February 12, 2012
So we’re back in the top four thanks to Chelsea dropping more points, Liverpool losing to Man U and Spurs inadvertently doing us a favour by smashing Newcastle to pieces (although frankly I could have done without the last one). Oh yeah. And of course an unlikely comeback from one nil down against Sunderland to seal the points in injury time.
I really didn’t see that coming. On a pitch that looked like it was also being used to grow potatoes as a side business we struggled for the most part to break down a Sunderland team who seemed aware that if they defended stoutly we didn’t have the creativity in midfield to break them down.
And if they could get some sort of lucky break up the other end then maybe they could nick a goal.
Well, if it’s a lucky break you need you can always count on Arsenal to come up with something truly calamitous. And so it proved in the 70th minutes as Per Mertesacker, tidying up a routine ball appeared to step on a loose spud, twisted his ankle and hit the ground in agony. James McLean didn’t need a second invitation, rushing onto the loose ball, into the box and firing past Szczesny as Per lay writhing on the ground.
It seems the boy McLean’s taken a fair bit of stick for supposed unfair play but frankly I don’t think we can have too many complaints. Yeah, it’s easy to say that considering how the match finished but really, can you honestly say that if Theo was put in the same position you’d expect him to put the ball into Row Z and check that the player was okay? No! You’d expect him to stick the ball in the back of the net first and then check. Okay, on current form you would expect him to put it into Row Z but only as a result of trying to stick it in the back of the net. But you take my point.
Players slip all the time. Whether he was injured or not is frankly irrelevant. He’s not going to be any less injured if the striker puts the ball out of play. McLean’s absolutely entitled to go and score that goal and if he doesn’t then he’s not doing his job properly.
Fortunately it didn’t matter.
Ramsey was brought on for Mertesacker and Song took over at centre back in a desperate attempt to get some juices flowing in that tired looking central midfield. It worked. Ramsey has taken a lot of unfair stick for his performances of late but he is a class act and will go on to prove that many times in an Arsenal shirt. If you’re facing a side that’s happy to give you possession and pack the penalty area then you need a player in your team who can shoot from distance. Ramsey is such a player. It was a great strike, clipping the inside of the near post then rolling tantalisingly along the goal line before hitting the inside of the far post and creeping over the line.
It’s been pointed out elsewhere that everytime Ramsey scores someone prominent dies. Against Man Utd it was Bin Laden, against Spurs it was Steve Jobs, Gadaffi died after his goal against Marseille and now we wake to the news about Whitney Houston. Arsene Wenger said in his pre match briefing that when Ramsey starts scoring again it’s his belief that he just won’t stop. I tend to agree. I think he’ll score a lot of goals for us from that midfield position. World leaders and pop stars should be crapping themselves.
The job was not yet done though and it was left to Andrei Arshavin in injury time to provide the sort of moment that we know he can and yet he so often hasn’t. He jinked down the left wing and sent in an absolute beauty of a cross to find Thierry Henry. The legend couldn’t miss from there.
Henry has taken the headlines as you’d expect. He’s played in four games since his return, winning two of them and scoring three goals. It’s a sensational return and only begs the question of why we’re having to hand a player of that quality over to the New York Red Bulls. Henry kept Chamakh and Park off the bench yesterday and we saw why. Even at 34 he’s a much more dangerous prospect than either of them. He’s scored more goals this season than both of them put together. Couldn’t we have just, I don’t know, crazy suggestion, signed him permanently?
While Henry deservedly milked the fans’ applause for all it was worth, the far more significant moment for our season going forward was the cross from Arshavin. Our lack of creativity up front was a big concern again yesterday. With no Cesc and no Wilshere we’ve been severely lacking in spark this season. And yet here we have a player with the ability to unlock any defence in the world. And if he could just somehow rediscover his form and passion for the game then he could be a huge asset in our push for fourth place. Let’s just hope yesterday was a reawakening of sorts.
The only real cloud from yesterday was the sight of Per Mertesacker being stretchered off the pitch. It looks like damage to his ankle ligaments and it doesn’t look good. He’s off for a scan today but revealed on Twitter that he fears he may miss the rest of the season. Terrible news if it is true. Let’s just pray it’s not as bad as it looks.
Post match talk was all about Henry. AW said:
He finished the story of the legend today in the championship; I hope he will add some in the Champions League on Wednesday now. Certainly he got us the three points in a difficult game where Sunderland were resilient, well organised and tried to catch us on the break every time.
When asked about the possibility of coming back for a third spell the man himself was open to the idea:
If Arsenal need some help one day I will be around.
Oh God I love him so much. He’s like Batman. I wonder if he’s left us a Bat Signal we can shine in the night sky when we need him? Like a silhouette of him on bended knees in front of the Spurs fans. Because that’s great news. I think we should use it now. I’ll get on the phone to the Red Bulls and tell them he’s not coming back. Or we’ll invest in some animatronics and send them the statue instead.
We can even throw Tony Adams in as part of the deal.