Let’s be honest. There is very little to talk about or dissect after the Schalke game, and I have quite a wealth of time and my blog looks a bit bare, with the recent inactivity of blogging, thanks to my utmost preparation for my management entrance exams. Of course, it didn’t hinder me from watching the crazy 7-5 win over Reading a day before the exam, all the way up to 4:00 AM in the morning.
Point is, this lack of activity on the blog got me thinking what to write in my next article. And then, lo, a great idea. I have been supporting Arsenal since 2004, and have watched a tonne of games. So, I thought, I will blog on my favorite game of the upcoming fixture over the past 8 seasons.
First up, of course, is our home game against Fulham. And, this is my most memorable Arsenal vs Fulham game. Enjoy!
Arsenal 2 (van Persie 84 (pen), Hleb 90) – Fulham 1 (Healy)
Of course, the memories of the day are pretty hazy. But, what I do remember is it was the summer holidays, at the end of my 12th, and was waiting for my engineering classes to start. Well, not waiting really, but the holidays had been quite a drawn out and boring time.
My 12th exams were a disaster, so to say. My brilliant marks meant I was left in the lurch with admissions to a good grad college. Of course, all that went well, and it was also the summer my sister got married, and I went to Muscat for a few days to soak the sun, and take the heat off my tired mind. The summer also included two days of mute depression, as I remember it. That was the result of Thierry Henry leaving for Barcelona, something that stunned me into silence.
I was back in India, days later, in time for the start of the Premier League season. At the time, we had a small 21 inch BPL television, which my grandmother seldom used, and hence handed over to us. Like some generation thing. Anyways, it was another hot summer day, and I was anticipating the start of the game, like for months.
The game was an early kickoff by Indian time standards. It was 5:15 IST (which is 12:45 GMT) if I am right. And the post-Henry era started with who else, but a certain Robin van Persie leading the line. Rings a bell? This was probably the first time in many years, that the Gunners had employed a 4-5-1 formation. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini and Francesc Fabregas would form a dynamic partnership. Tomas Rosicky played just off the striker, while Alexander Hleb and Emmanuel Eboue were on the flanks. Arsenal still had Jens Lehmann in goal of course, and Bacary Sagna was playing in his first Premier League game.
The Fulham side that afternoon, like Arsenal’s was completely unrecognizable from today’s sides. They club was sprinkled with Americans, like Bocanegra, McBride and Dempsey, while they also fielded numerous new signings in Hameur Bouazza, Paul Konchesky and Northern Ireland international David Healy.
It was another one of those afternoons at the Emirates, which we have become so accustomed to now. The opposition take the lead, somehow, don’t ask me how, and Arsenal attack and attack, and suddenly their keeper decides to become Lev Yashin’s reincarnation for one day.
Fulham took the lead, with not even a minute gone on the clock. Jens Lehmann completely miscued his clearance right into the path of Healy, who had the easy task of slotting the ball at the back of the net, and he did it with ease, to cap a great start to life at his new club.
Fulham’s keeper that afternoon was Tony Warner. I have watched him a few times since that game, and he is a very talented keeper. No, really. Wonder what happened of him. Anyways, he was starting the game only because first choice keeper, Finn Anti Niemi hurt himself during warm-up.
Warner took this chance to keep goal like he would not get another one. Ever. He saved shots of literally the entire Arsenal roster. Rosicky, Hleb, Fabregas and all of that. And, Arsenal being Arsenal, almost granted a 2-0 lead to the visiting side, but Lehmann managed to clear the ball narrowly off Healy.
The rest of the game was a complete haze, to be honest. Well, you know, as I said typical Arsenal afternoon at the Emirates. Arsenal created like a million chances, and Warner was on hand to deny each and every one of them.
Arsenal’s opener was the result of some tireless running from the unlikeliest of sources. Kolo Toure surged forward from defence to attack. He was bought down by Carlos Bocanegra, and Arsenal had the chance to rescue the game. van Persie stepped up, and blasted the penalty into the roof of the net, and there was still time for a winner.
It came 6 minutes later, as Alexander Hleb, found himself in the penalty box and with the ball. I mentioned that, because he looked surprised when he received it in the first place. He made some space for himself, and put enough power behind the ball to ensure it ended in the back of the net.
The Emirates rose in a wave, in raptures, and here I was, miles away, screaming like a moron in the comfort of my house. The long, hard, arduous summer had finally ended. And on a good note!
Arsenal went on to defy all critics, and all odds that season, as they challenged for the title till the very end, and did it with a bunch of youngsters. They would eventually fall short, with numerous incidents, occurring on that path. Eduardo’s injury. Babel’s dive. Hargreaves’ free kick. Yes, all that. But, Alexander Hleb, in that one moment, made me forget all my summer worries! Lovely little Belarussian, that!
Jai Arsenal 🙂