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Why Saturday Was A Fantastic Day To Be A Gooner
First, let me say that following the West Ham-Millwall disturbances, I thought I was done watching fat, bald guys falling over on the pitch. But I was mistaken. There is no doubt that Rooney dove for the penalty and whether or not there was contact doesn’t mean anything. The replay clearly shows Rooney already going to ground before he even reached Almunia. So how is that any different than what Eduardo did as both were efforts to deceive the referee? Well, the difference is that Rooney succeeded whereas Eduardo did not. Even worse, playing at Old Trafford, it works both ways, as no one seems to even mention the fact that we had a clear penalty on Arshavin not given, as well. No team has had more penalty calls for and less against at their home ground in the last 5+ years than United.
And while I can hear all the United supporters saying Arsenal are getting a taste of their own medicine, I would point out that Eduardo has dived once, Rooney does it every time we play them. In fact, it seems to be a United tactic. Luckily for them, it was the only part of Fergie’s tactical plan that actually worked on Saturday. However, instead of dwelling on the cheating Shrek, let me tell you why today was a fantastic day to be an Arsenal supporter…
Arsenal may have been out-refereed but United were out-classed. Plain and simple. For most of the match, they looked utterly hopeless and devoid of creativity and attacking ideas. The only good spell they had lasted about 10 minutes following the Rooney dive and even then they could not score on their own. Arsenal scored two goals today and Mike Dean scored one… but United didn’t score any. Gallas and Vermaelen took the little that United could dish out and were as solid as they have been in the previous four matches. Even without Cesc, and Diaby having a howler, United’s midfield and defense was no match for Arsenal’s attack. It took a dive and a freak own goal for United to get the points but the points taken from this match will not be what matters in the long-term.
In their hearts, United know they rode the Lady Luck Express and that they had no answers for any of the questions posed by Arsenal. Unfortunately for them, they will not get lucky like that every week and, despite the result, what we saw today was the fact that Arsenal are by far the better team. No matter what they try to project, United know it and they are worried.
Secondly, I expect this match to have the same catalytic effect that our early-season trip there did in 2003-04. Wenger sensed the same thing and it is why he made his stand when Dean bullied him off the pitch. This fiasco, coming on the heels of the Eduardo incident, will further insulate the side and foster that same “Us vs. the World” attitude that many title-winning Arsenal sides, especially in the Wenger-era, have had. Yes, it is nice to be praised by everyone for our football but it is much more useful to have everyone hate us like they did in the old days. It fosters a spirit of togetherness and oneness in the team that wouldn’t have even been possible before this season but which this side is primed and ready for. This spirit was evident almost immediately as, after the Diaby penalty, van Persie met Diaby back at the center circle and tried to pick him up rather than chastise him. And, when Arsenal kicked back off, they spent the final 20 minutes pinning United back under intense, unrelenting pressure rather than hang their heads in self-pity or defeat.
Today was a fantastic day to be an Arsenal supporter because, despite the not-overly-significant early-season result, we learned that, even without Cesc, we are a better team this year while United are only a shadow of what they once were, and we have also seen the team’s togetherness in their fight back despite a hostile Old Trafford crowd (that persists in its despicable pedophile chants) and United’s true 12th man, better known as the Referees’ Association. United supporters’ chants of “That’s why we’re champions” was ironically spot on. A year or two ago we would have been worrying about how this kind of loss would mentally affect the team, but this time I can see it doing nothing but bringing the lads together even more. And I believe we will all look back on this as the day the new Arsenal was forged in fire.