Monday 31st October 2011

Football can frustrate, annoy, anger and disappoint at times. Then there are those occasions where the sheer joy, buzz and satisfaction simply cannot be equalled. Saturday afternoon provided one such moment.

Things have been improving this season week-on-week. We all know that. We also are well aware that although our two home wins over Sunderland and Stoke were hard-earned, deserved and satisfying, especially with the increasing pressure the start to our season had added, if we are to challenge for the top league places once again, they are fixtures you really must win.

Although some of our greatest Gooner memories come from matches at Stamford Bridge, even our most successful teams down the years have found it one of the toughest fixtures on the calendar. Consequently Saturday was being mooted as a test of how much we have progressed.

Despite our recent form, even the most optimistic among us admitted a draw would be an encouraging result come the final whistle.

Playing away to the top teams, you are always going to concede one or two chances of course. It is then that you need to rely on defending full of desire, your opponents having a bit of an off day in front of goal, great goalkeeping and that little bit of luck with aspects such as ricochets and officiating.

Our game on the other hand is all about passing, controlling, movement and creating chances. Consequently we all knew there was no way we would be going for anything other than a win. Saying that I don't ever remember us having so many good opportunities away at Chelsea in all the years we have been going there.

Much criticism has been aimed at both teams by the experts for their defensive displays on the day. There were mistakes by both teams of course but I also don't think it is just coincidence that you had a top Premier League clash where both teams went totally for the victory from minute one.

For any football fan the game must have provided incredible entertainment. Masses of desire, great football, chances, controversy and goals.

Much has been made of whether Chezz should have been sent off after his collision with the Chelsea left back and on another day he might have seen red. You could certainly argue however, that our own left back was fouled immediately before our hosts made it three apiece.

For me, whatever the overall analysis, the best team won on the day and that above all else is extremely satisfying.

With less than ten minutes to go, however, I couldn't help but feel we might be just about to see us go home empty-handed after all our efforts. Admittedly that would have been extremely difficult to take.

Then, almost out of nothing, RVP was through. Was the outcome ever in doubt? In his current form absolutely not and once again it went all a bit 'disco' in the away end.

Even then there were five long minutes plus what we all knew would be considerable 'injury' time to add. Would we shut up shop? Let's be honest we all knew that wouldn't be the case!

Winning the ball deep in our own half, the break was on and RVP found himself with half a chance. A split second later and the ball smashed into the same top corner of the net as famous strikes from the likes of Sylvinho and nutty Nige before him.

If the away end was 'disco' a few minutes earlier it was now sheer pandemomium!

I don't know about all you fellow Gooners out there but I get a real sense that this squad are closer knit than many before. They look really together and ready to fight for each other. If Saturday's performance and reaction was not as good an example as any I don't know what is.

It's all about sticking together and that continues as we welcome Marseille to North London after we enjoyed their hospitality just a couple of weeks ago.

Another win would be one more huge step in our improving season and as always we can make a difference on the night.

For now, I might take another look at Saturday's highlights ;-)


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31 Oct 2011