A tale of Champions and Chumps

Last updated : 14 May 2004 By Jason Hogan

Aside from what we have achieved this season for ourselves, we Gooners will also hold fond memories of how Manchester City went to the Lane in the cup for example, gave the Tiny Totts the benefit of a three-goal advantage, a man advantage and still beat them.

We will also hold fond memories of how good old Rio Ferdinand's desperation to hit the shops for some retail therapy ultimately cost him and his club far more than they ever bargained for and indeed the fact that the FA Cup, so belittled and disdainfully dismissed as irrelevant to ManUre four years ago, now represents their last chance of giving their season any kind of meaning.

Still, it's an unwritten rule that you should always save the best until last, isn't it? Well, whilst I can't speak for every Gooner in the land, I would say that the fondest memory I will take away from this season (outside of what we have done) came last Wednesday week at Stamford Bridge.

When the superb Fernando Morientes slammed the ball home past Claudio Cudicini in the Chelsea goal to make it 2-2 on the night I will shamelessly admit that I absolutely erupted out of my living room chair. Why? Well, seeing that goal go in almost felt like sweet compensation for our own failure to beat Chelsea in the Champions League and from that moment I knew that their chance of winning a major honour at the first time of asking under the Russian regime had all but gone.

When the game was over and the tears rolled down the faces of Chelsea players and fans alike, I found myself mercilessly mocking them. For me, it was priceless thing to witness and all my pent up angst and resentment came flooding out.

Now, I'm sure that there are people, particularly in the press and the media that would be appalled at the sentiments I have raised over Chelsea's demise and there are probably even a few Gooners who would see my sentiments as being that of a petty and narrow minded. After all, they were the last English team left in the Champions League and we should support our own, right? Sorry folks, but in my opinion and in this particular case, you would be wrong.

Why? Well allow me to ask you, my fellow Gooners, a few questions. Firstly, can any of you honestly say hand on heart that we enjoy the same level of unconditional backing from the press and the media that other English clubs do particularly if they also happen to be in Europe? No, of course we don't.

I shouldn't need to remind any of you that in the wake of Abramovich's arrival, it was not ManUre, nor Liverpool, nor Newcastle or any other London club that was singled out for ridicule. It wasn't any of the above that had every aspect of their club laid bare and open to belittlement and degradation, it was us - the Arsenal.

Overnight, we had become a second rate club with a second rate team with no apparent money of our own at our disposal and therefore no hope of stopping ManUre and Chelsea cleaning up on the domestic front (if not the Champions League) between them.

Secondly, when we met Chelsea in the Champions League was the tie ever really about Chelsea AND Arsenal or was it just about Chelsea?

Well, let's put it this way. If Arsenal had won that tie then everyone in the press and the media would have said "Oh well, Arsenal won again" and then would have gone on to make all kinds of the usual clichéd excuses for Chelsea. But of course, it was Chelsea that won the tie and the hypocrites in the press and in the media were in overdrive.

Finally, at the fifth time of asking, they had got the chance to raise a huge glass of whatever to the fact that Arsenal had finally been beaten by the Russian flavour of the month and suddenly they romantically waxing lyrical over the prospect of Chelsea going on to do a double and Arsenal falling apart just like last year. The curious thing was that at this particular point neither Ranieri nor anyone else at Chelsea made any attempt to play down THOSE media theories (Funny that, eh?).

Oh, but the press and media didn't stop there. Long before a ball had even been kicked in the Monaco tie, the press and the media were also openly talking then of how good it would be for Chelsea to win the Champions League and how good it would be for English football if they did that.

This, my fellow Gooners, brings me to my next question. Would it have REALLY been good for English football if Chelsea won the Champions League? Well, here's the way I see it.

There are quite a few clubs in this country, great big clubs in their own right, that have to wheel and deal looking for free transfers and on loan signings just to be able to keep their books balanced and stay competitive - and that's just the case for some of the fairly established clubs in the bloody Premiership for God's sake!

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule within the top flight. Obviously ManUre, Liverpool and indeed ourselves do have a certain status that other clubs do not.

But, at least with the likes United, Liverpool it wouldn't be too hard to find the reason as to why we all have a certain status. It's because we are three of the TRUE institutions of English football.

And then we have Chelsea, a club that is currently built on precious little more than an obscene pile of money, a tidal wave of sympathy and (regardless of HOW much money is spent) the unconditional backing of a hypocritical press and media.

I honestly found it scary to think that a club like this, a bunch of jumped up, get rich quick merchants, could possibly be propelled to victory in the Champions League on the back of these things only for the press and the media to then have us all believe that it would have been good for English football.

Considering the fact that no other club in this country is allowed to have their cake and eat it like Chelsea, considering that most of the other English clubs do not have a foreign billionaire tucked away somewhere, have shoestring budgets and can never realistically dream of winning the Champions League anyway, I would love to know how many fans around the country would have agreed.

So, before and after I have been to Highbury tomorrow to see Paddy Vieira lift the Championship, I will hit the pub and raise a large glass to Fernando Morientes for making sure that their victory over us counted for absolutely nothing and proving that neither money nor sympathy are enough on their own to make you winners. More than that though, I will of course be celebrating the fact that we have a team that has and continues to make history, a team that continues to break records and ultimately a team that are made of the stuff of true champions.

They all laughed at us in the summer when Abramovich arrived and when he started flashing his cash. But, as Frank Sinatra once said, "Ho ho ho, who's got the last laugh now?"