Wednesday 24th March 2010
Us Arsenal fans are used to battling against the odds in pursuit of success it seems! And if there is anyone out there who doesn't agree with that statement let me give a certain 24 hours or so over the last few days as an example.
The Champions League draw is always very exciting, arguably even more so when you reach the latter stages. Fortunately for us Gooners it is something we have experienced on numerous occasions in recent years.
With no set rules as to who we could draw there were numerous possibilities beforehand but just a few minutes later we would not only know our opponents in the last eight but also who could stand in our way from actually winning the trophy should we go all the way.
Destination-wise I wanted Bordeaux, if only because it was the one city I haven't visited watching our team. If that wasn't to be however, we really wanted to avoid arguably most people's favourite teams to win the trophy, until Madrid at least!
Not only did we get paired with many experts' choices for the best team in the world right now but if we are to go all the way there is a strong possibility we will have to overcome two other teams currently sitting at the very top of two of the best leagues on the planet! A total doddle then!
If ever we wanted a challenge, that is exactly what we've got. Arsenal v Barcelona over two legs... if nothing else it couldn't be more mouthwatering!
With our group trip booked there are no prizes for guessing the topic of discussion when meeting pre-West Ham the following day. For me however, I hoped the players weren't as pre-occupied as us fans seemed to be. As we continue our assault on the Premier League title the last thing we wanted was complacency or a lack of concentration going into our latest massive game.
The early stages suggested this was a million miles away and Deni's fine one-two and strike gave us the perfect start. Some of our football for the remainder of the half was simply mesmerising, if lacking in that all-important aspect of putting the ball in the back of the net.
West Ham defended well and passed the ball around in exactly the kind of way you would expect from a Zola-esque team but as half time approached their overall threat had been pretty much non-existent. Then an incident that demonstrates that old adage that football can change in a second not only saw our visitors handed a chance for an equaliser but saw us facing the entire second period a man short. The foul decision was harsh although I can see why it was given, to send Tommy off however, seemed a little unfair when if he did make any contact at all it was obviously accidental.
For me our team really seems to be fighting for one another and has looked like that pretty much all season. Our goalkeeper, whoever that has been, is very much one of that team. Manuel has received some criticism this season, both from the media and some sections of our supporters. For me, after a tricky start to the season, he has been doing OK for a few months now. I don't want to jinx the situation but sitting here writing these thoughts I am struggling to remember the last time he made a costly mistake.
The penalty was a crucial moment in our league season and Manuel did the business. Down to ten men, that save gave us all hope at half time that we could still go on and take the three points from a difficult half ahead.
To be honest, other than perhaps the first five or ten minutes, we dominated the rest of the game even with one man short, and Cesc's coolly slotted home penalty gave us a two-goal victory we thoroughly deserved. West Ham's one real attempt on goal that flicked the outside of the post however, again demonstrated how in just one second it could have been a different story.
Of course like all of us I enjoy a demonstration of free flowing football, lots of goals and a convincing victory. I also enjoy games like Saturday. Once again we joined together when things could have gone against us and made sure we took home the all-important three points.
It's an attitude we need to take into each and every game in the run in starting at St Andrew's on Saturday.
I can tell things are getting close, the PMT seems to kick in even earlier in the week!
Come on you mighty reds!
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