The Way I see it - Manchester City v Arsenal

Last updated : 26 October 2004 By Jason Hogan

Now, on a regular basis what happens in WWE wrestling matches are what they call in the trade as "run-ins" and for those of you out there who are not entirely au-fait with the term, it's basically where a third party blatantly interferes in the match with the ultimate aim often being to deprive their chosen rival of victory. And, courtesy of one Michael Riley that is effectively what happened to Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday.

I never thought I would ever myself say this but I will tell all of you this for nothing; Arsene should take a leaf out of the book of Old Purple Nose and lobby the FA to try and ensure that Riley never takes charge of an Arsenal match again in the foreseeable future.

Like most Gooners, I was enraged by a lot of the things that went on in the game but if anything issues such as the penalty that Riley awarded and the cowardly attempt Van Horseface made to do Ashley Cole good and proper only served to compound my sense of fury because it was the incident between Ferdinand and Ljungberg that incensed me more than anything.

Irrespective of the fact that Ljungberg may or may not have had full control of the ball, the fact is that clearly got to the attempted through ball first only for Ferdinand, as last man, to bring him down with a blatant body check. Ferdinand made NO attempt to go for the ball and knowing that he wasn't going to get to it first he decided to take Ljungberg out.

Now, I know some people will argue that what went around came around for Arsenal bearing in mind that Lauren was involved in a similar incident at Carrow Road earlier this season but, rightly or wrongly at least he didn't get off scot-free. He was booked for his indiscretion and a free kick was given against him.

Yet, when faced with the same kind of situation on Sunday, Riley's crime wasn't so much that he failed to send Ferdinand off as he should have done or even book Ljungberg if he felt he was diving. It was the fact chose to do absolutely nothing whatsoever about the situation which was the bigger crime and taking the magnitude of the game into account, I thought that was absolutely scandalous.

Never mind what would have happened if that incident happened at the other end on Sunday, if this game was played at Highbury and Sol Campbell had brought down say Ronaldo (the United one) in the same circumstances I would bet everything that I owned on Campbell getting sent off - no questions asked. That's an indication of how scandalous I think Riley's actions (or non-actions) were in that situation.

For me, that was the moment which set the tone for the rest of the match and what followed and with the benefit of hindsight I now understand why Old Purple Nose defiantly boasted that his club will always be number one in the lead up to the game what with referees such as Riley doing their level best to help them out whenever they are in a bit of a hole.

As I have said many a time before, it's not the fact that we lost that was really irksome, it's the WAY we lost which really hurt. It's alright for the likes of Oliver Holt from the Mirror to say things like we had our share of luck in our 49 game unbeaten run, we should accept defeat gracefully and that Old Trafford was the best place for us to lose the record.

Well firstly, I don't remember us either winning or drawing a match in that run by virtue of two players escaping straight red cards AND on the back of a dubious penalty all in the same match and I certainly don't remember anything like that happening against a definite rival for the Premiership title.

Secondly, given the fact that ManUre have invariably been the ones to benefit over the years, both directly and indirectly, from every occasion the Arsenal, right or wrong, have been penalised in some way I would suggest that Old Trafford would have been the last place on earth where the Arsenal would have wanted to see their unbeaten record go.

I'm sure Old Purple Nose would have sentiments along similar lines if things were the other way round and it almost goes without saying that if we had beaten them at Highbury under the exact same circumstances that surrounded Sunday's game I'm also sure that Old Purple Nose, his players and their fans wouldn't have enjoyed being beaten any more than we did.

Steven Howard from the Sun talked about Ferguson always referring to way football goes in "swings and roundabouts" and that Arsenal should accept defeat on that basis. Well, I have never heard Ferguson apply that philosophy whenever ManUre have lost. Besides, when was the last time you saw Ferguson accept adversity or injustice in an easy going casual manner under ANY circumstances? The Answer? Never. So why the hell should we?

Still, in the midst of what was understandably nonplussed assessment of what happened, Arsene made a great point when he said that the boys could take away a lot of positives from the game in spite of what happened. I wanted us to play like the champions we are and in many respects I think that the boys did that.

And although we didn't quite have the cutting edge that we are used to seeing I thought we bossed the game for long periods and on more than one occasion it was only last ditch interceptions as opposed to tackles stopped us getting any joy.

Of course as the smoke starts to clear a little there will be people in the press and the media who will be taking it in shifts to crank up the hype machine that is ManUre

But, I think that Arsene said it best when he was asked if he thought that ManUre's victory gives them the springboard from which to go a long unbeaten run when he said, "not on that performance, no".

Despite everything that happened on Sunday I think that we Arsenal fans have to remember that less than 18 months ago,

everyone outside of Highbury was insisting that Arsenal, as a club, were heading for oblivion what with us apparently having neither a team or a squad good enough to win major honours anymore (particularly in the wake of Abramovich etc, etc) and, best of all for our detractors, was that apparently we didn't have the money to do anything about it.

Since then, by way of totally confounding our detractors in the press, the media and the country as a whole, we have not only put together 49 examples as to why that is far not the case we of course won our title back to boot therefore establishing ourselves as the most successful club in this country over the last three years.

No matter what obtuse, flippant and downright stupid theories our detractors come up with, the fact is NOBODY can take what we have achieved away from us and the best bit is we have done it totally in spite of our enemies on and off the pitch NOT because of them. Let nobody kid you otherwise.

Now, for what it's worth, let's talk about Wednesday's game in the Worthless Cup against Manchester City and its fair to say that Arsene suddenly has plenty in common with his opposite number Kevin Keegan going into this game.

Keegan was furious after what happened to his team up at St James's Park and there is a strong chance that he could be accompanying Arsene to Soho Square for a tête-à-tête with the FA in the next couple of weeks.

Whether Keegan had just cause for his post match angst I'm not entirely sure but if there is one thing about Keegan it is that he is not the type to hide behind false truths.

However, he will be concerned all the same by how his team conspired to shoot themselves in the foot having come from behind to twice gain parity only to throw away a hard earned point right at the death.

The good news for Keegan was that Robbie Fowler scored on his comeback and although he often been the scourge of Arsenal in the past I have to admit that I have always been a fan of his and it's great to see one of the most naturally gifted strikers of this generation getting back to doing what he does best.

It's likely that he will get a run out against what is sure to be a largely unrecognisable Arsenal side on Wednesday. It will be intriguing to see if some of our more precocious talents can make what is relatively a big step up from what they are used to. Unlike Sunday, the result won't really matter an awful lot.

The real business begins again on Saturday when we play the Saints at Highbury and I'll tell you all right now that game cannot come around quick enough.