We are 30 games in and Arsenal have scored a League leading 71 goals while Hull in 29 games have managed to concede a League leading 61. The gulf in class between these two teams is as evident in the table as it was on the pitch and in the interview room yesterday.
This morning’s live Premier League table has United gaining both in goal differential and in points as they hold a 1-0 advantage over Fulham — which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. But as my regular reader knows, my favorite way to sort the table is by goal difference. By and large, goal difference gives an accurate reflection of where the teams should fall at the end of the season. Before kickoff I noticed that the goal difference between Arsenal and Hull was 70 goals (+37 for Arsenal, -33 for Hull) and so I knew that no matter what happened Arsenal were going to win this game. As the game went on and Hull got a penalty gifted to them a lot of folks in the twitterverse started getting really nervous, but I didn’t worry. Now if we play the way we played against Hull against West Ham, who only have a -12 goal differential, and let them get back into the game, we could very easily find ourselves with just one point and the final whistle.
On the pitch, the Hull pitch still had the lines from their rugby match last weekend, or maybe they had the lines painted for the rugby match they anticipated yesterday. I’m not sure, but I don’t think you can take a team too seriously who play with rugby lines on their home patch.
The match started well, with Andre Marriner blowing the whistle for all the early tactical fouling which everyone predicted Hull would employ. As a result, Arsenal were dominating possession and moving the ball well, threatening to open Hull up early several times. In the 14th minute Arsenal took an uncharacteristic early lead off some very good individual play from Andrei Arshavin who took the pass from Bendtner and jinked between Hull defenders to score a wonderful right-footed shot.
After that, Hull stepped up and tried to foul their way back into the game, pushing, shoving, and Boateng even pulling the old fashioned Three Stooges eye gouge all of which suddenly escaped Mr. Marriner’s eagle eye. In fact, after Craig Fagan disrespected the referee by complaining about how he was blowing the whistle too much, and got a “ticking off” for his effort, Marriner responded and started to allow Hull to kick Arsenal with little consequence. I suspect that little bit of gamesmanship by Fagan led directly to Campbell’s yellow card and Hull’s gifted penalty.
As for the penalty, the linesman was similarly suffering temporary blindness as he missed Dude With A Name So Long That It Forms A Circle Of Letters On His Back being offside by nearly the entire length of one of the Rugby lines which disgraced Hull’s pitch. Then Dude With A Name So Long That It Forms A Circle Of Letters On His Back seized his chance and knowing that he had no way of getting the ball back, pulled a triple-gainer and dove all over the pitch. Which caused the Hull fans to start singing “same old Arsenal, always cheating.” And they say irony is dead.
After Bullard scored the penalty, Hull had a bit of belief and showed a little more energy, which they plowed into tactically fouling Arsenal. George Boateng alone could have been sent off three or four times over before finally receiving his marching orders for an x-rated, studs to the knee, red-card, challenge on Bacary Sagna. Of course Marriner only saw it as a second yellow, perhaps because Boateng was captain?
After Hull were reduced to 10 men I knew exactly how the next 60 minutes were going to play out: Hull would defend with 8 men and Arsenal would patiently play the ball around and wait for the chance to open them up. Unfortunately, Arsenal’s final ball for the next 60 minutes or so was just not good enough. We had many, many corners which were not taken well enough and Mendy was able to clean up any breaks in the run of play.
Wenger pulled out all the stops and threw on the pacy Theo Walcott who came on and immediately made Hull look tired. Unfortunately, his final ball became quite predictable and it was easy for Hull to cut it out. Eduardo was also brought on but in his current form he looks a shell of his former self and I didn’t even notice he was on the pitch until he helped Bendtner celebrate the game winner.
And that game winner came from an unusual bit of play from Arsenal as Denilson had a long distance shot, which the keeper parried into the path of Bendtner who scored with aplomb. The phrase “long distance shot” does not come up that often on the blog because Arsenal do not do long distance shots. Another phrase that I don’t think you’ll find in the blog is “Bendtner’s in a rich vein of form” but with 6 goals in Arsenal’s last 5 games (all wins) it’s fair to say that he really is. In fact, I thought it was Arshavin who, despite the goal, looked rather poor and missed several sitters which would have put the game beyond doubt. Though I seriously doubt any fans will start jumping on the little Russian the way that they have the big Dane.
Hardly a post-match interview with Phil Brown goes by without at least a belly laugh and at most an absolutely confused guffaw. Phil didn’t let us down, saying that both Sol should have been sent off for the penalty and that the play leading up to the penalty wasn’t offside because while his player was offside, the flag didn’t go up:
The pivotal moment was undoubtedly in favor of Arsenal. He (Sol) should have been red carded, it’s as simple as that. It was offside, but it wasn’t offside because the flag didn’t go up. He’s denied a goalscoring opportunity and under the letter of the law, he should have been red carded.
Don’t me wrong, I understand that a manager will defend his troops, but to claim that Arsenal got the benefit of the calls in this match because Sol Campbell wasn’t sent off during a penalty that shouldn’t have been given flies in the face of reality. Moreover, I can’t remember the last time a manager complained about the referee when he was clearly the one who benefited from a call which in itself strained credulity.
It’s just bizarre but then, we have come to expect nothing less from Mr. Orange who after the spitting incident, the handshake incident, the saving someone from suicide incident, the sit down and admonish your players incident, and so much more, clearly lives in his own reality. We will miss you next year Mr. Orange, though I will keep fingers crossed that we get you in the FA or League Cups.
There’s so much more I could talk about (we were man-marking on set plays for once!) but I’ll let you all get a word in now. Unfortunately, Man U beat a very jaded Fulham 3-0 today and sit at the top of the table with a two point lead and a +6 goal differential. Wenger says we are going to give everything to win the League this year and as it stands, we’ll need to. No one is going to hand us the title.