By Tony Attwood
I have had the good fortune to go to Cup Finals Arsenal have won, and indeed to watch games in which Arsenal won the league, and of course each was a great joyous and memorable occasion. But really that game last night was up there with those matches for the intensity of the crowd from at the end.
And that with a stadium that was not full – there were probably more empty seats at Arsenal stadium last night than for any league match I’ve been to since the stadium opened. (Of course my memory might be faulty, but there were a lot of no-shows).
Added to which a lot of season ticket holders around me had sold their tickets on. I’ve the good fortune to sit in the front row of the upper east and both to my left and right in maybe seven of the seats around me of the nearest ten were occupied by non-season ticket holders.
Nothing wrong with that of course, if people choose not to come out on another very cold night, that is up to them, but it just shows the change in the way Arsenal is perceived. Maybe 45,000 in the stadium, maybe 50,000, but not more I would guess. And yet the noise and the passion was utterly overwhelming. A bit like Highbury for the final match of the Unbeaten Season, when we were 1-0 down to relegated Leicester at halftime. (And then won).
Of course, the “temperature” was raised (figuratively, not literally, it was a bloody cold night) by the appalling, disgraceful tactics of Wolverhampton W, one of the worst teams for pushing, fouling, niggling, and underhand behaviour that I have seen in a long, long time. The way the referee let that pushing go was outrageous – and indeed his behaviour was unacceptable all the way through the game to the last when one of the Wolverhampton players simply refused to leave the pitch when he was substituted and the ref did nothing.
The argument it seems was that the wrong number was put up on the but his actions toward Arsenal players really need to be considered by the League – as indeed does the whole disgraceful Wolverhampton performance. How good it felt, therefore, when that final goal went in, off a Wolverhampton player. Serves them right. Noise and delight beyond belief.
Only Burnley and Norwich have scored fewer goals than this disgraceful team, and only two teams have conceded fewer, which at least means their little band of travelling fans have seen far fewer goals than the followers of any other club, and maybe that deserves them right. If this club were to get into Europe they would shame the whole of English football.
Never before have I seen a player utterly refuse to leave the pitch, just to let time drift by to hold on to a 1-1 draw. Never before have I heard such noise in the stadium, and then continuing after the final whistle and as we walked away from the stadium.
What it did do however was bring the Arsenal team and Arsenal fans much closer together than we have been for years. We felt part of the same movement, part of the same drive to get this club back on track. They appreciated us, you could see, just as we appreciated what they had done to turn this club around.
And if ever there was a moment when it felt that the whole Arteta project was creating its final polished work; the move from being the most carded to the least carded team, the use of the youngsters who are now such an integral part of the club, the rejection of the hysteria around Xhaka, the refusal to be held up to ransom by Aubameyang who felt who could do what he pleased… all of that swept aside in one amazing night.
Plus even the return of Nicolas Pepe to the team, and yes some really smart moves by him – plus a goal and an assist. Who would have thought it?
And we even had the news that PGMO, that rabid bunch of no-gooders, have accepted Arsenal’s request to meet with them to discuss the red card shown to Gabriel Martinelli in the earlier match between these two clubs.
Plus the league table looks rather smart this morning
|6||West Ham United||26||12||6||8||45||34||11||42|
Sorry about that defeat to Burnley, Tottenham. Do try to keep up. No on second thoughts, don’t bother.
Fifth is no more a trophy than fourth, but just look, one point behind Manchester Untidy and two games in hand. Up next is Watford away and Leicester at home for us.
Tottenham have Watford at home and then a little game against Manchester City away.
Where are those people who sneered at Wenger with that “fourth is not a trophy” jibe? I just hope a few of them were at the game last night to see what real support is all about.