This was a ding-dong game that could just have easily been 2-2 as 1-6. As it happens it was neither. A massive pre-match rendition ‘Only one Arsene Wenger' as Wenger signed autographs for the Charlton fans behind the dugout as the press gathered for photos. ‘The Cole song Wenger doesn't like' followed by ‘And it's Arsenal, Arsenal FC, they're by far the greatest team the world has ever seen' ‘We will follow the Arsenal over land and sea'
Charlton kicked off towards the Gooners as Gallas took his place in central defence with a heavily strapped leg. Robin was wide left. Hleb was tripped. Then Freddie was axed and Hughes got the first talking to by referee Clattenburg who at no point had full control of this game. Hreidarsson was about a week late on Hleb for the first yellow card. ‘Ten more years, ten more years'. Van Persie put our free kick from the right into orbit. ‘We forgot that you were here' ‘Stand-up if you hate Tottenham'‘And it's Arsenal, Arsenal FC, they're by far the greatest team the world has ever seen'. Cesc with a decent run but his shot was straight at Carson who by a country mile was Charlton's man of the match.
Bent beat Gallas in the air. Hleb was sent tumbling. ‘We love you Freddie because you've got no hair' A Henry run followed by an awful shot by Robin with his right peg. Van Persie to Cesc to Henry with some blinding play but offside was called on Titi. Bent in with a shot but Bill did enough to stop the chance and what looked a corner to me was given as a goal kick to Arsenal. Some great play and a neat flick by Thierry to Cesc who headed over. JFH hauled down Gilberto. Lehmann out to head clear and Lisbie hit it straight back with an awful attempt. 21 minutes gone and Arsenal appealled against a close offside decision as JFH's cross was tapped home by Bent. 1-0 to the team in red as the yellows remonstrated with the bald lino.
‘Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal'. Lisbie well over the top on Fabregas for a yellow card. Arsenal broke away as Lisbie hammered Gilberto but stayed down himself writhing. Arsenal played on and won a corner so Lisbie miraculously recovered and ran back, only to go down again shortly after at an expedient moment. ‘Cheat, cheat, cheat' was the Gooner chant as Arsenal players berated Lisbie. JFH, with his ever-pointed elbows got involved with Van Persie. Robin lashed out and a red card looked on but Clattenburg produced a yellow. Mayhem ensued. Lisbie was now having treatment on the pitch when he could have been moved a yard to get him off it. ‘The referee's a wanker' certainly resonated from the Gooners and probably from the Charlton whisperers as well.
An Eboue cross to Hleb won another corner, which was headed clear. Bent beat Toure in the air to head past the post with a close call. Cesc appeared to go for the ball but got a yellow card from Clattenburg who was now on a card-flashing roll. Reid had a massive miss-kick and was roundly jeered just prior to the three minutes added time. A Young cross was taken high by Jens. Clattenburg pulled back Charlton for a free kick when they clearly had an advantage and JFH went apeshit at the ref. Half time and the match had a whole load going for it. Namely action at both ends, controversy, goals, pitiful refereeing, questionable linos, plenty of cards and quite a lot of commitment to go with the quality football from the men in yellow. 1-1 half time. ‘One man….'
Kishishev replaced Faye after the break as Arsenal kicked towards the travelling Gooners. Jens saved from someone or other in red. Henry and Van Percy combined well. Arsenal piled on the pressure and Cesc had a shot. Next up it was Henry, who was in drift left mode, he cut inside for a shot that was not very far away. What happened in our next attack was a gob-smacking you-had-to-be-there moment. Eboue on the right slung in a brilliant cross that Robin connected with whilst fully airborne but somehow managed to volley past Carson like an Excocet missile. Definitely a goal of the season contender I'd say. 1-2 to the Arsenal and tremendous celebrations in the Jimmy gone to Seed Stand. ‘Robin Van Percie'
Offside Charlton. Both Henry and Hleb were fouled but play on said Clattenburg as Charlton broke. We had some fine spells of possession but Charlton didn't roll over and die, which made for some fine end to end entertainment. Bill lost it to Hasselbaink who's shot was easy for Jens. A Gilberto shot was saved low. A killer Kolo tackle. ‘Dut, dut, dut, we've got Kolo Toure' ‘Dut, dut, dut, Ian Dowie's fecking ugly' ‘Arsene-Wengers-red-and-white-army'. ‘Super, super Tom, super Tom Rosicky' as he warmed up. ‘Down with the Tottenham, you're going down with the Tottenham.' Hleb stole the ball in their box but yet again Carson saved the shot, this one coming from Henry. ‘One team in London, there's only one team in London'. Brilliant save by Jens at his near post and then Kolo hacked clear from the corner. A stunning Henry cross from the left and Van Persie steaming in must have been only millimetres away from his hat trick. Two more corners to Arsenal one of which resulted in a Helb volley that was deflected. Freddie's shot blocked from Cesc's pass. ‘We love you Freddie because you've got no hair'
At this stage we had total control in a pass them to death sort of way. ‘Have you ever seen Chelsea play like this?' Kolo was carded and there was a free kick to Charlton, I've no idea why. Lehmann down having treatment, Henry arguing with the ref. Arsenal broke very fast from a Jen's throw out and Henry was not too far away with his shot. Tom replaced Robin with a massive ovation for the man who nearly saw red. Then fat Eddie Murphy missed what looked to be a sitter from the other end of the pitch, it was certainly a great headed chance for Hasselbaink. Hleb to Cesc for another great save by Carson. Henry to Tomas resulted in a terrific shot and save. Charlton still wouldn't die and countered. A ridiculous yellow card for Hoyte for alleged timewasting at a throw in to Arsenal, this was a total joke just like the ref. An absolute killer pass from Cesc, which Henry worked inside until he once more, had his shot saved.
Arsenal kept the pressure on; Clattenburg kept the cards coming, this time it was Kishishev who got one for a foul on Freddie. The game remained helter-skelter until the final whistle and what an eventful, enjoyable game it had been. Enhanced by the news that the Chavs had dropped two points at home. The only difference form our usual win at the Valley was that Henry didn't score and the result was far closer than is the norm.