It’s a strange life we lead over here as Arsenal fans in the USA. For many of us, getting up at 5am to go to the pub to watch Arsenal play Blackburn is not unusual. Nor is it too strange to take a long lunch and catch a Carling Cup match, or knock off work early to get home and catch the highly promoted ATVO replay of that same match. And now, I guess it’s not unusual for us to be promised a replay of that match only to have to wait hours before we could get to it.
From what I can piece together some people did get to watch the match in extremely low quality right after the final whistle, as ATVO promised. But when I got home at 5pm local time (3 hours after the match ended) I turned on the computer and was shocked to find that the game wasn’t listed. I looked everywhere, every single tab on ATVO (there are a lot of little nooks and crannies there!), and found nothing.
Eventually they started putting up 3 minute highlights and then 12 minute highlights and when I got up this morning and checked they had both halves available. I didn’t watch it, I don’t have time, so you don’t get a match replay from me. Instead, you get an eyewitness account from frequent blog commenter and friend of 7amkickoff, Mia.
So, without any further ado.
Mia’s non-match report
The thing is, you actually see less when you’re there than you do on tv. Or rather, you see different things in a different way. Television highlights the significant action and it gives you multiple camera angles and replays of that. What you see in the stadium is the entire pitch but from only one angle – which in my case was high up, just to the right of the centre circle. It was a great place to be, just over the media (I think), but how they manage to write what they do is beyond me – ‘In the seventh minute an incisive pass from Ramsey found Wilshere…’ type of thing. They, of course, are tapping their laptops at a hundred miles an hour, but since I didn’t take mine along and wasn’t contemplating giving you a report, you’ll have to make do with a few hazy impressions.
We played 4-1-4-1, at least I think we did (see what I mean about clueless). Vowel-less or Voosheck (that’s how Wenger pronounced him in the pre-match thing shown on the big screen) in goal, with the very young James Shea on the bench; Fish-head and Senderos in central defence; Gibbs and Gilbert at full back; Coquelin holding; Traore on the left; Ramsey and Wilshere central, Sunu on the right (or perhaps in the deep-striker role), with Watt up front.
I was excited about Sunu. He was spotted at some minnows French club, apparantly so minnows-ish it was impossible to get an accurate idea of his quality, so we sent our reserves/academy team over to France to see what he looked like against proper opposition. Pretty good, evidently, because we paid 2 million for him and Barca and Milan were in competition. What was he like yesterday? Young, is the answer. I think he’s barely 17, so against an experienced, big, muscular West Brom side who battled very hard, he didn’t shine as he did in the youth cup. He made some good runs, however, and he looks very intelligent. Quick, like Thierry; a close relative of a panther. I was sorry when he was substituted soon after halftime. I was also sorry to see Coquelin come off. As far as I could see he did nothing wrong defensively and his passing was mostly superb – unlike Ramsey’s, who I barely noticed in the first half apart from when he misplaced a pass. Gibbs was fierce. Traore made a fantastic run down the left and I thought he would score, but he crossed (like his elders and betters so often do) and the chance was lost. West Brom were tough; they pressed us hard and it looked like they would score. But Voo-shek made a couple of good saves – he looked massively better and steadier than Mannone – and Gilbert made a goal-line clearance. Senderos and Fish-head did OK. Wilshere? This where being at in the stadium comes into its own. What you see of Wilshere on tv are the best bits, his fighting qualities and prodigious skill, but what you see better when you’re looking at the entire pitch is that his decision-making isn’t always that good. I now understand better why Wenger thinks he still isn’t quite ready.
The substitutions were right. I’m not a fan of Mark Randall but he was a more attacking option than Coquelin and he did very well with a brilliant chip that should have been a goal. The whole stadium lifted and the game came alive when Vela came on for Sunu. With West Brom down to ten men and tiring, the goals were only a matter of time. Vela was amazing, lithe, dancing, phenomenal skill. The keeper saved but Watt tidily knocked in the rebound. Then Vela got his deserved goal. Game over.
Jerome Thomas had been niggling at Wilshere the whole game. Envy, resentment at our upcoming star? No, I didn’t see the slap that led to the red card. The game had moved on and the first I was aware of it was when the section of the stadium near the incident started roaring, and I looked back and saw Wilshere on the ground holding his head. I gather Thomas had kicked him, sneakily and not for the first time; Wilshere had said something and Thomas blew a fuse and gave him a slap and a push.
‘The Wonder of You’. Whoever chose ‘The Wonder of You’? It should give you goose bumps but with that fat green mascot swaying in the middle of the pitch it’s just embarrasing. Think about it. What that song says is: I (fan) am a poor miserable creature unworthy of your (the players) love. The second part of this is a lie – the players don’t especially love the home fans, not when they boo and wander off at half-time. And though the first part may be true – we aren’t that worthy of the beautiful football we get – singing about it doesn’t make us more attractive. And anyway, what’s Elvis got to do with the Arsenal? The fans were fine yesterday. Packed stadium, good atmosphere, but not very much noise. Why can’t we have a better song to start off with?