As I write this introduction we haven't even kicked-off yet and already we've had a player red-carded and the F A are pissing us off for old times sake. So what else is new? Apart from Chelski being flogged off to a Russian zillionaire of questionably repute, Glenda spending a few bob, Fergusmoan flogging golden balls from a Nike Club to an Adidas Club and Teddy retiring to the South coast. Well who cares! It's Saturday and I'm about to set off to join thousands of highly expectant Gooners at The Home of Football. Any minute now I'll be off on my way to the very centre of the known universe. N5 1BU.
Dennis on the bench, so Sylvain started with Henry while the rest of the team was quite predictable with Kolo preferred to the nearly fit Keown. As I settled down to watch the match the late arrival of the tossers in seats 49-50 (I think) row 16 West Lower caused an entire row to stand and obstruct the view, the selfish bar stewards do it every match, every season - have some consideration for others you prats!
We started brightly although a left-footed shot into orbit by Wiltord could have been better, as could the weak Pembridge response from range. With five minutes gone our new keeper saved well with his feet and prompted the somewhat predictable chant of 'Lehmann, Lehmann, Lehmann' - same tune different keeper. Pat went down with a head injury before our new boy was called upon to catch a cross, which he did with ease. A trip on Pires wide left saw a Henry free kick land on the top netting from range. Close but no cigar. Gravesen fired high at the other end. Lauren intercepted well played a one-two with Wiltord and won a free kick four yards outside their box but Henry's free kick failed to dip. Studs up on Lehman by Chadwick was not given by Halsey the man who sent off Sol against United last season. FA rule 2,643 B studs up on Arsenal players will be allowed throughout the 2003-4 season by order of Fergusmoan plc.
The much loved, now he's signed again, Pat was majestic as a Henry run won us a corner, Pires took it but Kolo's header went over. Happily Kolo looked the part at the back although he had little to contend with early doors, I liked what I saw and think Arsene has neatly solved a perceived problem at the back. Richard Wright was out well to cut out a long ball to Thierry. Freddie and Lauren combined down our right. Sol cleared after a foul on Henry wasn't spotted, but then not many where. Twenty-five minutes gone and Sol got a red card for a trip on a player running through, he wasn't even close to being the last man, and it was well outside the area, it's another Halsey joke red! Must be we're due to play United soon, there can be no other sane reason for the sending off. 'The referee's a wanker'. Wasn't he just. No doubt this was our twenty-seven thousand, eight hundred and thirtieth penalty under Arsene. Cue press onslaught from all the usual tossers in the redtops.
Everton follow up with an attack where two players were clearly offside but the flag was notable for it's absence. 'We love you Arsenal we do'. Gilberto had dropped to centre back before Martin replaced an unlucky Wiltord to balance our team. We reverted to 4-4-1 our usual ten men routine, but what a one. Henry won a corner but Bob couldn't control the weak clearance that resulted, a chance missed. Shortly after Bob went down in their box, my view wasn't great but some nearer than me thought it was worth a pen, not Halsey however. 'The referee's a wanker'. 'Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal'. Henry flicked a ball around a player in their box and it hit his raised arm, a rather harsh penalty was given. Henry, who else, stepped up and rolled it home to Wright's right as he dived left. 1-0. 'One nil to the Arsenal'
Some scintillating stuff ended with a cross from our left that Pires glanced wide with a header. Only ten men maybe, but we did look the part. Linderoth with a foul on Pat. Pat did great, then Gilberto did great, in fact they were all doing great. Everton fans meanwhile were booing Thierry presumably because they failed to enjoy his goal celebrations. Pat chopped the runt Graveson and got a yellow card before an Everton shot deflected off one of their own for a goal kick, which was lucky because it could have gone anywhere. With three minutes to go the selfish halfwit who arrived late left early, presumably to be first in the queue for the bogs. Our defence and team generally had been playing well as a defensive unit with everyone working back well and close space quickly, we were also attacking fast as when a great Thierry run put Gilberto in with a golden opportunity which he couldn't control, if only he'd played it back to Tel the selfish early leaving tosser now splashing his boots would have missed our second. As it was we lead 1-0 at the break and Halsey was warmly applauded off the pitch. Not.
Pat to Thierry to Pires who crossed on another fast break but the keeper took it well. Cole lost possession and this gave Radzinski a chance from an angle but he fired across the face of goal and wide. Linderoth was replaced by Roonaldo in time to watch our second goal. Good build up and a strong shot from outside the area by Tel was saved allowing Pat to follow up with a shot that was also
saved but Pires met the parried shot first to give us a two goal lead. 2-0. 'Ten man we've only got ten men'. We only need ten men.
Cole headed clear. Brilliant interception by Pat. Freddie to Thierry who won another throw-in that was given the wrong way. We were playing possession football which is the best plan with ten men, and for the most part we did it really well. A foul on Henry finally saw something given our way by the ref to a huge chorus of ironic cheers. They had eight back against our four at one stage. Lauren was slammed in the back, free kick but no card. Brilliant save from Vieira as the ball flies in. Pembridge and Unsworth off, Naysmith and Li Tie on. An Everton header resulted in an easy save by Jens who's long kick out went off for a throw not too far from their corner flag, he also looks to be a two-footed player by the way.
Pat to Rob to Tel but he tripped over the ball. Pat shrugged the unpopular Gravesen off the ball before Romford Pele replaced Rob. Free kick on the edge of our box as Radzinski went down. Rooney took it but it came to nothing. Ray steamed in for his first tackle. A blatant obstruction on Pat by Graveson earned him an overdue booking. Graveson then shoved Thierry over injuring our man but we only got a free kick. From the free kick, Henry being off the field of play, Freddie hit the bar with Wright beaten. Rooney then went studs up into Kolo which looked really nasty. Reckless play is of course a red card offence but he was only awarded with a yellow. Pat rode out two fouls before Li Tie, doing a brilliant impression of a headless chicken, axed down Parlour for a yellow. Ray and Tel combined on our right.
Kolo headed clear when I thought Jens might have come for the ball, previously he'd come for everything. He followed up with an easy save plus a well taken high catch, early days I know but he'll do me. 'Big fat, big fat Wayne'. Cole conceded a corner which Jens tipped over for another corner. Everton worked it untidily through midfield not too far from our box and a ball was slipped left on an angle by the short fat boy wonder for Radzinski to slot home. 2-1 with six minutes left on the clock. Could seem like a long six minutes.
Four minutes added time during which boy wonder threw a strop when pulled up for dangerous play. Henry fouled Yobo to make the point about being kicked a few seconds earlier. Cole headed a Chadwick header clear and Jens punched out big time as two or three men in blue were caught offside. Big punch, big applause. Final whistle and this was a big result. Most of the time you wouldn't have know we only had ten men but Everton don't look as though they'll be pulling up any trees this season. I know it's been said before but maybe we should start with ten men.
By the way: Everton had no number twenty (Yobo) in our matchday programme - sort it out please Arsenal! And finally a note to all the Hong Kong Gooners, your mate Gus picked his all time Arsenal XI for the programme this week and will feature in the next Official Arsenal magazine.