Tuesday, November 2

One-nil to the Arsenal

Arsenal 1 West Ham 0

Got my book, bookmark and library card so it’s all set for a trip to the Emirates. Having forgotten to apply in time for the away section, my contacts have come up with a Gooner’s season ticket.

From the Upper Tier of the Library there’s a fine view of the Finsbury Park environs. It’s as middle-class as expected, vegetable wraps on sale and no need to hide your copy of the Guardian Sport section. Next to my seat are two Yanks who ask me how much a seat usually costs as they’ve been given their tickets. During the game one Gooner exclaims “Referee, I think you’ve been conned!” in tones reminiscent of Stephen Fry.

So that’s why the announcer only introduces the Arsenal stars by their first names. After he says “Cesc!” the crowd are supposed to exclaim “Fabregas!” except there’s only a faint pantomime style murmur. It’s quiet indeed in the Library, as the WHU fans are already singing.

The first half is encouraging. Parker and Noble are abrasive in midfield and the defence looks more rugged with Pedersen getting stuck in, Ilunga looking more like the player of two years ago and Gabbidon and Da Costa getting heads and legs in where it matters. Even Behrami is improved from last week

When Arsenal do get through, Green makes a great tip round the post from Fabregas’ snap shot and then fingertips Squillaci’s header over the bar.

Bu the end of the half we’re looking the better side.
Noble fires a free kick over the wall that Fabianski punches away and Piquionne dallies when well placed to cross in the area.And just before the break Nobes’ robs Denilson to surge into the area and shoot into Fabianski’s body/

“Your support is f***ing s**t!… It’s quiet in the libareeee!” sing the West Ham fans as the half ends.

But after the break Arsenal crate more chances. Nasri fires a fantastic free kick smack against our crossbar.

Theo Walcott comes on and immediately outpaces our defence to hit the ball against Green’s post. Phew.

West Ham win a corner and Fabianski clutches Da Costa’s header, as sub Carlton Cole narrowly fails to get a touch into the net.

The Irons’ custodian makes further great saves from Walcott’s deflected shot and Fabregas’s close range drive. You start to think that Green is going to repeat the heroics of three seasons ago. Could we even nick a win? What a triumph it would be for England’s number 16.

Parker gets a ball in the face defending in the box and the determination of the side is admirable. The Gooners around me are getting agitated and Arshavin is resorting to diving in the box.

With three minutes left Grant brings on Faubert in place of Piquionne, presumably to waste some more time. It backfires as Faubert fails to close down Clichy quickly enough and his cross into the box eludes the West Ham defence and Green is helpless as Song stoops to head home in the 88th minute. Bugger. It’s not the despair I can’t take… etc, etc.

Luckily the Arsenal fans don’t notice my bleak expression as they leap around singing “We’ve only got one Song!” otherwise they might attack me with a rolled up copy of GQ.

It would have been less cruel if we’d just lost 5-0. As I walk down Gillespie Road the Arsenal fans are saying that West Ham did a good job frustrating the home side. “We should buy Green, he always plays well here,” says one of them.

We played as a unit and showed something that smells like team spirit against a side that has been hammering opposition in the Champions League, but as Grant says, it’s still “zero points”. And with Wolves losing we’re three points adrift at the bottom. It's hard to take the positives, apart from the fact that in his all black gear Avram won't have to dress up for Halloween.

An encouraging performance overall, but it makes the next three home games against WBA, Blackpool and Wigan even more crucial.

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