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Arsenal v. West Brom: the magic of the cup

You could see it on the face of the manager. This was a cup final. Win, and the Arsenal secured third place and another season of Champions League football. Lose, and the Arsenal would finish fourth and run the risk of Chelsea taking their place in Europe by dint of winning the Champions League.

Arsenal went ahead in the fourth minute off a gaffe by reserve goalkeeper Martin Fulop. A simple ball over the top wasn’t collected properly and Yossi Benayoun nipped in to open the accounts. The perfect start to the perfect day in the Hawthorns, rapture for the fans, the players, and the manager.

West Brom weren’t done, though, and fired back. Twice the midfield played balls over the top to a solitary striker who got half a yard on the defenders and fired low and to the left from considerable distance. Twice West Brom scored from two “half-chances” and in the space of 15 minutes the Arsenal’s rapture turned into fear. The season hung in the balance and in Arsenal’s typical way had conceded goals from long balls over the top, undoing Arsenal’s high defensive line and exploiting injury to the Arsenal keeper.

But Arsenal weren’t done either and in the 30th minute Alex Song dispossessed an Albion player in their own half. Arsenal’s Andre Santos latched onto the ball, juked left, jinked right, and fired in his own shot from distance. 2-2. Arsene Wenger pumped his fists and tried to fire his team up “COME ON”. This was no ordinary match end of season stroll in the early summer English sun, like I said, this was a cup final.

The game was decided in the 55th minute. Robin van Persie’s corner kick seemed to hang in the air for a dog’s age and when West Brom’s keeper came to claim it, he was caught in what looked like three minds: punch, catch, or panic. He punched. Sort of. The ball spun slowly in the air and it was the most unlikely of players who pounced and put the ball in the back of the net, Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny.

Arsenal hung on for the last 35 minutes as West Brom attacked in wave after wave. Helpless on the sideline, Arsene Wenger was left clutching his assistant manager, Pat Rice, out of desperation. I think if the league would have allowed it, both men would put on their Copas and gone into the Arsenal defense to see the game out.

Much has changed in the nearly seven months since that last meeting. Most of the names I’ve read off above for Arsenal have gone. Pat Rice retired and was replaced by Steve Bould, Robin van Persie was sold to Man U, Benayoun’s loan ended, Alex Song was sold to Barcelona, and Andre Santos is going through a rough patch at Arsenal and cannot get his name on the team sheet.

West Brom have changed a number of things as well. Most importantly, they got rid of their reserve keeper, Martin Fulop. Though, their number one choice did just have groin surgery and they will be forced to use a backup again, Boas Myhill, when they face Arsenal tomorrow. The Baggies have also brought in an exciting Argentinian midfielder named Claudio Yacobs, the silent assassin they call him, to pair with the ever active Youssuf Mulumbu in the midfield anchor spots.

Yacobs is the kind of player that myth tells us Arsene Wenger used to sign. Claimed on the cheap, he plays like Gilberto once did for Arsenal; efficient, quiet, and with just enough of an edge to let you know he is there. It’s no coincidence that he is being mentioned as a potential target for Manchester United.

But while things have changed, the importance of this game has not.  Having won just 3 of their last 10 home games, and with a League record which has them both 15 points off the top and the bottom*, Arsenal are in the doldrums and looking like a team that wishes the season were over already.

Though, there are signs of life yet in this Arsenal team. Two of the most experienced players at the club have taken to the public airwaves and stated plainly that the team is dissatisfied with the results so far. Mikel Arteta, who really should be captain, told the press that the players are “hurting” at Arsenal.

You look at the players’ faces, the disappointment, the hurt. They want to put it right. You’ve got players here demanding and wanting to do extra training.

Tomas Rosicky is the one, though, who explained what it is that they want to put right:

We have to win the people (home fans) again. That’s the challenge. As I said, we did it last year so why not do it again? It will be difficult, there is no doubt about that, we are capable of doing it again. If we are all on board, Arsenal is a great place to play football, but we have to stick together and fight.

That’s the backdrop for tomorrow’s game: Arsenal need to set the ship right. To do so they need to give a convincing performance in every position on the pitch and on the sidelines.

West Brom won’t be easy. They have beaten Chelsea this season and they will be looking to take the game to Arsenal and exploit the soft underbelly of Arsenal’s high line. But if Arsenal can come out and just keep the pressure on for the full 90, if they can create shots from all over the front line, if they can get some swagger and play with a little bit of the old magic that Wenger was able to inject into so many teams for so long, they could just about win some fans back. Or at least start winning them back.

