The way I see it – Arsenal v Liverpool

Last updated : 08 May 2005 By Jason Hogan
Last Sunday wasn't exactly the greatest day I ever had. Long before I actually dragged my sorry carcase over the road to the local newsagents to get the Sunday papers, I was quite literally a bear with a sore head what with the very loud drum solo that was taking place in my head after way too much vodka the night before. My missus is far too much of a bad influence on me I tell ya!

In fact, such was the state I was in, I had almost forgotten the fact that we had officially relinquished our title the night before but it all came flooding back very quickly by the time I had got back indoors. It was safe to say that any pull-outs that were specially commissioned as a tribute to the new champions were scrunched up and quickly tossed away with as much disdain as I could muster.

My mood didn't improve after watching Villa put up one of the most inept displays I have ever seen from a so-called Premiership side against the Tiny Totts- what I didn't know that afternoon was that if Villa were woeful, I hadn't seen anything yet.

Watching Charlton entertain ManUre later on that day at the Valley made ME squirm with embarrassment so God only knows how the Addicks fans felt as they watched their team make ManUre look like football's answer to the Harlem ruddy Globetrotters. Never mind fining his players, Alan Curbishley would have been well within his rights if he started handing out a few P45's to a few of his players after that display as far as I could see.

So when Monday night came around, the heat, for the Arsenal was very much on. I meant what I said in the build up to the game in so far as the Hawthorns is, pound for pound, one the most passionate venues you will see a football match played and for an hour or so the Baggies faithful didn't disappoint.

Whilst the Baggies faithful were singing their lungs (never mind their hearts) out I was sitting in my living room wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth in exasperation. Whilst West Brom were applying themselves in the manner you would expect, most of the Arsenal were playing the game as if it was a testimonial. It was just as well that Phillipe Senderos and Kolo seemed to be playing the game as if it remotely meant something and as a result the Baggies were generally kept at arms length.

With the rest of the lads seemingly thinking of their holidays I had this horrible feeling, around the hour mark, that West Brom would nick a goal from a set piece. But no sooner had I thought that up popped Robin Van Persie to open the scoring almost out nothing.

Bryan Robson accused his team of lacking concentration for the goal but I thought that was a little harsh because when Reyes fizzed the ball into Van Persie's feet his first touch seemed to genuinely wrong foot Neil Clement and the Dutchman swept the ball in before either Clement or Russell Hoult could react.

It was only after that the Arsenal looked settled to any degree and in the end it was no surprise when we got a second with time running out at the death through Edu who took his goal with the kid of typical elegance that will be missed if, as expected, he departs for Spain in the summer.

So, it was a case of job done in the end and the Gunners remain on course to be the best of the REAL football clubs in this country. Which brings me nicely round to our opponents on Sunday – Liverpool.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking a couple of chaps that support the Phoney Russian Franchise and I advised them that they were in the same situation that Arsenal were in when we played them in last year's Champions League. The fact that we had beaten them three times on the bounce going into the Champions League counted for nothing in the end.

I was accused of still being bitter about the fact that we were turned over by them but I replied that I was making that point purely because the Champions League, at the end of the day, is a CUP competition and the form book doesn't necessarily mean a lot. How right I was.

Because after suffering three defeats at the hands of The Franchise over the course of this season, Liverpool finally got their revenge and booked themselves a nice little trip to Istanbul to boot- and personally I couldn't have been any more delighted if we were in their shoes.

I read an article by Jimmy Greaves did in The Sun last weekend when he said that he was at a loss to understand why there is such a strong anti-Chelsea feeling in the country. He talked about the "old guard" and the fact that nobody likes it when someone new comes along and disturbs the status quo.

Well, as an unashamed member of the anti-Chelsea brigade, allow me to try and spell it out for you, Greavsie, and anyone else that happens to think this money driven fiasco in West London is good for English football.

There is a school of thought going around that the Phoney Russian Franchise are only doing what ManUre, Liverpool and even Arsenal have done for years in the past in order to win top prizes.

Well, for a start, NONE of those clubs have ever declared pre tax losses approaching £90 million and then still boasted the resources to win the league. And, as I have said before, if any genuine football club in the Premiership ever posted those kind of losses, whether they happen to be ManUre, Liverpool, Arsenal or anyone else, they would, at the very least, struggle to even still BE in the Premiership let alone win it.

