Chelsea find no way past Jos

Last updated : 16 February 2004 By Jason Hogan

With the Gunners leading 3-1 at the time I remember saying to Gary, "Chelsea, they're going to be next".

After the game, we both adjourned to the Twelve Pins both in agreement that getting Chelsea, if not United, would suit us just fine in the next round.

Sure enough, we were drawn against Chelsea and when I next bumped into him at work no more than a knowing exchange of wry smiles was needed.

Now, when I said, in the lead up to Sunday's game that I have no need to reach for the Valium before a game against Chelsea (or anyone else for that matter) I meant it. However I have to admit when news broke late on Saturday night that Thierry Henry was ruled of Sunday's game it quite literally had a sobering effect on me.

Given that we were not able to call upon the services of Wiltord, Kanu, Aliadiere and Ljungberg either I couldn't help wondering whether Henry's absence was meant to be an unhealthy sign for Arsenal. As things turned out, I needn't have worried.

True, Chelsea had what looked like a perfectly good goal disallowed but they did take the lead anyway thanks in part to Lehmann's wayward clearance and Adrian Mutu's opportunism.

At the break I was doing a fair bit of head scratching. It wasn't as if we were playing badly but the big problem was that our final ball or final shot just was not quite right.

Now coincidentally, I watched Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement as usual on Sunday morning and the last words spoken before the programme ended belonged to Jimmy Hill who said that he hoped to see a star emerge from Sunday's game. Come the second half the star of the show emerged all right in the form of one Jose Antonio Reyes.

You know, I have surfed around some of the Arsenal websites and message boards only to find Arsenal fans - yes that's right Arsenal "fans" - accusing Wenger of losing the plot having bought this kid. It really amazes me how some people do not know a decent player from a cow's backside!! Indeed, I wonder how many of them arguing about the merits of this lad now?

Anyone that has read my articles in recent weeks after Reyes scored that unfortunate own goal at the Riverside would know that I had no doubt that he would have far better days before this season was over.

Yet, although I have been proved right far quicker than even I imagined I think that it is important to remember that this was no more than as nice taster of what the boy is capable of. He was thrown right in at the deep end and he did extremely well but he has got a lot to learn still about football in general let alone English football and the sooner the Arsenal fans realise that, the better.

Whilst you could say that it was graduation day for young Jose, he was not exactly short of willing henchmen on Sunday. Step forward, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp.

If there was a bottle of champagne on offer for the man of the match then those two men were more than entitled to a share of it with young Reyes.

At half time the BBC pundits were raving about Scott parker but whilst he did plenty of good things for them, the fact was that Paddy proved himself once again to be the master.

That was perfectly illustrated in the lead up to the winning goal. Vieira not only won a 50-50 with Parker he had the presence of mind to steer the ball into the past of Reyes and the rest was, blissful history.

As for Dennis, well he rolled back the years on Sunday, didn't he? His first touch and his awareness of others couldn't be matched by anyone else (except Vieira maybe). I admit that I have had my doubts as to whether the Dutch master still has that little extra in recent times but on the evidence of Sunday, there is definitely still a bit of life left in the old dog yet.

You know, when we beat Inter Milan back in November I thought that was special but for sheer sweetness, Sunday's win was the best we have had this season bar none.

I have never forgotten how the press laughed and made sly digs at Arsenal when Chelsea were buying this and that player. I have never forgotten how they claimed that our club was on its knees and that Chelsea had taken over as London's top club.

Instead, when yesterday's game was over you had pundits like Peter Schmeichel back peddling and claiming that Chelsea are still an "up and coming club". How the fickle the finger of footballing fate is, huh?

Oh, and whilst we are on the subject of Schmeichel, well he claimed like so many have that Chelsea lost the game ultimately because they "never turned up for the second half and went missing". I put it to you and everyone else, Mr Schmeichel, that Chelsea lost the game because in the second half Arsenal did not.