By Tony Attwood
I only have one shirt that carries an Arsenal player’s name. It is in the red of the original Woolwich team, and has a picture of Pires on the front and the “7” on the back. It is my lucky shirt.
I wear it rarely, for fear that wearing it too much will drain the luck out of it, and it will let me down. Besides I don’t believe in luck, just the randomness of the universe, and the fact that hard work and application usually gets you through.
But something made me wear it yesterday. And we didn’t get any luck. Instead we were sensational.
What made Santi be so incredible? Ozil waiting in the wings, probably. Santi was staggering, brilliant, amazing, awesome, incredible – and that was just as a defender.
As for the afternoon itself, it started badly for the BBC – and for me. I was late getting back from visiting three of my grandchildren and heard the build up and first few minutes on BBC Radio 5 while driving home. And what a mess it was. They made the point that as southern softies all of our players had long sleeves on whereas only five of the Man C team had long sleeves. Arsenal had lost before they started, they said. It showed we were not up for it. It really told you everything you needed to know.
Except of course the twirps had failed to do any research. Chapman introduced the notion of unity in style and dress, and after his sudden death the managers who followed (Shaw, Allison, Whittaker – all men who had worked under Chapman and worshipped his style and approach) did the decent thing and carried on the tradition. No one has changed it since. Allison actually worked for the BBC for years as a commentator and was the voice of football for years. You’d think they might have kept a note.
80 years of tradition and the hopeless BBC commentary team hadn’t noticed. I can understand some trivial turnip not bothering to do any research, but someone should have been on top of it.
Of course they did correct themselves later, but it was hopeless of them not to know and yet go ploughing in with the sniggering and laughing at Arsenal.
As for the match, beyond Santi I thought Francis Coquelin was superb. We have had him for years and years, he has come up through the academy and indeed Untold was talking about him from the moment he first turned up in the Austrian training camp we used to have before the club insisted on us touring. He joined us in 2008, has now played some 25 or so league games, and is ready. Another Wenger triumph.
I would also say a word for Monreal and Bellerin. Everyone will talk about Santi Cazorla and Giroud, but those two really did secure the back. Neither is first choice, but yesterday you would not have known it.
Of course there was criticism of our possession. 35% compared with 48% last year. But when we get 60% possession and lose we are criticised. We are always criticised. It comes with the territory. The only comment I was really interested in was Thierry’s and he made the point repeatedly that we played as a team. Fair enough.
But that was the best bit of Sky. After we went 1-0 up their commentary was all about Arsenal’s embarrassing defeats and how listening to Arsene Wenger had become “tiresome.” However by the end even they had to recognise a classy performance when it smacked them in the face. Shame they didn’t apologise about some of their earlier comments.
Better in terms of Sky yesterday was the fact that they did give a passing mention to Manchester C, FFP, the transfer of Bony and Lampard. They missed out the bit about the Lampard contract not being within Premier League rules, but still, it was better than nothing. And the next round of FFP enquiries looks like being fun.
And Sky also gave us the news that at their publicly financed stadium Manchester C differentiate between the seats for the subs. Their seats are heated, and there are even heaters for the players’ feet, so they hit the ground all warmed up. Such facilities don’t exist for the away team.
I’m sure there are no regs on this, but even so. The next thing you know is away teams will go back to sitting on actual benches.
However, beyond the team, the heroes of yesterday were our away support. I don’t do very many away matches now, what with each home match being an away in terms of the journey, although I used to do many more. Our away support has always been great – and yesterday on Sky that is what you heard much of the time, until someone on Sky’s tech team turned that microphone down.
So, what else from the mass of emotions yesterday?
Dean? I await Walter’s commentary, but to my non-ref eyes he looked ok. Maybe he read our referee preview and thought his normal tactics were just too dodgy after such a commentary! Unlikely but you never know.
Santi? What can I say? He was a superb defender, attacker, midfielder.
Ramsey? Rusty, I’d say. But we have the cup next week and he can get himself back together – and Ozil and Theo can have a game too.
As the game started we were told Manchester Accountants were a second half team, that Arsenal had never replaced Vieira and Gilberto Silva, and that the players who come from south America all say how wonderful it is England because the fans support you, rather than get on your back. How fortunate that the aaa don’t actually make it to matches.
However this was jolly, it was fun, and it was a huge relief. That piece we ran about the similarities between this season and the second double season, when we started after Xmas in much the same position as this year, might not be so fanciful after all. But even if they are (fanciful that is) this was a Sunday to savour.
Those aaa who insist that it is relevant only to comment on one match and then generalise outwards. Of course they are still wrong in that, but I love their silences on days like today.
Thank you Arsenal.