Everybody with half a brain knows that ManUre, for example, are worth anything approaching £850 million and that they are a brand name as well as a football club. But their valuation as a club does not equate readily into liquid money. Only a mere fraction OF A FRACTION of their valuation can be tangibly used to aid transfers and if the club falls into the wrong hands they will be every bit as vulnerable as Leeds were and are (lest we all forget they are a PLC too).

In other words what money the likes of ManUre, Liverpool and indeed Arsenal have invested into their respective squads over the years has come primarily from their OWN incomes through a mixture of good old fashioned revenue through the turnstiles, corporate sponsorship, merchandise sales and their OWN potential to increase those incomes on the back of the successes they have achieved as a result.

None of these clubs has won titles purely because some billionaire sugar daddy happened to come along, drag them away from the threshold of bankruptcy (for the second time in less than 25 years), paid every running cost the club has and indulged in what is far and away the most extravagant spending spree English Football has ever seen whilst he is at it.

Ah, but here's the best bit though. According to Greavsie, we are supposed to respect and applaud Mourinho and the Phoney Russian Franchise for "adding a new dimension" to the Premiership.

Well, let's get this right. When Abramovich first arrived two years ago, the press, the media and pundits like him were licking their lips and telling everybody in the world that would listen that this guy had the potential to catapult Chelsea on to a totally different plane purely because he gave them the power to buy virtually any ready made player, half decent or better, for whatever it took in terms of a transfer fee and a salary.

Yet ultimately, as every football fan discovered last season, when Ranieri was in charge and after the first big batch of expensive signings waltzed into Stamford Bridge, there was already a "have their cake and it" culture in existence where the PRF are concerned.

Then last July, Mourinho arrives and, having inherited a squad that had already cost effectively £200 million to build, he instantly started running off at the mouth about how special he was and then, almost at the drop of a hat, helps himself to another £70 million of Abramovich's money within his first MONTH in charge.

Now, as I have said before, you have to bear in mind that if things had gone tits up for Mourinho and he failed to win anything in his first season, it's a sure fire guarantee that everyone would have said that this wouldn't have been the time to judge him or his team. As it was by November, everyone suddenly had the PRF down as being odds-on to win virtually everything that was going.

But, now that the PRF have finally gone on to win the league and the Worthless Cup just for good measure anyway, guess what? Large sections of the press, the media and pundits like Jimmy Greaves are going around endorsing the notion that all the money they have spent actually played precious little part in their successes this season at all!!

These are just some of the reasons why there were an awful lot of people out there who delighted in Liverpool's success the other night. Because they struck a blow for every REAL football club this country has got and because they proved that you can't always take shortcuts to success no matter how much bloody money you've got and how arrogant you are because of it.

And thankfully, the whole world will have the chance to watch a European Cup Final with an authentic ring to it. They will able to watch a final being contested between two clubs with a rich heritage on both a domestic and a European level.

People are already saying that the final will be as dull as ditchwater without the PRF in it but the idea of them flying the flag for England in this year's European Cup Final would have left me feeling that I have been a trifle conned.

It feels as though there is a little justice in the world after last Tuesday night and for Liverpool there were some unsung heroes. Jamie Carragher was an obvious one but I thought that Sami Hyypia, Didi Hamman, Steve Finnan, Djimi Traore and Igor Biscan were also huge contributors.

Whether all of these guys will play in Sunday's game I don't know but one person who will is Xabi Alonso. It was a real shame that he missed out on the Chelsea game but the fact that he will be available fitness permitting for the trip to Instanbul is a tangible reward for this boy. He is seriously talented and I love watching this guy play. He deserves to strut his stuff on any big stage and I think that he will be the key figure at Highbury for Liverpool if he plays.

With ManUre failing to put West Brom away opportunity knocks for Arsenal. A win over Liverpool will virtually put any argument over second place to bed and we can consider ourselves to be the best of the REAL football clubs in this country.

We have gone a long way to dispelling the myth that we cannot function as a team without Henry. Sunday's game gives us the chance to dispel that myth for good. I hope that the boys are mentally prepared to take it.