By Tony Attwood
Living almost 100 miles from the Ems, I don’t get back home after mid-week games until after midnight, at which time I fall into bed, and just hope to wake up in time to get to work the next day. (Us oldies are not so good in the small hours).
So I have not seen what TV did to the match last night, but for me it was a very particular occasion.
It wasn’t the atmosphere in the ground – that wasn’t particularly good (although I did at last manage to hear the “We’re the clock end Highbury” chant from where I sit in the north bank), but it was the events within the game, and then one response from the crowd, that made this so special.
For a start there was no time-wasting, no faked injuries, and nothing remotely like the normal level of kicking, arguing, pushing, elbowing, pinching, punching and every other -ing you get to see when we play Blackburn, Bolton, Birmingham and the rest.
The opposition were not insipid, and there were a fair number of free kicks, but what we did not have was rotational fouling. Goal kicks were taken quickly, the keeper did not pause for a drink each time, and overall I got the impressioin that Shakhtar wanted to make a game of it. No ,matter what.
So too did their bunch of fans on the opposite side of the ground from me. They were jumping and singing throughout, despite the obvious fact from early on that they were not going to get anything out of it. And they never stopped.
And then late in the second half there was the defining moment. It wasn’t that some people applauded Eduardo’s goal. It was that the entire stadium stood, the applause spread round the ground, and it kept going.
And when after what seemed an age it finally stopped the Eduardo song (“Hi ho Eduardo Silva”) started up, with as much vigour and force as it ever did when he was playing for us.
It was a moment that made me proud to have spent my life as an Arsenal supporter.
There were of course other issues. The Wilshere-Cesc combo was something else – and not just in the way they operate close together. It is in the way they operate when far apart – which possibly is not always seen on TV.
Cesc, as you will probably have seen, was playing as a forward, leaving Wilshere and Song behind. (Actually Song was playing as a forward some of the time, but I think he was getting a bit light-headed having scored).
So sometimes we had Cesc and Jack close, sometimes far apart. But since each has the ability to pick out staggering passes, it was wonderful to behold where ever they were – because when far apart they can still find each other, or anyone else. Each has wonderful positional sense, so even when not receiving the ball each is dragging the opposition defence all over the place. It is quite something.
As the game ended I ruminated (as one does) on the fact that Jack now has a three match ban, and what a problem that is for us – or maybe not. Cesc needs to re-establish himself as the central cog in the whole machine, and maybe playing games without Jack might just help a bit to ensure that his standard game returns.
I also fully admit that I never saw this coming. I had seen Jack in the reserves, and noted the quality, but not imagined he could be this good – and certainly not this quickly. But by the end of this season he will be worth what? £30 million? More? If Cesc does choose to stay beyond the end of this season, or if Mr Wenger chooses to say “No!” once again to the mindless morons of Lower Barca, we will have ended up with midfield double act that surpasses Vieira and Petit. Not in any way the same as those two legends, but better in terms of ultimate effectiveness.
So there we were, with a forward line of Chamakh, Cesc and Nasri – I wouldn’t have predicted that either, but it certainly worked, and with one or two of the long term dead coming back to life. There is a possibility here, I believe.
But mostly I will remember Eduardo, and the crowd. Maybe a returning hero has had such a reception elsewhere before, but if so, I wasn’t there. It was a privilege and an honour to be there last night.
- Give the most unusual Arsenal Xmas present of all time. Making the Arsenal: available from Amazon.co.uk but for a signed copy dedicated to whoever you want just order from the publishers (follow the link) and add details of the dedication wanted to your order.
- Arsenal History: including newly discovered revelations about Herbert Chapman and a review of the very last game at Plumstead
- Untold Arsenal on Facebook here
- Untold Arsenal Index: silly stuff, serious stuff, and stuff
- Arsenal Worldwide: supporting Arsenal from outside the UK
- Arsenal Independent Supporters Association