The way I see it - Arsenal v Crystal Palace

Last updated : 14 February 2005 By Jason Hogan

The Arsenal chose the more positive option last Saturday week and boy, did they look much better for it.

I meant what I said in the lead up to the game when I said that I honestly didn't know what I expect to see from us at Villa Park and the way flew out of the traps and proceeded to play in the first 45 minutes surprised me as much as anyone else.

It was a real throwback to a few months ago. Such was the quality of our play, as we relentlessly tore into Villa again and again, we left a partisan home crowd (there were 43.000 people at Villa Park on the night) with little option but to watch and suffer in eerie silence.

The goals we scored were excellent but without doubt it was the third goal that just about summed up everything we were about on the night. Henry wriggles away from two challenges, switches the ball from right to left to Bergkamp who volleys a first time pass straight into the path of a marauding Ashley Cole who then instantly smashed a volley into the bottom corner of the net before the Villa keeper (Sorensen) had time to move a muscle. I know, I'm a Gooner, I would say this, but it was brilliant and if a better goal has been scored this year in the Premiership I know I haven't seen it.

I don't know who writes the scripts where football is concerned but an irony, whether it happens to be blissful or not, is never far away, is it?

In the wake of all the allegations of skulduggery and underhand deals being made in plush West End hotels, wasn't it nice to see Cole showing the nation what he does best - marauding forward from full back and causing mayhem in an Arsenal shirt.

I thought the comments credited to Robert Pires in the media last week were spot on. Pires allegedly said that he couldn't see Cole having the same licence to maraud forward quite in the same way if he was playing for a certain club in West London and personally I seriously doubt if he would ever score a goal as good as his strike at Villa for the Phoney Russian Franchise if he were to move there.

Still as I said last week, Cole has to look to his own conscience. Moving to the Phoney Russian Franchise may do wonders for his bank balance but having already been part of a club (of GENUINE substance) that has won titles, that has won cups and has made all kinds of history in recent times against considerable odds it's impossible to see how he can leave Arsenal, move to the PRF and then turn around and tell the world that he did it for footballing reasons. I know that argument wouldn't wash with me for a second.

All I can say is that if he does want to go then the Arsenal board had better make sure that the PRF pay an obscene amount of money for him in the summer top dollar for him - and I mean top dollar. A combination of the fees they paid for Drogba and Kezman should be a fair starting point.

My attitude is the same where Reyes is concerned. Yes, a Spanish radio station set him up and yes, it wasn't pleasant but it has been pretty obvious that all is not well with the boy. It's a shame because I know for fact that the Highbury faithful have really taken to the boy in a serious way.

But if he is not happy here and he wants to move to Real Madrid we MUST make sure that if we offload him we don't sell ourselves short in the process and we at least get back the money we have paid for him.

Am I adopting a defeatist attitude here? Don't you believe it. I'm just not interested in players that are not committed to the Arsenal cause. I have a personal saying - you are a long time dead if you're an ex-Arsenal player. Every Gooner knows what happened to the careers of Messrs Petit, Overmars and Anelka when they left the Arsenal. But even if you went further back to George Graham's era, where did the careers of say Charlie Nicholas, Kevin Campbell, Michael Thomas, Anders Limpar and even the late great David Rocastle go when they all left Arsenal? The answer in all cases? Nowhere.

Of course, if you are to believe the fanciful and downright pathetic views of say Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror, selling the likes of Cole and Reyes will trigger off an exodus from HIghbury so unprecedented in terms of scale, the Arsenal will not only find themselves heading headlong into a vortex of oblivion, they will be reduced to the role of becoming a feeder club for the PRF like West Ham have been in the recent past. Sorry, I don't think so.

What Lipton (and his like) conveniently choose to forget is that Wenger has not only shown that he can rebuild a team but make them successful on a fraction of the resources that others have had at their disposal. When we sold Anelka Wenger reinvested some of the money he received in the likes of Henry and Davor Suker. We went on to make the UEFA Cup Final the following year. When he then sold Overmars and Petit, he brought in the likes of Lauren, Pires and Wiltord all of whom helped us to win (amongst other things) the Double in 2002.

So, even if we do lose Cole, Reyes and indeed Edu for that matter, would anyone with an ounce of intelligence put it past him to do it again? I know I wouldn't.

In other words, contrary to what the likes of Lipton would say I would rather go with the sentiments of my old mate Gazza who has said to me on many an occasion that this is an exciting golden age for the Arsenal.

We may exist in a day and age where money seems to be talking in football louder than it ever did but we still have chance of winning some major silverware this year and if we manage it we can, in spite of our lack of financial resources, proudly point to the fact that we have been the most successful side in this country over the last four years. That may be a fact that would be lost on idiots such as Lipton but all things considered, I would definitely settle for that make no mistake. Now it's time to look at tonight's game at home to Palace.

There is an awful lot of managers in this country that are loath to pay the Arsenal some respect but on the evidence of what I have seen Iain Dowie isn't one of them.

On an interview that I saw on Sky last night, Dowie had some very kind words to say about us and it was refreshing to hear. In turn Arsene has reciprocated his respect for us by coming out and saying that Dowie has produced miracles in his time at the Palace. And you know what, Arsene is dead right.

There is a genuine spirit amongst the players there and we found that out for ourselves when we played them at Selhurst back in November. If ever there was a game that epitomised what Dowie and his team are all about, it was that game.

Whilst we were dawdling, The Eagles had an up and at ‘em mentality and to be fair the Arsenal were pretty lucky not to have been turned over that night.

However the main reason why Palace didn't beat us that night and why they find themselves teetering just above the relegation zone is because they haven't taken enough of the chances they create.

I watched their game against Bolton last time out and the Eagles missed a hatful of chances and to make it worse they were ultimately beaten by what seemed a very dubious goal. Even Andy Johnson, who has been nothing short of a revelation for them, was guilty of wasting two golden opportunities.

Speaking of AJ, I hope that he is given another chance to show what he can do for England and that he doesn't turn into another one cap wonder. There was absolutely no way anyone could judge the boy's ability as a striker at international level when is given a half hour out on the right bloody wing after all!

Johnson is an obvious threat to what will be a weakened Arsenal back line tonight but it will be interesting to see how Cole gets on against Routledge and whether Dowie elects to go for three central midfielders in a five-man midfield as opposed to the 4-4-2 formation he employed in recent games.

For the Arsenal, what's more important than anything else right now is building up momentum towards our trip to Munich next week. If we play anything like we did last Saturday week there could well be a Valentines Day massacre on the horizon. However to be honest I will be more than happy for us just to maintain the winning habit. If we can do that then the rest of our season will look after itself.