Arsenal need to treat this like a cup game. Just like they did last season. And it is a cup game of sorts. The 4th place cup is at stake, West Brom are there in Arsenal’s rightful place, and the Arsenal need to come out and take it back.


*The only way that Arsenal could be more perfectly mid table is if somehow they were in the same position with a record of 5-5-5. As it stands, Arsenal have an edge in draws with 5-6-4.

38 thoughts on “Arsenal v. West Brom: the magic of the cup

  1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    My favorite Arsenal moment in a long time. I had been out at a wedding reception the previous night and was getting ready for…a wedding! three of us sneaked out at 5 am to try and find a bar in Salinas that was playing this match, unfortunately all television stations were playing either City-QPR (turned out to be a good one!) or Spuds-Whoever they were playing. So we, that is myself, my brother, my girl, and two other gooners we fanagled into paying, ended up renting a ritzy b&b for about 6 hours, drunk as hell and only having a few hours prior to the affair, and streaming this match via wifi patched through to the tv via HDMI, when Arsene lay down for a moment in Pat’s knees, it was the perfect summation of an era that had been shared by two of the greatest servants in the history of AFC. West Brom’s goalie did a proper Almunia, and we could watch the Champions League final with the indifference it deserved! i don’t remember how we got back to the wedding, or anything else, all I remember is Yossi’s goal. he played on the left of the trident so well! a great half day out, one of the best. and of course Gibbs’ tackle at the end. such an exciting game. we might suck now, but we always have these memories. West Brom, of course, turned out to be pretty damned good, so our accomplishment was magnified further still!

  2. +8 Vote -1 Vote +1Londoncalling12

    Good afternoon from a cold London town. Season’s Greetings

    I spent the day mostly at home, but also for a few hours at the main shopping centre near where I live to buy the remaining Christmas gifts for the family.

    Recession….what recession!

    Today I witnessed credit and debit cards flashing their gold silver and platinum bellies, invitingly asking for unique pin numbers necessary for transaction approval. The end result being purchases contained in yellow, green, white and red glossy bags held tightly containing gifts for brothers and sisters and cousins and more.

    I love Christmas in London; it’s almost Disney like, especially when one can hear in the distance, practiced carol singing in the centre of promenades, aided by the hustle of folks seeking, searching wanting that special gift for their loved ones.

    On my return home, I released all my bags; I have one more present to buy… a gift for my brother…a West Ham fan.

    I switch on my laptop and guide myself towards the Arsenal Webpage, click on Corporate Hospitality tickets; but…I pause for a little while…. and ask myself!! do I really want to spend £350.00 plus 20% Vat (times twice) on hospitality tickets to watch a team that does not currently provide value for money.

    The question whether my brother is worth that 26th December gift, is not relevant; as it’s a sign of my love and gratitude for being by my side throughout 2012 when times were tough.

    I walked away…..I made some tea….I clicked on I Player, I watched a Kieran Gibbs exclusive, and I tremble….what a very DULL young man….I do not feel inspired.

    I attend to my front garden; I move the soft plants away from the open elements to save them from the freezing night time temperature. I plod along…finding things to do, thinking why should I spend so much money …I tell myself it’s not worth it, wait for a normal ticket ….think about it….. my thoughts kept on repeating.

    ….but sometime later I return to my laptop and click and accept the terms of purchase as I book two tickets for Arsenal v West Ham at a cost of £840.

    Will it happen…I do not know… a certain Mr Bob Crow may inhibit my gift to my brother with strike tube action…but that is another tale to tell?

    I support my team for the good and the bad times.

    And no matter what the weather; tomorrow (Saturday) I will be there to shout and yell encouragement for and to 11 men in Red and White, and pray that they are successful for Arsene’s sake, for their sake and for my brother and I sake.

    Tim: you inspire.

    I was at the Emirates screening for the West Brom v Arsenal game.

    I recall hugging a stranger…..

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

      you’re a kind sibling and a consciousnesses fan : ) a very tender and contemplative post. your brother’s West Ham is coming up in the world, they will inherit the Olympic Stadium in a similar fashion to the way City inherited the City of manchester Stadium! they’re going to be a big club, again. 840 gbp!? they’d better have Manny Pacquiao fighting Floyd Mayweather at the half!!!

