What a fantastic day at the Emirates. The sun was shining, the football was top notch (well, Arsenal’s was) and a very pleasant day was had by the vast majority of supporters in the stadium.
Having joined a London bound train from my local station, I found myself surrounded by ‘Appy ‘Ammers. For 24 minutes I was subjected to Slaven Bilic’s claret and blue army and graphic details of how they would have sexual intercourse with Arsenal next week. Or something along those lines beginning with an F.
Finally the train rolled into London Bridge and I was able to escape into the underground. I made my way to Kings Cross only occasionally spotting red and white. Once I joined the Piccadilly line, I came across a sea of red and white. Conscious of my role as on-the-scene match reporter I decided to listen to some of the conversations around me to ascertain the mood around me. My language skills are not the best, but I am fairly certain I came across Spanish, Italian, Arabic and three ladies on a shopping exhibition ahead of their forthcoming hen night. I arrived at Arsenal station none the wiser, other than knowing that the bride to be was in for a pretty rough ride in Newcastle next month. 😀
I made my way to the ground, stopping to pay tribute to Tony Adams’ statue and awaited the arrival of my friend who had the tickets. To amuse myself I decided to count the names on the back of Arsenal shirts. Alexis was the clear winner, although interestingly the first one I noticed was a Kallstrom (something akin to Leicester winning the prem in betting circles a year ago). Two Bergkamps were spotted, although one of the lads was getting extra attention from the security forces who were frisking everyone on entry to the ground.
My friend has two club level tickets which apparently retail at £2900 each per season. For this princely sum, you get a free programme, free refreshments at half time, and, I suspect, a slightly larger seat. The tickets are behind the goal at the end of the ground where Arsenal always attack in the second half. I have noticed before that there is a very noisy section by the left corner flag at the same end. I hadn’t noticed before, but the fans in this area do not sit down during the entire match.
At 2.50 the ground was a little over half full, then suddenly it fills up very quickly, although there were quite a few empty seats.
Arsenal lined up pretty much as many of us had anticipated, Ospina given the nod over Cech, which gave us the pleasure of the Ooooooospina shout, as reported by the guys at Goodison last week. Watford were very noisy, but Arsenal fans were in good voice and chants of ‘We’re the North Bank Highbury’ and ‘Come on you Reds’ were noisily chanted around the ground. Thanks to the education from our exalted leader, Total Arsenal, I was also able to recognise the Ozil song in the second half.
Arsenal started well and looked particularly strong down the right side, where Alexis and Bellerin have developed an understanding which embarrassed the Watford defence on a number of occasions. I remarked to my friend that some of the Arsenal players were extracting the urine out of some of the Watford players with some of the fancy football that was being played. Bellerin made an almost Cruyffesque turn leaving two Hornets looking a little silly. The Watford right back decided to gain revenge by taking a kick at Ozil and was duly booked to chants of ‘Who the (back to the intercourse theme). Hell Are You?’
Coquelin and Elneny have developed a good understanding and really compliment each other. If one got into trouble, the other was always available to cover. The centre backs were looking very solid and Gabriel made a number of decent tackles, although the guy sitting behind me was convinced that Koscielny was Gabriel and vice versa.
Arsenal took the lead early when a cross from the left (Iwobi, I think) was met by a great header from our pocket battleship, Alexis. Gomes managed to save the header, but Alexis followed up and smashed the ball home, although Gomes did once again get a hand to it.
Following good work from Alexis, Iwobi slid home the second, and the crowd were duly appreciative of the youngster’s efforts. Prior to scoring, Iwobi had on two or three occasions found himself helping out in defence. His passing out of defence was truly diabolical and I suggest he remains upfield in the future.
One of Arsenal’s big problems this season has been our inability to finish a team off when we have taken the lead. We have either let a sloppy goal in or managed to get someone sent off. But not today; we were on cruise control. Then, with about 6 or 7 minutes remaining in the half, a strange phenomenon occurs in club level. The vast majority of fans run off for their half time beer. (Maybe they can squeeze in two or three.) Given the expense of these tickets, I find this very strange. Even stranger is that a large number of fans do not return until 5 or 10 minutes into the second half. This causes a certain amount of angst for the fans who are already seated and have their view ruined by droves of late returning fans shuffling across in front of them.
The second half started well and following more excellent work down the right, Bellerin was rewarded when his left foot volley was deflected past Gomes. The fans were very hopeful that we would do further damage to Spurs hugely superior goal difference, but, despite some great football, it wasn’t until the last minute when Theo slid home following a great ball by Ozil and excellent work by Campbell.
In summary, an excellent performance. Everyone played very well. It’s hard to pick a man of the match, but I would have to put Alexis up there, closely followed by Coquelin, Elneny and Bellerin.
A pleasant journey home with a bunch of Palace supporters completed the day. No doubt the ‘Appy ‘Ammers were not quite as happy as they were at the beginning of the day.
So, onwards to Upton Park, for a game which will have a huge bearing on the end of the season outcome. In the meantime, come on you Saints.