The way I see it - Arsenal v Sevilla

Last updated : 19 September 2007 By Jason Hogan

It was a fixture where I considered the result to be important not so much for local pride or the privilege of having the bragging rights but the ramifications it had on our chances of winning the title or at least ensuring that we finished high enough to get into the Champions league every season.

However, by the time the fixtures officially came out for this season, I already knew that I would be seeing the next North London derby in a slightly different light.

By then, the press and the media were already trashing Arsenal as a club from top to bottom, slating us over the apparent turmoil that was taking place in the boardroom, slating us for the players we went on to buy, claiming that we are a selling club in the wake of letting Henry and Ljungberg go and making claims that the likes of Denilson, Fabregas and Arsene himself wouldn't be far behind. I could go on but to cut a long story short we were, in other words, considered to be a sinking ship.

Meanwhile, a few miles up the Seven Sisters Road, the press and the media did their level best to make the whole damn nation believe that there was a revolution starting to happen in N17 that promised to be so spectacular, it was guaranteed to have devastating consequences specifically for Arsenal in particular.

It's a fact of life that if people are telling you the same thing often enough you start to believe it - or in this particular case, you start to resent it. In fact, daft as this may sound, it got to the stage where I was beginning to take all the stuff I was reading personally. In my own mind, I knew there was absolutely nothing of real substance to support all the guff that was being written or said, certainly about Spurs. But all the same, I couldn't help myself.

It was the stuff that was written about us in relation to Spurs however that really got to me the most. It felt like it was my own character being assassinated long and loud across the nation by people in the press and the media that didn't really know the first thing about me.

So, by the time the season started, the date of September 15th was well and truly embedded in my mind. As far as I was concerned this derby day was personal, more personal than any other than I could remember. For once it was not about any bigger picture. This derby was more of a one-off where I wanted my team, my club, to gain revenge, seek reprisal and strike back at the heart of the club that was destined to become our nemesis according to virtually everyone outside of Ashburton Grove. In the end I got what I wanted.

Having since watched the game in its entirety there was no doubt that this was one of the best derbies I can remember. We were great in heavy doses and even though the Scum did have their opportunities to change the course of the game, I felt that our victory was thoroughly deserved.

It really shouldn't have come as any surprise any Gooner that good old Alan Hansen gave a cack-handed, warped verdict on the game on MOTD. After all it was Arsenal game that he was commenting on. How he drew the conclusion that the Scum should have won is beyond me. Yes, they had chances in the second half. Berbatov and Darren Bent were especially guilty of missing three golden chances between them and Keane had a chance that he was well capable of putting away nine times out of ten.

But, never mind our second half fightback, we could and should have been 3-1 up at half time even after Bale had given the Scum the lead (against the run of play) with their only genuine attempt at goal in the first half.

As it was we turned things around anyway. Over the last few years Robert Pires was often the talisman for us and the nemesis for the Scum. Now it seems we have another in the form of Manu Adebayor. He has now scored five times in as many games against them. And, what is perhaps even more encouraging long term is that Arsenal have not lost in the last 16 games in which he has scored.

I was really pleased for Adebayor. I get as frustrated with him as anyone else but as I have said plenty of times I am a fan of his nonetheless. And whilst his first goal was down to a combination of opportunism and the failings of the resident England goalkeeper (God help us) the second goal was as good as I have seen from anyone, anywhere in many a year.

The highest compliment I think I give him is that a certain player that wore the number 14 shirt for Arsenal once upon a time would have been seriously been proud to score a goal like that.

But despite Adebayor's heroics, Fabregas just shaded him for the man of the match. When you talk about one the reasons why the Scum will continue in the foreseeable future to fall short of where they and many others think they ought to be, he stands out as one of the reasons why.

The Scum didn't really have anyone as good as this boy in midfield both last season or the season before that and that was when he wasn't scoring goals! Now, our resident number four is not only dictating matches he is scoring goals for fun. It early in the season but there is no doubt that he is making himself a front runner for the Footballer of the Year right here and now.

Fabregas' strike for the second goal was excellent. In fact when I saw it for the first time, my first thought was "Frank Lampard, eat your heart out" - that was the way to score from long range without the ball taking 57 deflections on the way.

