Well the results certainly did go our way didn’t they? At 2:30 any lingering concerns that Everton might catch us were extinguished after they lost to Portsmouth. Then, with our sights now set on third place, our new best new friends from N17 who, not content with doing us the huge favour by beating Villa last week, go and beat the Chelsea.
Greedily my mind raced from third place to first as I suddenly wondered if United kept dropping points at the rate they were doing could we still to win the league? I spent the next twenty minutes studying the table, something I haven’t done since we last had a chance of winning the league about two months ago. Unfortunately, I came to the conclusion that it was still beyond us.
Anyway, while I am doing this, I notice Newcastle are in the relegation zone and wondered what it must be like to be in a relegation battle.
Occasionally, there is a team at the foot of the table that I find myself having a modicum of sympathy for in their fight for survival. A Team, more often than not, that was recently promoted. West Bromwich Albion for example, yes, I suppose I wouldn’t mind if they stayed up.
My sympathy for their plight continues so long as they do the right thing and dutifully hands over all three points twice a year without too much of a fight. I am not best pleased if they only hand over one point instead of the required three and all sense of benevolence goes completely out the window if, for some silly reason, they do not volunteer any of our expected entitlement on the allotted match day.
Newcastle, on the other hand, have never been one of those teams that I have felt any sympathy for whatsoever; they are badly run, badly managed, badly motivated and I simply wanted Arsenal to put them to the sword.
We started the game well in a confident, business like manner. The gulf of class between the two sides was immediately evident and we should have marched all over them from the out set and yet; somehow, as we have done so many times this season, we contrived to make hard work of it.
The game was exciting end to end stuff but the fact that Newcastle were able to pour through our defensive midfield as if it wasn’t there, with only some last ditch defending notably from Clichy to save us, was of great concern to me. I point the finger of blame, yet again, at Denilson who offered no defensive shield whatsoever.
It was obvious that Newcastle were going to come onto us and I still think that Song would have been a better choice. Anyway, Diaby as per usual was giving the ball away as often as Santa gives gifts at Christmas and on the subject of presents, Almunia, making a pig’s ear of a cross, gifted Newcastle a penalty while at the same time gifting his critics a stick to beat him with.
But today was our day and everything went our way. Did you get the impression that Almunia had been practicing his penalties recently? I did, as he saved Martins spot kick well and instantly gave his supporters something to cheer about.
Newcastle decided that as Arshavin had played in the Premier league for long enough and it was now it was time for his baptism. First they worked out where he had his stitches and tried to stamp on them, I winced in pain from my front room; next, as Arshavin was chasing the ball down the wing, Taylor having looked up to make sure Arshavin was within reach, punched him with his forearm in the face. It was a red card offence if ever I saw one and yet Taylor didn’t even get a yellow.
The second half started with more urgency but not a lot more penetration. One thought kept on going through my mind: this is the last game without Fabregas; this is the last game without Fabregas; this is the last game without Fabregas, our captain will return to lead us out against Man City.
Newcastle continued their rugby tackles and brought down Clichy about 30 yards out; Arshavin sent in the perfect cross for Bendtner to head home, it was not an easy header and he took it extremely well.
Before I could even finish my sigh of relief Newcastle equalised but as I said earlier, results were going our way. It helped that they lost their two central defenders not that I have any sympathy for them but can you imagine loosing Gallas and Toure in the same game? While Taylor was off receiving treatment Diaby turned into Vieira for a moment and after the deftest of passes from Van Persie he strode through to score the all important second goal. Five minutes later Van Persie threaded the ball to Nasri who weaved his way through the defence to score a fine goal, low into the corner. The game as a competition was all but over; it was show boating and missing sitters time.
Almunia: hero, villain, hero all in five minutes; in his defence, no keeper goes through the whole season without making a mistake. 6
Sagna: his level of defending is always high but today it was a bit higher than usual; and what’s more, his crosses were slightly better. 7.5
Gallas: a few blunders today, completely guilty for their goal. 5.5
Toure: the central defence was not at its best. 6
Clichy: back to the absolute top of his game, never stopped running, brilliant. 8
Nasri: a common complaint is that he does not travel, well he did today, he was my man of the match; he worked tirelessly, showing Diaby and Denilson how it should be done. 8
Denilson: neither protected the defence nor linked the attack. 5
Diaby: often slow to release the ball but I am sure you like me forgave him everything after scoring that goal. 6.5
Arshavin: a quiet game but still showed some great flashes of brilliance by scrapping the bar with a rasping shot form 30 yards out and sent in the beautifully weighted ball for Bendtner to score. 6
RVP: two brilliant assists and three missed one on one chances with the keeper. The Boy Wonder can do no wrong with this gooner 7.5
Bendtner: held the line well, slow to release the ball, good goal. Adebayor still offers more at this point for me. 6.5