Arsene has his perfect goal at last
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal sides have been noted for seeming to seek a footballing utopia. The constant passing, when it gets to the penalty area, is oft-criticised – especially on this site. The pursuit of “the perfect goal” has led to us failing to shoot and, therefore, failing to score on a vast number of occasions. One more pass being made, instead of a clinical finish, was even a feature of the great Wenger sides of the past. On Saturday the search for the perfect goal surely came to an end when Jack Wilshere slotted past John Ruddy in the first-half.
It was nothing other than a privilege to have watched that goal being scored. In years to come it will be shown over and over on DVD’s and the like. I remember seeing Liam Brady’s goal at Tottenham for the first time on the Centenary video and thinking how incredible it was. I know that, when my children and grandchildren are growing up and they get to see Arsenal’s goal (it seems wrong to put it down just to Wilshere as it wasn’t an individual strike like Brady’s) against Norwich, I will be proud to tell them “I was there that day”.
The crowd reaction to the goal was odd. Nobody really reacted to it in the way that you normally would to a magnificent goal. I think many were looking for the offside flag, or just couldn’t quite comprehend that the ball was in the net. Everyone, and I mean everyone, watched the replay on the big screen and the reaction to that from the crowd told you how special a goal it was. I’ve never heard a collective gasp of wonder from people like that before. The applause after the action replay was longer than that given to the goal itself. It was simply unbelievable.
If Keats or some of the other great poets were around today then I reckon they could pen a modern classic on the beauty of that goal scored by this Arsenal team. It was genuinely worth the money to get in just to be witness to the most sublime piece of football I’ve ever seen. I’ve been lucky to see plenty of great goals in the flesh at Arsenal. They’ve come in many guises, from great individual goals to brilliant passing moves. For me, however, the goal that Jack put the finishing touch to on Saturday is the best I’ve ever seen. My all time favourite goal was Marco Van Basten in the Euro 88 Final for Holland against Russia. I think Arsenal on Saturday might have beaten it.
As for the rest of the game a 4-1 win did not reflect Arsenal’s play, at least until the final 15 minutes. We were lethargic and lacklustre in midfield. Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielny were outstanding, and Szczesny made a crucial save late in the first-half. Olivier Giroud was sensational up front yet again, but Norwich were able to be right in the game because we sat off them in midfield. The injury to Flamini threw Arsenal completely as there was nobody barking out the orders. At one point we had eight players in a straight line across the edge of our own 18 yard box. That’s bad enough in isolation, but when you consider the ball was with Norwich’s centre-back at the time that makes it worse. We will have to be so much sharper against Dortmund tomorrow.
In the closing stages (after Norwich scored, actually) we finally got it together. Aaron Ramsey suddenly came to life, while Rosicky and Bendtner did their bit from the bench. Ruddy suddenly was keeping Norwich alive. When Ramsey twisted and turned and scored you could feel the relief. What a goal that was too. It reminded me a little of Henry’s goal at home to Liverpool in the Invincible season, such were the numbers of defenders sitting on their backsides as the ball hit the net. It was like a scene from a war film or something with bodies strewn everywhere.
Ultimately we saw four magnificent Arsenal goals against Norwich, and a 4-1 win. However, it was far from comfortable on the day. The scoreline was a little flattering, but we can happy with it all the same. What I don’t like is the people saying how great we were on Saturday and starting to get carried away. The fact is that we weren’t very good for 75 minutes. We got through it because our confidence is sky high and we have some real quality in the team now, but play like that against a good side (like tomorrow night, for example) and we will get hammered. I hope the players realise that.
Last year I wrote that Arsenal’s players were to return to club suits this season at the request of Thomas Vermaelen. The eagle-eyed will have noticed that this hasn’t happened. It was certainly picked up by an author writing in the latest Gooner fanzine who mentions my post last year and laments the tracksuits and out-sized headphones that still dominate the arrival of the players. It is at great odds with Bob Wilson’s voiceover, played on the screens before every home game, where he talks of the pride of wearing “that great big gun on your chest”. It was pleasing to know that there are others who are annoyed.
On Saturday Ivan Gazidis informed the Supporters Forum that the suits are indeed coming back, and the players should be in them next month. He claims the delay has been due to consulting the Inland Revenue as the size of the logo on what is, effectively, a uniform can affect the tax that needs to be paid etc. You can take or leave that as an excuse as you see fit, but the fact is that the suits are coming back. Arsenal’s players will once again finally exude a bit of class off the pitch. That is enough to make me glad today.
I’m off now to watch that goal again. More on Wednesday, post-Dortmund.