We often notice on MFW that many of our readers love a debate about whether it’s better for us to watch our beloved club in the Championship or the Premier League.
I reckon Sunday’s enthralling encounter surely saw the old swingometer tilting even more in favour of the Prem, and that’s always been my personal stance.
The game had almost everything – four goals, two penalties [I can count but you know what I mean], VAR controversy and l’il ole Nodge going toe to toe with yet more multi-millionaires with “history”, aka Arsenal in this case. Who had £70 million Pepe on the bench as an unused sub to really put matters in perspective.
For 20 minutes our friends in the North [London] looked what they should be. Smooth, stylish, threatening and pressing like the very devil himself.
We even needed a headed clearance off the line from Onel Hernandez of all people.
But then Kenny McLean put through a superb slotted ball to Teemu Pukki who made mugs out of David Luiz and the incredibly poor Shkodran Mustafi before firing home off the latter to put us one up.
What happened next I won’t particularly dwell on but I’ve seen the VAR stills and last season there is no way there would have been a retake of that penalty. Referee Paul Tierney [I’ve seen better whistlers tbh] saw nothing wrong in real-time, after all.
It took all of two seconds for the Barclay and the Pit to jointly spark up with “F*ck VAR” and they meant it.
If this so-called system isn’t ripping the lungs out of the game I don’t know what is. Time it was binned IMO.
And then courtesy of another controlled finish from the Dereham Deco [dunno who thought that soubriquet up but I’d be proud to claim it had it have been me] saw us regain the lead at the best possible moment: first-half stoppage time.
Mesut Ozil’s corners had been dangerous throughout proceedings and when we failed to properly clear one it fell to the admittedly excellent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who finished in style.
After a few nervy moments, we battered them. Bernd Leno in the Gunners’ goal didn’t exactly lead a charmed life – I’d rather say he was brilliant, especially his tip onto the post from the Mayor. We went up three times in the Barclay within ten minutes thinking we’d done it. Not so thanks to the brilliance of the German international keeper.
Enter Emi Buendia to the return of his song. He did his usual party trick by giving the ball away on half-way but we got away with it this time. Such a great little player but sometimes so careless.
We couldn’t break the Gooners down and they had settled for a draw on 80 minutes. That much was obvious.
Heartbreak nearly struck when late Arsenal sub Lucas Torreira hit a goalbound shot but tragedy was averted when the gutsy Ibrahim Amadou made the block from heaven. Which looked like he achieved with his feet, so no late free-kick for Arsenal. To have lost at the death would have been incomprehensibly gutting.
I’m right behind the Barclay goal and Tim Krul had already shifted his weight and balance one way. He may have been right, he may have been wrong. But thanks to Amadou we’ll never need to find out.
All in all that was a tremendous game of football, one I left with a slight tinge of disappointment but also a great sense of relief.
As did the Gooners I briefly spoke with on my stroll back along the Prince of Wales.
When supporters of both sides agree it was a great game you know it was a great game.
My special praise goes to Sam Byram because he had a torrid opening ten minutes but really grew into it and was a rock in the second half. Todd seems [quite rightly] to have had most of the media praise but I tend to watch our left-back more than I perhaps should as that was where I played.
I suspect Jamal [Lewis] might have to wait a while to get his slot back. Well played Sam Byram.
MFW commenter Steve Leach said yesterday on Gary’s article that Teemu’s goal coincided with the launch of a Woodforde’s beer named in his honour called The Perfect Finnish.
Graham who sits behind me in the Barclay said he’d already sampled it and reckons it tastes just like Wherry.
I doubt Teemu would care too much [I don’t think the Finns generally brew bitter], but he’s back on the goal trail which is much more important than any ale trail.
Another 28-ish points [not pints] from 24 games? Yeah, we can do it, especially if we play like we did on Sunday.
Of course another PL manager is gone as in Quique Sanchez Flores at Watford. If only Zimbo had been fit for that encounter.
But as Slade sang in that infamous Christmas song [free to hear in any City Centre shop at the moment], we must:
Look to the future now – it’s only just begun.
And Ron Saunders was our manager when Merry Christmas Everyone was released in 1973!