Let me tell you a story. A story about an Arsenal team who can’t defend, can attack and have a Dutch striker who is the most beautiful man I have ever seen!
A story about a Gunners side who travelled to Stamford Bridge in hope and left with five goals, three glorious points and the knowledge that they made John Terry look like a total tool…
A football story. A wonderful football story.
Having not won away from home in the Premier League in eight games, a run stretching back to a 3-1 win at Blackpool at the tail end of last season, today’s game against Chelsea didn’t fill many Arsenal fans with hope.
That we started so shakily seemed to suggest that the eleven men who started in the red and white felt the same. Indeed, inside the first five minutes both Ashley Cole and Daniel Sturridge got behind Djourou and Santos on the flanks with Andre Villas-Boas obviously telling his side to target us in wide areas.
We were certainly on the back foot from the outset, so it came as a surprise when great work in defence by Ramsey saw Walcott set free. His first touch lofted the ball behind Ashley Cole and he then killed him for pace. The ball across the box was laid on a plate for Gervinho who somehow screwed the ball wide. Inside a minute and Walcott again put in a great cross, this time Van Persie hit the ball over the box. Two guilt edge chances spurned and the type you can’t afford to miss.
Of course, two minutes later and we were punished. Andre Santos was beaten far too easily by Juan Mata who whipped a ball into the box. Per Mertesacker slipped at the near post and Lampard headed past a stranded Szczesny.
The game was incredibly stretched. Time after time players from both sides had great success finding space down the flanks, only the final ball and bad control preventing an increase in the scoreline. Andre Santos in particular appeared to be struggling with the pace of the game, optimistically holding his hand up for offside having watched the likes of Bosingwa and Sturridge skip past him.
Just before the half hour matk another ball over the defence saw the dangerous Sturridge skip between Santos and Koscielny. Bearing down on goal with only Szczesny to beat, he sliced his shot and watched it bobble past the post. It was a real let off for Arsene Wenger’s side who for all their attacking guile, looked far too open at the back.
Working hard to get back into the game, the midfield kept possession of the ball for a good few minutes before patiently putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together. Having looked tidy all game Aaron Ramsey found time on the edge of the Chelsea box and threaded a delightfully weighted ball through to Gervinho who had escaped John Terry. The Ivorian this time kept his head in front of Petr Cech, laid the ball sideways to Van Persie and the Dutchman couldn’t miss. From six yards out he made it 1-1.
As is always the case with this Arsenal side, you expect them to concede almost immediately after scoring. Targeting Santos, Chelsea again managed to whip a ball across the box which resulted in the ball flying into the back of the net. Only the linesman’s flag came to the rescue. Offside. No goal.
Van Persie had a free-kick which he curled just over the bar, but just when you wanted Arsenal to hold tight before half-time, the defence proved that they have the concentration of a six-year-old who’d been fed noting but Red Bull for 24 hours. A corner from Lampard sailed over the everybody and landed at John Terry’s right foot. He bundled the ball home having been allowed plenty of space from Per Mertesacker – an abject bit of ‘defending’ from the German. That was the sixth goal conceded from a set piece in the Premier League this season and saw Arsenal head into the break losing 2-1 despite a decent attacking showing.
We raced out of the traps in the second half, both Van Persie and Ramsey having decent chances before brilliant work from Song released Santos and the Brazilian calmly slotted home to make things level again. What a start to the second half! Anybody who follows me on Twitter will have seen I predicted him to score as well. *pats self on back*
Score a goal…well obviously we should try and concede.
Charging out of his box Szczesny tripped Ashley Cole. It looked almost certain that the ref was going to send him off, but after some consideration out came a yellow card instead . From the resulting free-kick, the Pole was forced into a great save from Lampard.
Everybody knows about the Cruyff turn and the Ronaldo step-over, but in years to come Arsenal fans will talk about the Walcott fall over…in a good way. On 55 minutes our flying winger invented his very own ‘skill’.
Playing a quick free-kick to van Persie he received the ball back charged at the Chelsea defence, fell over, watched the ball run the other side of the defenders, got up, ran some more, found himself one-on-one with Cech and smashed the ball home inside the near post. Crazy stuff and a just reward from a player who put in a good shift. 3-2!
My Dad proceeded to text: “Fantastic!” Seconds later, my mum added “I feel sick!”…I think those messages summed up the mood on the hour mark pretty well.
Having a barnstorming game Ramsey did brilliantly to set himself up in the box then Gervinho nearly reached a through ball. After that the game turned scrappy. A spate of substitutions saw Lukaku and Meireles replace Mikel and Ramires while Carl Jenkinson and Tomas Rosicky come on for Djourou and Walcott.
Going into the last twelve minutes it was all about whether Arsenal could hold onto a lead. They couldn’t. Andre Santos, who had shown a marked improvement, slipped and the ball fell to Mata. Our summer transfer target then did the damage with a superb dipping effort which beat Szczesny. 3-3. How many times do they score wonder goals against us at that end?
I honestly thought we were going to capitulate at that moment. But the next big mistake instead came from Chelsea. He may have thought his week was improving after scoring in the first half, but John Terry instead again found himself the fall guy . Slipping after a ball was passed back to him, he could only watch on his arse as Van persie waltzed past Cech and slotted him to make it 4-3 with six minutes to go.
Four minutes of injury-time. Chelsea attacking. Please hold on, please hold on, please hold. Break…break…break. Give it to Van PersiEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES.
5-3! Game over. A glorious, glorious, glorious result.
Starting XI: Szczesny, Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Andre Santos, Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott, Gervinho, Van Persie
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Frimpong, Rosicky, Arshavin, Park.
CARLING CUP DRAW: For those who missed it earlier. Arsenal drew Manchester City in the next round of the Carling Cup. Match will be played at the Emirates in the week commencing 28th November.