The Final Third

Arsenal 1 Spurs 1

What a complete and utter crock of shit. I fucking hate London Transport. I set off from Leyton tube station in the badlands of East London, along with Spurs tourist Forza Huddlestone (a GG regular and resident of Florida) at about 6pm. If you’re familiar with that part of London you’d probably wonder why we didn’t get a bus to Walthamstow Central and hop onto the Victoria Line. Well, simple really. At that time of day, its carnage on the roads. More traffic lights than dollar notes in Bill Gates wallet. Would have taken an age to get to Walthamstow.

So with the Central Line being the best alternative, we set out for Holborn, with the intention of changing over to the Piccadilly Line and make our way to Gillespie Road. And it’s here the Fellowship of the Cup began. The train didn’t stop at Holborn, thanks to over-crowding. So, we decided to go to Oxford Circus, hop onto the Victoria Line and get to Finsbury Park. Round the houses trip. 5 minutes waiting for a train, when it finally arrived and everyone crowded on, we were told that due to something or rather (signal failure?) the train wouldn’t be moving for a bit and chances of getting to Finsbury Park were zero.

Oh, and how can I forget? Back on the Central Line I adopted a Gooner. He doesn’t live in London and wasn’t sure of an alternative route to get to the game when the train failed to stop at Holborn.

“Did I hear you’re going to the Emirates?” He asked. Smart looking bloke, but I could tell he wasn’t one of us. Evil lurked within.

“Yes mate. You’re fucking Arsenal aren’t you?” I said. He laughed.

I told him to just follow us. Turns out he had a ticket for an executive box. Staggering. Apparently the rack of ribs is the highlight of the available food for a midweek game. Posh grub only available on weekend games when the chef has more time to prepare. Better than a bagel I suppose.

One of the reasons he wasn’t pushed in front of a train (apart from the fact there were no fucking trains) was that he was happy to slag off the Emirates and the corporate fans. Probably did so to keep us onside so he wouldn't get lost in the scary underground land of the giant robotic tunnel snakes.

A bit ironic considering he was going to tuck into some ribs later on in the evening. Most Arsenal fans hate that element of their club, so they say. I’m sure if we are ever graced with a stadium of that magnitude, the same thing would befall us. Though we don’t have a Nick Hornby to help recruit cunts by the thousands.

“We get far too many people who aren’t football fans let alone Arsenal fans that come to the games”. No shit sherlock. His excuse was he doesn’t live in London.

Anyways, we decided to scrap the Victoria Line (which was later partially suspended) and make our way to Kings Cross. Bakerloo to Baker Street, only to find Kings Cross closed. Quintessential evening travel experience right there. And we were obviously not alone, with countless red and white and white and blue colours littered frantically all of the place as people tried to work out alternate escapes from the underworld.

We settled for Bakerloo to Piccadilly Circus to Gillespie Rd. No surprise the kick-off was delayed. Amazing how many barriers (figuratively speaking) supporters had to dodge in attempting to get to the game. Sods law in full effect.

Finally got to the ground, one hour and forty minutes after setting off. We said our goodbyes to Billy (the gooner). No tongues. In all seriousness, he was a good lad. He even wished us luck. Bless.

The game wasn't too shabby. Especially from our perspective. Sure, we didn’t beat them (again). If anything, the 90 minutes gave us a near perfect example of the kind of breaks the teams at the very peak of the table get. That old saying about making your own luck rings true and Arsenal proved it. Their goal was textbook. Slice of luck, deflected, off Walcott’s hand and in. He didn’t know too much about it, but that didn’t stop him goading us with the cupped ear routine. How very scum that was. Seems young Theo is fitting in perfectly well at Arsenal. Already a cunt at such an early age, skinned by O’Hara then going down Platoon style feigning a head injury but then being treated for a foot injury. Laughable and unsurprising.

The game had an element of (the required) blood and thunder, but decent flowing football seems to be the best way to hurt opposition in a NLD. Something them lot know all too well, especially against us. This time out, Wenger's superfluous kids looked shit. Especially at the back. But they still had their moments and forced a few saves and especially early on in the game, managed a few heart-in-mouth moments. We hurt them in much the same way. Good crisp attacking football.

We looked solid too. Ledley King, for the first time since his return from injury, actually looked to be back to business with some wonderful trademark tackles. Hasn't lost any of his pace either. Overall not too bad in possession and as the game progressed some of our purple patches produced some excellent play, eventually leading to the Jenas goal for 1-0.

Could have, should have (there’s those words again) scored more in that first half. Second half too. The play in the final third lacked that final killer ball or shot. Pulling the trigger a bit earlier on occasion would have helped. 1-0, 1-1….all the same really. If Wenger plays the same team they will be slightly more improved performance wise I’m sure. But Spurs have to be favourites now to get to the final. On the 23rd time of asking, Spurs will have to produce the same type of performance with a more telling score-line in our favour. Steed and JD take note.

Arsenal lacked the cohesiveness of their previous games. Good to see a second successive decent enough performance in their cesspit. Would be foolish to think the tie is done and dusted though.

Wasn't too happy with the constant ball back to the keeper routine. But at 1-0, you couldn't really complain about it. Making use of the ball and helping so by moving into positions is something that will come with time and new players with the appropriate vision. That's one thing the scum do well. When they are in possession they always get forward. Although I'm highlighting their good moments. Some of their passing in front of their own area was almost, dare I say, Tottenhamesque from weeks gone by. Senderos. Diamond geezer innit.

No Robinson for us. Good decision and about time. Cerny (minus his kicking) played well. Some useful saves and tidy keeping. We need to bring in someone now or the summer as his loan spell is up and I don't think it will be renewed. Robinson has to avoid sulking and should prove Ramos wrong if he wants to see out his long term contract. Personally hope he does just that.

Berbatov looked sublime again. His control of the ball and run at Arsenals defence in the first half was superb. Steed, King and Jenas all impressed. Not too many negatives. Defoe’s sitter aside. We created loads of chances, and for a team that’s been very average this season, it was a fine result to take back to the Lane. You could tell that alone on the faces of the home support after the final whistle and on the way home. The miserable gits.

Not a single booking last night either. Well done ref.

Truly shocking home support. But nothing new there from the Borg collective. Apart from that small section in the corner (Hugh, is that you?) that bring their scarf's to the game. But maybe their insistent jumping up and down has more to do with bladder control. The Emirates has the smallest most compact toilets I’ve ever had the displeasure of using. Thank God for the sinks.

As for the empty seats, was there a rowing regatta everyone had to get to? Still 53,000 to watch an Arsenal reserve team ain’t too shabby, no?

After the game, apart from the usual head-slapping from the Arsenal fans from behind the line of Police officers, some of them were making throat slitting gestures. I’m now pretty certain they were referring to losing their voice along with every other red in the ground.

You have to love these games for what they are. Boiling pots.

But enough unoriginal cheap shots aimed at the Enemy, at the end of the day, we aren’t without our own problems. Let’s not pretend for a second that our West Stand doesn’t exist. One thing is for sure. Come the 22nd, the whole of the Lane will be fucking near apocalyptic.

Getting back after the game proved to be a pain too. Victoria Line was still screwed. Overground only at Finsbury Park. First train was far too packed. Second train was cancelled. 30 minute wait. No thank you. We walked to Angel, and didn’t get back to East London till well gone 11pm. Proper work-out that was ruined by a midnight KFC.

And onwards we go. Roll on, second leg.