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

      Ah ha my lady,

      It appears you can’t live without the excitement and trepidation of which Arsenal team will show up :)

      Hope your soft plants survive the chill. I am too lazy, I just bring them indoors in the winter.


  3. Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    I just want this team to fucking win. I don’t care how ugly we play or how we score our goal. It can be a long ball from Szczney that drops in front of their penalty box, where 14 players converge together and then the ball bounces off two of their players faces after a Giroud miskick, hits both posts and then slips though the hands of their goal keeper. Just fucking get it done.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

      At 3:00 pm London time there are 11 players who need to show up for us!!
      C’mon the Arsenal…give us a reason to celebrate on here at 5:00 pm London time.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

    Would love to see Arsene change up the squad somewhat in an attempt to shake us out of the doldrums, rather than just doing the same thing week in, week out, with dismal results.

    Move to a 4-4-1-1 with Giroud up front and Ox/Gervinho playing in a slightly withdrawn role.

    Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky and Cazorla in the middle with Carzola and Rosicky interchanging the CAM role to avoid MTM marking.

    Just something to give us a different look against a team which has prepared for our usual 4-2-3-1 and will try to press us in the middle. We could condense the MF four at times to control the middle third when they are pressing and use the WB’s to provide the initial width on the flanks. Both Gibbs and Jenks have the motors to do so.

    Oh well, it can’t hurt to dream, can it?

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      4-4-2 with Giroud and Walcott up top impersonating Heskey and Owen.

      I figure, if Walcott is gonna leave, I don’t want to go to my grave wondering whether he was actually on to something with his desire to play in the centre. And if he sucks at it, then at least we can use that to say “see? this is why you’re not worth 100k.”

      And we’ve gotten to the point where I would rather see a few long balls lumped forward to our big man, than Arteta and Mertesacker passing to each other 100 times per game.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

        Did not mention Walcott as he is injured. Was specifically speaking about the game in a few hours from now.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Its surprising that a midfield of Arteta, Cazorla and Wilshere cannot impose themselves against the opposition…

    What teams have figured out is, Get your 2nd striker man marking Arteta…and the so called defensive midfielder thug nip at the heels of Santi and Jack..or if needed win it physically.. Its working perfectly well because both Santi and Jack have the tendency to drift centrally, which makes it easy for the Defensive midfielder to pick them..

    The wider they go, they end up giving the ball to Jenkinson or Gibbs in the sideline..from there the only options are,
    a) Jenkinsons bad attempt at cross..
    b) Gibbs low cross easily dealt with
    c) Gervinho dribbling the ball between each blade of grass
    d) Theo running faster than the ball..and winning a corner..

    This should be where Rosicky could thrive…he drives the ball forward in a more direct way and can slip in the onrushing winger or fullback for a better cross…I’ll not be shocked to see Ox play strike partner to Giroud today..

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1marek

      We’re having a very ManU first half when it comes to penalties. We get one for the price of a dive, they don’t get one for Mertesacker’s handball…

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    How. How can Norwich knock 3 past Swansea in one half, while we can’t even manage a single goal against them in 95 minutes? I wish lower teams got with the program and no longer saw us as a scalp. What are they? Living in the early 00s? They’re worse than Gooners living in the past. Someone get them the memo.

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Gooneryank

    We’ve had the better of play but the dive was shameful. We need a few more goals to take the heat off Santi. I feel a ban looming…

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Mike Jones didn’t get the ‘no PK for Arsenal’ memo as we now get 2 in one game. Who do we think are, Man U?

    Let’s not do a Schalke.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1dy

      Gerv is terribly frustrating but at least he’s hard working today. Arsenal can’t afford to have players who waste so many good chances for a goal, especially if we’re chasing the game.
      Anyone noticed Sagna hasn’t been playing well for these last few games ?
      His performance just not as assured as before. Contract problem ?

    2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      The Zen philosopher Basho once said “How will you know greatness if you haven’t tasted shit?” I think he knew Gervinho.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

        Gervais Lombe Yao Kouassi (born 27 May 1987), better known as Gervinho, is an Ivorian footballer who plays as a forward for English Premier League club Arsenal. He is known for his pace and finishing.[2]

        (This is what some one has written in his wikipedia link. from a bleacher report obviously…)

        It sounds truly stupid and ill informed… but for a fact…4 seasons ago, at the age of 25… this is what Van Persies figures looked like
        255 Appearances 85 Goals.

