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Friday
Nov162012

Back From The Dead 

BY SANDEEP / @Sandeep725

It hadn’t been a fun few weeks as a Gooner. Demolished in Milan, hopelessly outplayed in the North, and for the first time since the beginning of football, we'd gone through the build-up to a North London Derby as underdogs.

I'm not usually one for idle chitchat on my way to matches. Football means different things to different people. For some it's a social occasion to see their friends, for others it's a sanctuary from the daily grind and a chance for a bit of enjoyment.

On this day I felt compelled to break my usual habit when I saw a grown man, seemingly on the verge of a breakdown, walking side by side with me, praying. A grown man praying before a football match. After I finished judging him, I suddenly realised that I too needed a fresh set of boxers.

And so it began. The tension was unlike anything I've ever been in the middle of at the Emirates. Someone turned up late, and a small scuffle broke out in the row in front of me. In taking a momentary look at what was going on I missed Adebayor profiting from another Koscielny slip to drive a ball into a hole in our defence which could have had its own postcode assigned. Saha went one-on-one with Tommy. I urged him, “Get closer son! Get Closer!” 1-0 down. Fuck. Unbelievable, but totally in keeping with our luck and form in the build-up. Alex Song tried rallying the troops. I couldn’t bear the thought of work on Monday morning…

Rosicky tried to push the team on, constantly pushing forward. Theo Walcott was, not for the first time, having an absolute ‘mare. Sp*rs meanwhile were playing excellently, soaking up the pressure and then pouncing on each and every mistake. Modric played in Adebayor and in a taste of things to come Gibbs and Szczesny dallied, didn’t deal with it and the marauding Kyle Walker set himself before taking aim. Oooof. His stunning effort missed me by inches, it would have taken my head off. At the other end a sharp Rosicky header drew another brilliant save from Friedel and then Robin - our saviour - snatched at a great chance to make it 1-1. Oh Robin...

Then came the moment we were dreading. Modric played a glorious through-ball on the half turn and Bale "streaking through" (love you Martin Tyler), promptly hit the turf. It was a dive. If he'd stayed on his feet half a second longer he would have been brought down anyway, but it was a dive. The fact that Mike Riley didn't seem to have a clue of what to do with Szczesny clearly indicated he had his doubts too. Who else but Adebayor stepped up and despite Szczesny screaming his mouth off it was an inch perfect penalty. We were 2-0 down in the first half, in our worst season for ages in our worst run of form…against the enemy.

If you rewatch the game you’ll see how Arteta immediately picked the ball out of the net. There was still time for Sp*rs to have yet another shot on goal which forced a smart save to SZCZ's right. But then with open mutiny threatening to spill over from the stands, something remarkable happened. I have long wondered why a man of the intellect of Arsène Wenger bangs on about a side having mental strength when there is clear evidence we hold anything but. But we finally saw it.

Rosicky, Arteta and Song drive the team forward and there was a wonderful pass from the latter. Theo flicked it on and Robin's was in on goal. He looked certain to score. HE HIT THE FREAKING POST. I couldn’t believe it.

Luckily, whilst he and the rest of us were picking ourselves up off the floor one man took matters into his own hands. Bacary Sagna cut in from the right flank, stayed in the box aware that he’d not been picked up and met Arteta’s pin-point cross with an Absolute bullet header.

There are moments in a season that can have seismic consequences. Sp*rs were 13 points clear and 2-0 up away from home. Had that goal not gone in at that very moment it's genuinely hard to see how things could have turned out the way it did come the end.

As a side bar, everything around that goal sums up Bacary Sagna. The relentless desire, the diligent workrate and the calmness to bury the chance. 2-1 and were back in it. Straight from the kick off you could see we were back in business. Kos won a header, Arteta won the follow-up and Song carried the ball through midfield begging his teammates to move into space.

Not for the last time in the season he tried to loft the ball into the penalty area. Assou-Ekotto could only half clear the ball under pressure from the absolutely brilliant Benayoun and the ball broke to Robin. I sit behind the goal in the North Bank in block 9. It’s fair to say that when the ball is bouncing around at the Clock End you have to guess over what is happening a lot of the time. It’s not really ideal when you pay the best part of a grand, but ho hum.

Anyway, there are moments and then there are moments. I swear to you from the moment Robin picked up the ball and shifted it onto his left foot, it was like the heavens shone down lighting up a perfect view of the path Robin had to goal. We willed him on, helping him shift the ball past Scott Parker before urging him on to finish the job. He unleashed the most delicious shot with his left foot which curled inside the post and past Brad Friedel. It remains, to this day, my most favourite moment at the Emirates. It was a wonderful goal from a truly special player in what was turning out to be an incredible game.

When the second half kicked-off Harry Redknapp brought on Sandro and Van der Vaart as he tried to wrestle back control of midfield. Spurs though couldn’t live with Arsenal. From the kick-off we attacked – there’s few things in this world more beautiful than an Arsène Wenger team full of confidence attacking the ball.

Arteta found yet another hole in the defence, played the ball to Benayoun and as he peeled off the defender he dinked the ball goalwards forcing a save from Friedel.

Five minutes into the second half and practically the entire Arsenal team bombed forward in unison. Gibbs found Song who fed Van Persie and in turn Rosicky. On the overlap Sagna played the ball to the near post and the Little Mozart was there to score. You can see what that goal meant to him by the look on his face when he realizes its gone in. Magic.

I have to admit the rest of the afternoon is a bit of a daze. I remember Theo going very close, before scoring twice in about five minutes. It sounds cheesy, but the second of those goals I remember looking up at the skies and just acknowledging that I was watching something very special. My only other memory of the second half was Robin literally dancing around the entire Sp*rs midfield in the last few minutes.

The rest of the day was spent in The Tollington. I can safely say I’ve never hugged so many strangers in my life. That day really was a turning point. For us, for the players, for the manager, and for the rest of the season as a whole.

No one likes supporter angst, whether you’re for the manager or not, whether you like the players or not, we all strive for the same thing and that’s an Arsenal that plays Wengerball and challenges for trophies. I get particularly upset when everyone is at each other throats, aside from the obvious reason that it means we’re doing poorly, because I think back to this day and remember how absurdly happy everyone was.

Beating your rivals, against the odds, at home, on a warm sunny afternoon – that is the essence of what it is to be a football fan. That joy is what you spend all that money for. It’s why you have to persevere in the hard times despite the defeats and the last minute heartaches. Wins like that in last year’s North London derby mean the world.

Just two things to end with. The first is Arseblog’s minute-by-minute of the day (click here). I wanted to include this because I remember reading it back when I got home and feeling that it summed up every emotion perfectly. Particularly after the first goal we conceded.

The second is the only picture I took of the day (see above). Unfortunately we go into this year’s North London Derby in exactly the same vein. Off the back of a poor run of form, with the manager and the players under severe pressure, and no one wants to think of the consequences should it not go right.

It’s over to you Arsène. You’ve done it once. Please do it again, and give us another day to remember.

 

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    The Arsenal Collective - A Home for Memories of The Arsenal - The Memory Bank - Back From The Dead

Reader Comments (1)

Great entry, and thanks for the link to the liveblog. I'm already laughing at 11 minutes.

"Replay of Gibbs penalty shout, not really a penalty but fuck Mike Dean anyway"

November 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJordan
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