This Sunday Arsene was still without the services of Patrick, whose groin is still a problem, Freddie who is not quite fully recovered and Ray who is in need of a couple of reserve games before reaching match fitness. So for today's match we reverted to our preferred back five, an all-Brazilian central midfield of Gilberto and Edu with Sylvain and Bobby wide, Dennis and the recovered Thierry up front. On the bench Stuart was joined by Oleg, Francis, Gio and Kolo.
Being in a low, row three, position behind the goal, is not my favourite place to watch a match, but we've had worse seats. And we also managed a higher vantage-point for the second half. St Andrews is a run of the mill, nothing ground, the bogs are fourth rate and the women's loos it would seem are worse than awful. Being a freezing day I fancied a pre-match scotch or brandy chaser to follow a cold lager but they had none. Thankfully one extremely kind Gooner in the drinks queue overheard my plight and passed me a miniature bottle of brandy with his compliments. You meet some great people with the travelling
As you'll know by now the lights failed at St Andrew's prior to kick off 'Shit ground no lights' 'Shall we pay your bills for you?' they also have no screen, no clock and the tannoy announcer spoke a foreign language. And what on earth was that mad dog on? The mascot in the Brummy gear - not Robbie Savage. So on a cold day a half-hour delay was really what we needed, wasn't it? Anyway it didn't matter, being a generous bunch the Gooners had a whip round and this eventually enabled them to shove another coin in the meter.
Not that the delay effected the mighty Arsenal in the slightest. Henry went on a run in the first minute and won a free kick on the edge of their box. He slipped it through to Gilberto on a run but it didn't quite happen. Dennis who was working his rocks off right from the kick off set up Wiltord but he shot well wide. Birmingham did get in our half before we scored but a Lauren headed clearance and a great tackle from him as well saw them off.
So Dennis was on the ball fairly central and Thierry goes through the gears in the space of 20 yards, you know the sort of thing; fourth, fifth, afterburners. Bergkamp spotted the run, hit the pass to perfection and Henry was celebrating his 99th goal after a cool finish. 0-1 Arsenal with just five minutes played and the best the Brummies could respond with was to get themselves caught offside.
Pires to Henry almost. Big Brummie hoof up field, which Martin headed clear. Wiltord to Dennis to Pires and we looked like we were up for this one. The flowing football was back, the sweet pass, sweet move, fast pass, neat move, controlled run, flash step-over, flick pass, tasty pass, flow and go, move and groove team game was back on track. This was a similar performance to that at Elland Road. We were the biz.
Dennis had his dancing shoes on, Bob looked a class apart, Edu and Gilberto kept the rhythm moving and Henry tapped out the beat up front. We were quick, slick and in a, don't mess with us, sort of mood. Henry and Bergkamp were chasing down defenders. Cole was being hammered by the Brummie fans but looking like he'd take them apart on his own if they kept on at him. Twelve minutes gone and Edu has already had a good kicking. Savage was trying to put himself about but was too crap to get close. Coly was in an if it moves kick it mode and Johnson, who looked quite lively, was in headless chicken mode. 'We've got Dennis Bergkamp' 'You've got Robbie Savage'
Stern John flying in late on Campbell was missed. Campbell was also unimpressed much later in the match when Dugarry hit the deck rather too easily for Sol's liking. Keown headed back in a dead cool manner to Dave in their best attack to date. It got a bit end-to-end at this point, but it's almost as if this was part of our game plan, just so that we could counter - Something we did at lightning speed.
'ArseneWenger'sredandwhitearmywehatetottnumb '. They came close when they had one blocked on the line and one headed clear from fairly close range. Johnson fouled Dave and their fans went loopy, but if they knew any better they wouldn't live in Brum would they?
A loose ball was chased by Wiltord the ball bounced around as both Sylvain and the defender failed to get hold of it. So Bobby did. Wallop 0-2 Arsenal, and I don't reckon that Vaesen even saw it. 'Champions.' 'You might as well go home.' Just under half an hour played and the game was over. Cole wormed his way through. 'Same old Arsenal - taking the p*ss.' Lauren fouled Dugarry and got a yellow but Seaman caught the free kick from wide with ease.
Wiltord was hauled down in their box, an obvious pen - not given. 'Feck all feck all feck all United have won feck all.' Birmingham had an appeal turned down at the other end. Coly in on the back of Henry's legs for what should have been a second yellow but wasn't. Clemence, feck me he was actually playing, fouled Gilberto. Passes, passes and more passes followed all to players wearing red and white. Cole won a corner, Campbell pressured at the far post. At the other end Clemence blasted well over. 'Shall we sing a song for you?' 'You're not very good' 'You might as well go home.'
Half time and we spot a big fat yellow banana behind their goal, then again it could have just been a Steve Bruce look-alike. Maybe inflatables were still in vogue when they were last in the top division, who knows?
Coly goes in with a two footed tackle. Dugarry v Keown - corner Brum. Another corner conceded when Brum looked to be offside. Clemence hacked Edu but no yellow card. We were spreading the play, working it around, sucking them in then passing or speeding past. The Blues were having a bit of the match but Cole headed clear well and Martin saw off Dugarry well inside our six-yard box. Cole cleared off the line again, how many is that this season?
Dennis had a shot following Wiltord's break. Dennis put Lauren away and his superb cross was cleared for a corner. Henry had a shot headed clear for another corner. We were bossing it, how much so can be judged by the fact that when Martin picked up a booking he was almost parallel with their penalty area. Great play by Pires and Cole down our left. Dugarry in late on Cole as he finally susses the Brummie game plan. Henry caught late. Long ball by Lauren to Henry headed clear.
Quality one-twos were followed by more quality one-twos which Rob and Thierry were now trying from about thirty yards. Henry was hacked again, he's just too good and too fast. Our third came from a long ball in from our left flank and Lauren was at the far post to meet it with his head. 0-3 to Arsenal and Lauren was so delighted and stopped off to celebrate with Kolo on his way back to our half. 'We can see you sneaking out' 'Are you Villa in disguise?'
Another flowing, brilliant move, which Rob took on from near the touchline oozed class all the way. He caressed it on for Sylvain who caressed it wider for Henry who was by now apparently moving away from goal. Not a problem though, his pace did them again and he neatly bagged his 100th goal for Arsenal. 0-4 Arsenal. There was much more play to come including some magic by Henry but on the way Gio replaced Edu, Jeffers came on for Dennis and Kolo replaced Rob. They also used three subs, all non-entities who I could care less about.
Party mood by now was such that 'Rocky' 'Brady' 'Adams' and 'Wrighty' all had their respective songs sung. When Stern John, who is a useless but nasty little sh*t, gave Lauren a dead leg about two weeks after the ball had gone the travelling Gooners were chanting 'One Gary Lewin, there's only one Gary Lewin' followed by 'One England Physio, there's only one England Phsyio'. Gary enjoyed it. Chants of 'Seaman Seaman do the twist' were greeted with a huge grin and two fingers.
I'd like to see the video of this game because being behind the goal it's difficult to judge offsides in the opponents half. Henry was caught offside umpteen times and he's not caught off legitimately that often these days. Looked to me as though he should have been allowed to carry on and get his hat trick at least twice. 'Same old Arsenal - taking the p*ss' 'Cheerio' 'Champions' A yellow card for Johnson for a late tackle on Gio and well played Mr Bennett. He let the game flow and boy did we flow. Arsenal are back on song. Arsenal are looking seriously good. Arsenal are awesome and the following pack should all be wearing brown trousers.
A great day out and we even went home via the M42 and M40 and had a decent journey back to London. So Sunday trips to Birmingham can be fun after all.