        Gervinhos arent very bad for a winger…We all remember the time when Van Persie would not play the pass…play selfish..and cannot connect with anyone in the team..and remain crocked for half the season..

        I’d rate Gervinho to be a 20 goals a season player..He needs to get his brain a bit out of the tangles on his forehead..

    3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      I thought Gervinho had a reasonable game. He had the one particularly bad miss, but it was on his wrong foot which makes it slightly less awful. Aside from that, he created a really good chance for Wilshere, and had one shot on goal that Myhill needed to be at full stretch to save. He was lively, and while nothing really came off for him up front, his movement was actually a lot better than we usually see from Podolski, and this created problems for the West Brom defence.

      I think that with Gervinho, like Ramsey, it’s easy to ignore the positives because we are so often expecting a negative.

  9. +2 Vote -1 Vote +11niltothearsenal

    Don’t think about the dive.
    Don’t think about all the missed chances from open play.
    Don’t think about Gervinho’s insipid flailing.
    Be thankful for Arteta’s penalty shooting boots.
    It’s one of those matches after which you must say (say it after me)’ “well, three points and a clean sheet are nothing to complain about”.

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    I just want to say that after a very long time I smiled at some terrific interplay on our part. Finally the handbrake was off at 2-0. This team is capable of much more than what we’ve seen. Come on you gunners!!

  11. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Londoncalling12

    Naughty Santi.
    As an East Stand supporter
    I saw it all
    Referee gave it
    End of
    We won
    3 points

  12. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Londoncalling12

    Oops I forget
    How good was Jack and Arteta today.
    Gervinho may have a Brazilian parent
    But he does not play like a South American
    We need a lethal striker
    Second bye

  13. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    Naked eye, real time it was a penalty
    Cazorla gut thrown off balance due to change of direction because of the Baggie player, therefore it is a penalty
    Contact or no contact not important
    To me
    About time we had decisions go our way
    These things even out over a full season you know
    I can think of clear cut penalty calls we didn’t get you know
    Hope Cazorla is not subject to a witch hunt now
    Then I’ll really be pissed
    Sorry about the rambling free styling kinda comment
    Haven’t experienced a league win for a little bit
    Laters! We love you Arsenal we do

  14. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    Regarding Cazorla, I’m bracing myself for a spate of stories about how Santi is the biggest diver in the BPL since Eduardo, about how it’s too bad these foreigners dive so much and bring the disgrace of diving to English football, and about how Arsenal always get these type of calls completely ignoring the fact that Arsenal were the only team in the BPL last season to not have a penalty call in their home stadium For me, I’ll take the three points and take some comfort in the clean sheet and the fact that we played pretty well defensively, holding a WBA team which has beaten Chelski and are actually still ahead of us in the table to a single shot on goal. As for the penalty, after last season, we’re still a long way from these type of calls “evening out” for us.

  15. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Nice to see that when we don’t play well, are at home with fans backing, we can still get a win.

    2-0, clean sheet and a badly needed 3 points but lets not get crazy.

    We saw today how a home crowd can influence a referee a la OT. Crowd gets on Myhill for time wasting from the opening kick and the referee is on the GK to speed it up. I can’t recall 2 PKs in one game for Arsenal since they’ve moved to The Emirates. Thank the home support for those as well.

    What I did not see from Arsenal today was an ‘effective’ shot on goal in open play. Every offensive shot attempted looked like a comedy of errors. I saw no quality crosses for your target striker from anyone attempting said ‘prodigious’ feat. Offensively, our FBs were lame. The best play was a chip pass from Sagna to the Ox. Too many our of offensive forays were ground up into dust and Ramsey was not out there.

    The no. 1 player Wenger needs to buy is someone who can kick a CK that gives any player with a noodle a chance to score. Oh, I forgot, we sold our best CK taker for 25mil which only goes to show you how valuable that skill is on the open market. Maybe that’s the point Walcott is making in his contract talks :)

    The FK not given for the ‘foul’ by the Ox is open to the referee’s judgement and Jones brought his ‘A’ game today. Popov is a big Ox and Jones was not buying that our little Ox won the ball unfairly toppling him.

  16. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

    Give me credit guys, I wore my lucky red undies for the 10th time in 2 1/2 yeras and it has a 100% win record, including the two 5-2 drubbings of Tottenham.

    Can’t use it too much though, as the mojo will wear out.

    Penalty in real time is good. In slo mo, DIVE!

    Will very sheepishly take the 3 points.

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