Arsene made just two changes from the side that drew with the Scousers on Sunday. Bergkamp was in for Kanu and Oleg Luzhny replaced Lauren. Stuart Taylor complete with his strapped up broken finger was on the bench together with Kolo Toure, Gio van Bronckhorst, Francis Jeffers and Lauren.
Today's referee was Uriah Rennie who usually makes some interesting decisions totally unrelated to reality. He appears to be the fittest referee around and he can be quite good, but too often his obsession with keeping right up with play may means he doesn't always see the broader picture. For this game he was trying to allow for the very slippery conditions but in keeping with the Pantomime season, certainly before the break, he often acted as Chelsea's most dangerous threat. Still at least he wasn't card happy.
Chelsea's captain Le Tosser won the toss in the pouring rain and elected to kick towards the Clock End. It was a slow start with both teams trying not to make too many errors on what by Highbury standards was a difficult pitch. The ball zipped off it and the players slid for miles. Goal keeping must have been a nightmare. Chelsea had the first shot with De Lucas blasting wide from a return ball from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who was not playing one-on-one against Martin today, so no doubt a small fortune was lost on bets for the first yellow card.
Sol clipped JFH, Henry was clipped by Gallas but there was no great football early doors and the pace seemed a tad slow. De Lucas ricocheted one over from a Campbell tackle but until the eighth minute not a lot happened. At this point Pires in a central position put Ashley away down the left, he took it on and fired in an angled centre towards Bergkamp who tried to angle it past Cudicini but somehow Desailly did the job for him as the ball flew over the keeper for a one-nil lead. 'We've got Dennis Bergkamp' was the cry but in the replays you could see him mouthing 'own goal'. There you go Cudicini as they scream in all the best Pantos 'It's behind you.'
We then kept up the pressure for the remainder of the half and Chelsea weren't in it. Patrick was bossing midfield with fine driving runs and some seriously fast closing play on Lampard. He almost put Thierry away on the slick surface. Oleg was playing well up against Le Saux and Campbell looked in control at the back heading clear a cross as well as bossing JFH. Bergkamp and Cole combined well down the left and Cole was giving them problems. Rennie was letting fouls go, most noticeably for me was one by Desailly on Dennis. Cole saw off Zola, who looked remarkably like one of the ugly sisters trying to scare the kids, for a corner and Gilberto headed clear.
Seaman made a great full length save and recovered to grab the ball. Campbell was taking good care not to let the other ugly sister, Hasselbaink, scare the Junior Gunners while Ashley was enjoying himself with some great runs down the left. Pat was driving forward at will and dominating midfield. A Bergkamp cross in for Wiltord saw us win a corner but further back Thierry was unmarked and in space. The Italian ugly sister fell over far easier than Jeffers and won free kicks against both Vieira and Gilberto thanks to the Pantomime Horse with the whistle.
Dave needed to be careful parrying a powerful cross from De Lucas and then punched away well from the ensuing corner. A brilliant Vieira run showing all his skill and strength unfortunately came to nought. At the other end Le Saux stayed on the deck having attempted to wreak havoc at a corner, sadly no stretcher appeared. A fine ball from Keown to Wiltord zipped away on the slick surface.
Rennie missed a two-footed challenge by Manu on Pat in this match but gave a bizarre indirect free kick against Campbell for a perfect, if fierce, challenge on their Dutch ugly sister that cleanly won the ball. The crowd responded with 'You're not fit to referee' and quite possibly not fit to be the rear end of a Pantomime Horse. Cue the interlude or do I mean half time?
Desailly was horrendously late on Dennis but the Panto Horse awarded no yellow card so presumably he thought the piss poor timing was due to the slick surface. Dennis fed Henry who powered down the left and crossed well but the ball went just behind Gilberto who's own great run had got him so close to a golden chance, or do I mean golden egg? A bit of head tennis between Thierry and Dennis set up Wiltord with a chance but it wasn't his day. Henry meantime was giving Melchiot a torrid time. Gio came on for Rob. Gronkjaer came on for De Lucas.
Wiltord slung in a fine cross, Gronkjaer fired in from a narrow angle at the other end. A great interception by Oleg saw him gallop away to win a corner. Desailly chopped Henry but we got no more than a throw in. Petit took out his old mate Paddy. Henry on a run had a shot saved but by now we were countering as Chelsea were pressing forward, but without creating any serious chances. Henry drove in a left-foot shot which whistled just wide. Lauren replaced Wiltord. Gudjohnsen replaced Le Saux who hadn't quite lived up to her role of the wicked blue witch. It is in matches against Chelsea where I most miss good old Lee Dixon!
Cole dug out a pass to Henry after clever play near his own corner flag. Lauren broke and then you would have thought he'd broken the Italian ugly sister's leg from all the fuss being made. Babayaro shot from range, mainly because they couldn't work it close. Eleven minutes to go, Zola and Bergkamp subbed for Stanic and Toure. Eight to go and Henry found Gio in the left-hand channel and he hit a stunning low drive just inside the far post. 2-0 and it's all over. Oh no it isn't, oh yes it is!
What seems like seconds later Henry went on a run and fired in a low shot that seemed at first to be blocked by Cudicini saving low but the ball slipped under him and rolled over the line. It's behind you! 3-0 Arsenal and on the balance of play in the second half not entirely deserved. Do we feel sorry for Chelsea? Oh no we don't! 'There's only one team in London' was the chant - no change there then!
Oleg conceded a corner and Dave tipped the resulting kick over for another corner on the opposite side. That one was hit in deep and in keeping with the Panto no one though to mark JFH beyond the far post, despite us having two nominal right backs on the pitch at this point. JFH headed across goal and an unmarked Stanic headed home. It's behind you Dave! 3-1 but Chelsea hardly celebrate this late consolation goal because the game is already won. Oh yes it is - oh no it isn't!
The Highbury Spy once described Chelsea fans as being like a bunch of weebles. You know what I mean? A weeble is one of those silly round little freaky looking things that sits in the bottom of a budgerigar cage and gets perpetually knocked over only to keep bouncing back. It's just like their fans, you can batter them with results, league tables, trophies, quality football and logic, continue to thrash them at Highbury and yet they still bounce back spouting pure unadulterated garbage about being the biggest Club in London. No doubt they will be claiming they won this game because their players scored
most of the goals. Did they? Oh yes they did! But did they win? Oh no they didn't! Do you know why?
Well I'll tell you ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. It's because there is now, always has been, and always will be only one team in London. Oh no there isn't! Oh yes there bloody well is!