Goodbye My Lover, Goodbye My Friend.

That’s it?! That’s all I get? My grande finale, the big exit, the game that was to perfectly tie up my love of Arsenal and our coming of age in one gorgeous 90 minute masterpiece to bid me farewell, and I get that instead?! Only Arsenal could do such a thing.

I shall explain. On Wednesday I am shipping off to South America. For 4 months I will be traveling around this exciting continent, with the world at my feet and my heart in my mouth. Thus I will naturally not be attending another Arsenal game until next season. Sunderland at home, on March 5th was therefore the one. My final game. The last hurrah. Just like an optimistic child who marks a cross in each day leading up to Christmas, only to find he has got no presents and Santa has died in his chimney after getting stuck, my big day similarly betrayed me.

I’d had it all planned out. 4-0 up and sailing on our way to being 1 point off the top of the league, this match would be the silver lining. In this metaphor, the cloud looming is the unthinkable prospect of being anywhere other than North London during the climax of a potentially fruitful season. Then, to a standing ovation from the crowd, Aaron Ramsey would make his long-awaited return from a career threatening injury. After a few renditions of ‘there’s only one Aaron Ramsey’, he would pop up with a last minute goal to make it 5-0, then turn at wave at me, bidding me luck on my travels. It was poetry.

Regrettably, Sunderland had somehow failed to read the script. In a first half performance in which Steve Bruce packed the midfield with 5 tireless runners and condensed any space from which we usually carve openings, Arsenal consequentially failed to create. Working as a collectively strong defensive unit all over the pitch, Sunderland afforded us little time on the ball, and even less in terms of chances. Without Cesc Fabregas orchestrating the game in the middle, we lacked that one creative instinct, able to create half a yard of space and provide a probing pass in a split second. Although an exceptional talent, Jack Wilshere was unable to replicate his captain, the 19 year old having been charged with this offensive responsibility. Similarly, with Diaby and Denilson apparently playing the match in slow-motion, Sunderland were comfortable in getting men behind the ball and stifling our creative urges. Samir Nasri huffed and puffed, going on one  particularly scything run, yet he two seemed bereft of ideas. After Sunderland had had two snap shots on goal, our best chance of the first half fell to Bendtner, who narrowly failed to connect with a low centre from Clichy. Moments later, while most inside the Emirates probably prepared themselves for a sky high shot into the Clock End, the Dane smashed a powerful shot towards the roof of Mignolet’s net having been played in by Wilshere. As is customary at The Emirates, the visiting keeper was playing exceptionally well and followed suit with a good save.

The second-half continued in a similar vane, though as Sunderland seemed to tire, chances began to come more often. As we have so often seen with this Arsenal team, constant probing often brings a goal late in the match. Yet while this was always on the cards, it never materialised, and when Arshavin was first denied a penalty before incorrectly being adjudged to be offside, you knew it just wasn’t going to be our day. Undoubtedly we missed the clinical finishing and lightning instincts of Robin Van Persie, though Chamakh also could have scored with a header that thumped off the bar from close range. Nasri, who became far more effective once being moved into the middle, came close too, as his looped free-kick was flapped away by Mignolet. Once Nasri was moved into this central role, a tactical adjustment many were hoping to see at Wembley after 70 minutes of ineffectiveness from Rosicky, Arsenal were able to dominate the match. With one last flurry, and a driven ball at the hart of the Sunderland penalty box, it seemed as if the goal was finally going to come. Instead Bendtner headed into the ground, and the arriving Djourou failed to connect. Unbelievably it could have been worse when Wellbeck almost delighted his parent club with a smartly hit shot, though luckily Szczeny came to the rescue with an excellent save.

With United having lost on Monday, and awaiting a tricky encounter with Liverpool today, it doesn’t take a genius to tell you that this was two points dropped. Nevertheless, the team will need to move on and showcase the thick skin Arsene loves to compliment when coming head to head with the greatest team on earth on Tuesday. The injuries mount up, the doubters lick their lips and the fixtures continue to come thick and fast. Woe is me for leaving at such a time. Though with my entire excursion based around being able to watch each and every game, I’m not really leaving at all.

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2 Responses to “Goodbye My Lover, Goodbye My Friend.”

  1. Colin Says:

    Bon voyage Josh. Not sorry my team grabbed a draw, of course, but at least you had the consolation of a plug not only in The Observer but at Salut! Sunderland (http://salutsunderland.com/2011/03/arsenal-0-sunderland-0-observed-what-barca-couldnt-we-could/).

  2. Pat Says:

    Hi Josh, You are a lucky sod going off to sunnier climes, but if you are still going to keep your blog up whilst on the road, then I may have something to interest you. I am in the process of creating a feed of all the Arsenal blogs I can find in the world, so the fans can check out the posts from every Arsenal website in the one place. I only have sites from real fans, so there is NO SkySports, Goal, Clubcall, The Sun, Mail, etc or all that “news” and rumours crap.

    I have been working on it for a while now, and already have 110 Arsenal Blogs on board. The biggest and the smallest and the newest have all joined, and I want to have every single Arsenal blog in the world on the site.

    All it has is a couple of lines of your post, and the headline will go straight to your website, so each post will link directly to you. You will also have a link to your home page on the contributors list.

    If you would like your site added, please send me your feedburner or RSS feed url and I will get it added straight away.

    All I ask in return is a simple text link to “Just Arsenal Blogs” somewhere on your homepage or you can have my 120 x 40 button if you prefer?

    You can have a look at the site (and the button) here:
    http://justarsenalblogs.com

    Let me know if you want to join….
    Regards
    Pat

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