Ray and Gilberto formed our midfield partnership while the rest of the team was pretty much predictable. Stack, Bentley, Edu, Cygan and the new boy made up the bench. Arsenal kicked off towards the Clock End on a beautiful winter’s day in London, but the rain when it came was torrential, probably just like it is on the plains in Spain, where I understand it mainly falls. Arsenal’s passing looked pretty good from the off but it wasn’t one way traffic as Sol conceded a corner when up against their lone front man Anelka. Lauren made an early error but Kolo saw off Reyna who benefited from the mistake. Pires had a decent cross that was not converted and Ray had a shot blocked.
Our best early move saw Cole making a series of great one-twos, which worked perfectly well up until the final pass. City attacks usually ended with an offside flag, no change there then for Anelka. We played some good flowing stuff around the edge of their box but we had problems penetrating early doors. Freddie to Lauren on a run and on to Henry who hit the post was a blinding move, explosive in execution but no cigar. Cole made a great saving tackle on Wright-Phillips who gets better every time I see him, unlike Sinclair who appears to have won a pie eating competition.
Henry had a great run but couldn’t dig out the right cross. A different offside rule was being applied today on Henry from that which van Diver benefited from yesterday, but not even I can blame the ref for that. Anelka had a shot which Lehmann got down to well enough, but the shot lacked power. City’s next attack was snuffed out by Kolo who stood up to Anelka and simply took the ball off him, don’t you just love him? Another City counter saw Barton about three yards offside but it wasn’t given. Henry beat himself by being too tricky in one move. A neater move saw Ashley fire one across the face of goal but there were no takers. Pires was upended deep left in a match and this was a bit of a surprise because it was a match in which there had been very few free kicks.
It was absolutely pissing down by the time Henry whizzed one past the post. Freddie at one point was back as our last man, not bad for someone who was doubtful to play earlier in the week. We finally broke the deadlock when Pires crossed low from the left and Tarnat slid the ball home for an own goal. If he hadn’t got there though Freddie would have slid into the net with the ball. A very good cross and an almost impossible goal to stop in such conditions. 1-0 Arsenal with eight minutes to go in the half, and a chant of ‘You’re the Spurs of Manchester’.
There was a half time plug on the PA for Arsenal World due to it’s contribution to fan’s day, one notable aspect of which was some fine singing by Tony Henry, no relation, during the break. A pre match pint and a half for the price of a pint proved to be a very bad time on John’s part to give up drinking beer.
Henry took a knock immediately after the break but returned pretty quickly to the fray. Dunne took out Pires who was through on the left but there was not so much as a yellow to be seen from Alan Wiley. City broke from the resulting free kick but Ray tied up their counter attack. Henry found Dennis who got in a shot. Cole piled in for a shot as it continued to pour down. Sun Jihal had a decent run and was forced inside until he hit a fair old shot at Lehmann but it was well saved. ‘We won the League in Manchester’. I’m not quite sure why but the North Bank was louder than the Clock End today. Maybe the Clock End were quieter because a lot of them were possibly drowning.
Edu replaced Freddie and Ray moved to the right. Edu almost immediately broke through the middle but was hauled back by Barton who got a yellow card. Great run by Wright-Phillips ended in a free kick. The free kick saw Dunne make the header but Lehmann took it deep. Ray picked up a yellow card for a foul on Tarnat, I don’t understand why because I didn’t see anything obvious to warrant a card. Great save by Lehmann from what looked like a free header. Distin took out Ray wide on the right and James made an awkward looking punch from the cross, very James.
With 21 minutes left, we’d debated what the timing would be pre-match, Dennis was replaced by Jose Antonio Reyes. ‘Jose Antonio’ (to the tune of we’ve got Silvinho) and ‘Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose Jose’ (where normally Ole would be sung) were the tunes which seem to be the probable favourites. His first two touches were sublime flicked passes that were as effective as they were clever. Edu went reasonably close when he fired one over. Reyes is fast and Henry was using hand signals to communicate but they both went for the same run down the left flank, no problem that will be sorted in time.
Henry hit one from range that James dived well to claim. Campbell at the other end stopped Anelka as he was about to pull the trigger. There was a foul on Lehmann from the corner. Bosvelt and Reyna were replaced by the Liverpool spice boys. Henry to Reyes on a run, Jose got through but James saved well, good to see though that our Spaniard was happy to hit it with his right. Pires nearly set up henry with Reyes also trying to get in on the act. Lehmann saved for a corner from another wide City free kick. Then Henry hit an absolute cracker, Edu had found Pires who pushed it out for Henry who was on the left and outside the area. With what seemed like little back lift and a perfect follow through Thierry connected with a thud, as soon as we saw the trajectory we knew it was goal bound. Top corner far post like a rocket and all James could do was wave at it on its way in. This was a real beauty, one of his best and he seemed pretty pleased with it himself. 2-0 Arsenal.
Reyes won a free kick wide right and City tried to wind him up with some rather pathetic gamesmanship but he didn’t look like he was about to take any crap and was ushered away by red and white shirts. I like him already. We played out time by irritating City near the corner flag. So that’s it, back on top of the Premiership, but we only beat City by the single goal. Considering their record against Arsenal in the Premiership they will no doubt regard that as a moral victory.
Boring Boro next, but will we care enough to beat them? Either way at least that will be the last time we have to play them this season. If Reyes plays he’ll burn Southgate away. And just in case any City fans happen to read this we wish you all the best in your match against North London’s lesser Premiership side.