What Saturday's result reminded me of was that there doesn't have to be a trophy involved in order for a victory to be sweet and I'll tell you all for nothing that our win at Shite Hart Lane was just about the sweetest I've seen us get for quite a while.

The fact that we are now top of the table as a result is an added bonus, the icing on the cake if you like. And I tell you something else - I have been in celebration mode ever since. I see the fact that we are currently top of the table as a little moral victory for us. It's nearly three years since we have been able to say that and we're there at a time when the world and his mother seriously thought that we were more likely to be where Spurs are right now.

What's more, the other reason that makes me proud of being at the top right now is that everyone in the civilised world, never mind Arsenal fans, would never, EVER have heard the last of it if the Scum had beaten us on Saturday and gone top of the league in the process.

I know that its early days and a million and one things are likely to change between now and May. I know that we haven't won a thing yet either. But I feel that Arsenal fans have every right to be encouraged by the fact that the team have demonstrated an ability to find that little bit extra to turn potential draws or even defeats into wins. That trait wasn't there certainly at the same stage last season.

And you know what the best bit is? Fans of the Scum up the road cannot even console themselves with the fact that our "one man team" of yesteryear has been behind it all.

Now it's time to look forward to our first Champions League group game against the reigning UEFA Cup holders, Sevilla.

The men from Southern Spain may be debutants in the Champions League but in my opinion there is not a team in this year's tournament that are any more accomplished than this lot.

It's no wonder that Juande Ramos is a coach in demand right now as he has literally taken Sevilla onto a totally different plane in next to no time at all. Having a good set of players to work with also helps of course and Ramos has plenty of those at his disposal.

Daniel Alves is a man that has caught the eye of all the top clubs around Europe. The boy can operate either at right back or on the right hand side of midfield. He is a real athlete and has an unerring eye for goal. He was primed for a move to either Real Madrid or the PRF but the Sevilla board are one the most hard headed negotiators around in European football today and they rebuffed some pretty substantial offers for Alves' services.

I don't think the boy is anywhere near being worth the kind of figures that were being bandied around but he is a very decent player. He is not bad at taking a free kick so we will need to make sure we do not give away too many around the box when he's around.

Then you come to Freddie Kanoute - the Renaissance man. I say that with sincerity because after an indifferent spell in England with West Ham and Spurs, this guy has been a total revelation in Spain. He was just touched off for the coveted "Pichichi" (the equivalent of the Premiership Golden Boot) last term by Van Nistelrooy and only Diego Forlan stood between him and the same prize the season before.

I've always thought that Kanoute didn't bring his A game to the table often enough when he was in England. But I remember a time when he did back in 2002 when he played against us for West Ham at Highbury.

Freddie Ljungberg may have ultimately won the game for us that night with a telling brace but I tell you what, Kanoute gave our back four (which featured Adams and Campbell at centre back) the complete runaround for a good hour that night. His performance that night has always stuck in my mind and I have always had a healthy respect for him whenever we have come up against him ever since.

They are have solid, neat and tidy performers in midfield like Renato and Jesus Navas and the defenders amongst their ranks, particularly centre backs like captain Javi Navarro, Dragutinovic and Escude are tough, physical and uncompromising.

But for me, their real dangerman is the Russian lad, Alexander Kerzhakov. Maybe a lot of people over here haven't really heard of him but I really do think this lad is one of the most exciting strikers around Europe at the moment. I personally couldn't believe it when he was only on the bench for Russia against England the other day. I think Kherzhakov has got everything. He is a team player with great movement and mobility and his finishing is deadly.

If Saturday's game was perhaps our biggest test so far on the domestic level, this game will give a true indication of how far we have progressed as team since the summer.

I have seen quite a bit of Sevilla over the last couple of years and no matter who they play or where they play, they always attempt to play on the front foot and never voluntarily take a backward step.

To paraphrase a line from the Flower of Scotland we sent a fair few people homeward to think again on Saturday. Believe me, it will be real feather in our caps if we manage to force Sevilla to do the same on Wednesday night.