Arsenal annoyed by Ruud joke

Last updated : 24 September 2003 By Jason Hogan

Paddy marches again
The Gunners went into the game having been slaughtered by all and sundry after the debacle against Inter Milan. There were people like Jimmy Greaves, for example, claiming that Arsenal's belief had gone, that we didn't have a big enough squad and so on.

Well, I think that the Gunners went some way to confounding that theory. Unlike last year when we went there, the Gunners didn't back down and the point we got was deserved. Sadly, that's not what the game is going to be remembered for.

Instead, Sunday's game will be remembered first for the fact that Paddy Vieira was sent off for the 8th time and that Arsenal had picked their umpteenth red card under Arsene Wenger's stewardship.

Secondly, it will be remembered for the conduct of the Arsenal players at the final whistle.

Now, let's look at these issues starting with Vieira's dismissal. Well, his first booking came for an accumulation of offences though I have to say that the tackle on Fortune that ultimately led to him being booked was probably his most innocuous indiscretion. I wasn't amused.

Three minutes later, Vieira reacted after Van Nistelrooy (aka Van Nistledive) jumps all over him and then tries to get in a sly dig just for good measure as they both fell to the ground.

Vieira made no contact at all with Van Nisteldive but the Dutchman jumped away like some old housewife that had just seen a mouse scuttle across her kitchen floor hysterically waving his arms in the direction of the referee.

That was enough to persuade the ref to send Vieira off and from there all hell broke loose. Personally all I will say is this on Vieira's dismissal; if the roles were reversed and Henry had put in a challenge like that on Roy Keane you can bet that Keane would have reacted in a similar way. Yet, in that situation, I would bet everything I owned on Henry getting a straight red and Keane getting off scot-free with a ticking off.

Then, with the Arsenal players already feeling hugely aggrieved, the referee went and gave United a penalty right at the death and the stage was set for the villain of the piece, Van Nisteldive, to compound our misery from the spot- but he missed.

As for the scuffle that ensued at the end, well, it would be wrong of me to condone what the Arsenal players did as they took it in turns to push and shove Van Nistelrooy around. What annoyed me most was that the Arsenal players should know damn well by now that the press and the media need little excuse to undermine every little good thing that we happen to do or exaggerate every little negative thing that we do.

Having said that I would be lying if I said that there was a part of me that didn't understand the actions of Arsenal's players. You see, I think the fact that Vieira was sent off in this match and the fact that United were awarded a late penalty (that they went on to miss) were bi-products of what triggered off the post match mayhem.

In fact, I think that the post match anger displayed by our players was borne out of the fact that they, like most Arsenal fans, feel that that they have constantly been persecuted and penalised and United, particularly in recent times, have been the side that have invariably gone on to benefit the most from it all.

The fact that United (and particularly Van Nistelrooy) did not benefit from the advantage they had been given on this occasion only served inadvertently to heighten the pent up aggression that had been building up in the minds of all the Arsenal players.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going to sit here and say that The Gunners are a bunch of angels. What I'm saying is that there are times in life when you can push people too far and as a result rational thinking goes out of the window.

Think about it. Whilst it wasn't a total surprise that Martin Keown and Ashley Cole were compelled to confront Van Nistelrooy, the fact is even our more mild mannered players, like Lauren and Ray Parlour, were not slow in coming forward to confront him either.

Of course, it doesn't alter the fact that the Arsenal players did take the law into their own hands and, like in so many real life instances where an aggrieved party that has moved to retaliate violently against those who have provoked them, no amount of mitigation on our part is going to have an effect on how severe the FA (driven on by the press and media) decide to punish us.

The best thing that everyone remotely connected with Arsenal can do is accept what we have coming to us. We have triumphed in adversity before and if Sunday did prove anything there is nothing to suggest that we cannot do it again.