoccuous, and if van Persie is punished after Commander Worf got away with this last week then I think we can feel very hard done by indeed. Also, it ought not to be overlooked that McLeish looks like a withered, sunburnt testicle.
Meanwhile, the boss has spoken about the futures of both Ryo Miyaici and Abou Diaby. The former is likely to go out on loan for the rest of the season, which makes perfect sense, while the latter is due back at the end of February having spent time in a rehab facility (his ankle has a terrible addiction to being utterly fucked). It’d be a brave man who put any money on Diaby being back within that schedule but there you go.
And that’s your lot. How much nicer it is to start a week having won a game. It doesn’t mean everything in garden is rosy again but it’s certainly a bit brighter.
The book will be on sale around 3pm, there’ll be a blog post directing you to the new store through which you can buy it.