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The Dream is Still Alive!
…and the march goes on. A last-gasp winner from Nicklas Bendtner removed millions of Arsenal supporters all over the world from the precipice of despair and ruin. I, personally, had spent the last 5-10 minutes of the match mentally preparing myself to accept the end of our title challenge. And then… Denilson was able to get a shot from over 35 yards on goal and with enough movement to trouble a mediocre keeper who then ridiculously made the simplest of keeping mistakes… don’t parry the ball back in front of goal. But there were a ton of talking points and controversial moments on a day when Arsenal refused to let our title dreams die.
Arsenal started very brightly with the first goal coming inside the first 15 minutes, a rare occurrence this season. A very fluid string of passes eventually led to Arshavin being able to take on two defenders into the box and produce a great finish with his laces. Hull had no handle on the match whatsoever, until the referee handed it to them.
The Offiside Penalty Dive
Let’s be honest… have you ever seen a player looking more for a penalty than Vennegoor of Hesselink? He made no attempt to play the ball, only to get directly in front of Sol and, when there was not the immediate contact he anticipated, plopped face down. He only lucked out that after he was already going down Sol gave him the slightest of contact with his raised knee from behind. On the replay, you can see that he was so much more concerned with getting in a position where he could go down than with playing the ball because his movement in front of Sol found the ball on the BACK of his neck. As Alan Shearer said on Match of the Day, a man with the ball on the back of his neck and falling down is hardly enjoying a “clear, goalscoring chance.”
So I don’t see how Phil Brown can claim Campbell should have been sent off. Especially considering that Vennegoor of Hesselink was offside to begin with. Brown is complaining about a missed call on a run of play that only materialized because of a missed call. Ironic, idiotic, or just unattractively desperate? You decide.
I also don’t see how there could be any complaints over either of Boateng’s bookings. The first came after he put his hand in Bendtner’s face twice. The second after that ridiculous tackle on Sagna. The challenge was so high and mistimed that, if it wasn’t malicious, you really have to question the player’s overall ability. The commentator said it was a “silly” challenge, but that kind of language trivializes the tackle. It was dangerous, pure and simple. Had Sagna’s leg been planted, he could have sustained serious damage to his knee. Andre Marriner let some tackles go early on and these kinds of challenges are the direct result of both the culture of the English game and that type of officiating. I am not saying it was malicious, but it was reckless.
Apparently, Jon Champion was claiming that Sol should have been sent off for his challenge on Zayatte. The same people whose main occupation last week was “Defender of Ryan Shawcross” and the English game are the ones complaining about Campbell’s challenge. Sol’s tackle was strong, well-timed enough to get the ball first, and perfectly fair. His feet were on the ground, his studs were down, and he was completely playing the ball. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what everyone was saying they loved so much about the English game only a week and a half ago? The media’s double-standard against Arsenal is sometimes subtle, but, at other times, is just blatantly obvious-as this blog often points out.
Sol was caught for pace a few times, as he has been in every match so far and will be in every match to come, but he has made up for it with a combination of intelligence and experience. Yesterday, he was forced to deal with Hull’s loan-striker, Jozy Altidore. I have watched Altidore since he was 17 and the kid is fast and strong. Yet, Sol did his best and kept Altidore to only one real half-chance, which he dragged wide of goal early on. The signing of Campbell can now be seen as, if not a masterstroke, then certainly a very prescient decision by the Boss. Campbell is what we didn’t have last year when Gallas went out injured at almost the exact same time of the season. Then we were forced to play Silvestre, whose inability due to to age to be able to deal with Drogba cost us our FA Cup run last season. And while we would all rather have a fit Gallas back there with Vermaelen, the situation is not nearly as desperate as it was last season.
The Dream Continues
Somehow, we have done it again. No team has scored more goals than Arsenal in the last fifteen minutes of the match. We had a similar dynamic in 2007/08 when we snatched results in the dying moments on an almost regular basis beginning right with the very first match of the season home to Fulham. It shows a level of fitness, determination, and spirit when a team regularly snatches results from the jaw of fate. There are 8 matches remaining and we are now level on points with Chelsea, though they have a game-in-hand. United play later today and the pressure will be on them to match the results of us and Chelsea. We now face West Ham at home, who Chelsea just beat 4-1, and then Birmingham City away before the Champions League Quarterfinals. Sandwiched in between those two legs will be a visit by Wolves. Make no doubt about it, the Birmingham City match will be anything but straightforward as they have punched above their weight all season and despite a recent run of indifferent results, will be buoyed by their result against Everton yesterday.
The paths to the title and the European Cup are laid out right in front of us. We can just about see the trophies peeking out over the horizon. 13 mountains, though, stand in our way and we must climb them one at a time. We have the confidence, we have the momentum, and, most crucial of all, we have the belief.
NOTE: Since my primary guest contributor, Ted Harwood, has accepted an offer to write an Arsenal blog for SBNation, I am looking for a new guest contributor, preferably an American Gooner, but I will consider anyone that can write well. Also, I have fixed the videos by replacing those that had been deleted from their respective host sites.