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By Walter Broeckx
Oh the joy of the internet. I don’t know what it is but for the first time in a long time I had to see the game on a very misty computer screen. So maybe sometimes I could be wrong when my imagination had to take over when I couldn’t see what really was going on.
I think Phil had the team selection spot on. After a few minutes in the game I got a feeling that something was wrong (apart from the hazy people running around). Our passing wasn’t up to the tempo we have seen the week before. And I had the impression that the pitch was very bumpy. Maybe it was just the weather conditions but it sure didn’t suit our game. Chances were rare but this was the same for both teams. Sunderland defended in numbers and tried to get us on the counter. Arsenal tried to pass their way to a goal chance but we didn’t create much. A first half to forget quickly.
In the second half Arsenal again tried to pass their way to the goal but on the other hand we had to be careful because Sunderland was very good at coming first at the loose ball. Szczesny had to make some vital saves in this game and showed he still is our number one. Nice to see him earn his money this time.
On to the pivotal moments in the game. The substitution of a rather quiet Oxlade-Chamberlain by Thierry Henry. Only this week the captain has said that Oxlade-Chamberlain will have such games. He worked hard, tried to do his best but it just didn’t happen completely for him. There is nothing wrong with this. As this will make him stronger in the future and it also shows how difficult it is to produce your best week in week out. He worked hard and this is the one thing you should do when on the field when things don’t go your way. Come to think of it: how much influence will the bumpy pitch have had on his performance?
Henry came on for what is going to be his last PL game for Arsenal. A prophecy entered my mind: Thierry would score a goal.
Per Mertesacker going through his ankle and Aston Villa scoring from this. I immediately feared the worst when the big German suddenly went to the floor. No way Sunderland would have scored from that situation with Sagna first intercepting the ball giving it to Per who jumped over the ball to play a simple pass to Szczesny. His injury opened the way to the Sunderland goal. A very unfortunate way to concede a goal. We should hope and pray that Per will not be too seriously injured and can come back very soon. Arsenal 1-0 down with some 20 minutes to go. There are better situations in front of you being the away team at Sunderland who has been the team with the best results in the last games of all the teams in the EPL!
The manager acted and put Song at centre back and brought Ramsey on in midfield. The much maligned young Welshman by some fans who have taken on him silenced them up with a low shot that went in after touching both goal posts with the keeper well beaten. Like I said in my Ramsey article: just support this Arsenal legend in the making and shut up about him when he has a lesser game. He is still very young and this happens to all the players. Thanks Aaron for this strike and for the goal that put us level.
I must say that from the moment we conceded that unlucky goal we seemed to open a new can of energy. And when we scored the equaliser it was only one team that was going for the win, The Arsenal. Sunderland on the counter, the Arsenal with the pressure and possession.
With just a few minutes to go Wenger brought on Arshavin. I don’t know if our away supporters booed him (I really hope they didn’t) like some of ours did when he was brought on against United last month. And after a few attempts Arshavin delivered a delightful cross and who better than the one and only Thierry Henry to find at the finish.
I must admit that I saw the ball ending up in the net after a blue dressed person putting it there. But by no means I did know who it was. Oh that misty internet connection. But then the image became clearer and they showed the one and only King Henry running towards the Gooners behind the Sunderland goal. Was it really Henry who had scored? Yes it was.
Sometimes you see a film about sports and then the ultimate here scores the winning points/goal at the end of the film and they lived happily after that. I mostly then start shrugging my shoulders and think: yeah, whatever, how predictable. But this was for real. I saw it happening (be it in a misty way) with my own eyes.
This was a fairytale ending. This was better than the best thought over script. He scored the winning goal in his first game against Leeds. He scored the last goal in what looks to be his last appearing at the Emirates. And then he scored the winning goal in his last minutes in the EPL. Come on, would you have believed this to happen at the start of January? One could have dreamed about it, but this was just beyond everything one could have dreamed.
I must admit that the images on my screen became even more misty after that. But the mist was in my eyes this time. Football and Arsenal bring me (and I guess this goes for most of us) high and low emotions. This was so beautiful for me I felt tears in my eyes. I didn’t cry, because men don’t cry, but this was a close that I can get to crying without actually crying.
I have witnessed a moment in the Arsenal history that probably will stay with us who have seen it forever. And even just thinking of it fills me with such a deep joy that one can only get from the Arsenal. One more game to go for Thierry Henry. Well why don’t we make the dream even prettier? Could it happen? Never say never, that is something we should have learned all these years with Thierry Henry. I really think he will fall asleep this night with a very, very, very big smile on his face. So will I, Thierry, so will I.