Wednesday, April 16

Three-one to the Librarians

Celebrating Matt's programe purchase
Arsenal 3 West Ham 1

My gaff, uncomfortably close to the Emirates, has become a safe house for West Ham fans as Fraser, Matt, Lisa and Nigel, along with token Gooner Simon arrive for a pre-match bottles of Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew, Spitfire and Hobgoblin.

On the way to the Library there’s a major crisis by the bridge as Matt tries to buy a programme only to discover they’ve sold out. He hasn’t looked this desperate since they sold out at Wigan. He looks the most relieved man at the Emirates as we finally track one down outside the away end.

The away fans are in good voice reprising old favourites, “It’s quiet in the library!” and “Sixty thousand muppets!” We’re close to an Irons banner reading, bizarrely, “I’ve got chickens in my back yard.”

Nolan is out injured and Nocerino, sporting a swarm of bees on his chin, is in, as we play with two wingers. West Ham start well, looking sharp and knocking Arsenal off the ball, with Tomkins and Reid solid at the back and Diame, Noble and Nocerino winning tackles. We get in lots of good crossing positions with Jarvis and Downing, but as always, seem to fluff the final ball. Carroll heads well over and then Jarvis has a penalty appeal turned down when Sagna catches him. We can’t see it properly from our end, but Big Sam says he should have gone down, though personally I’m pleased some players remain honest.

Rosicky looks Arsenal’s best player and slowly the home side start to create chances. Podolski fizzes a cross across the box and Giroud beats our offside trap only to make a very weak flick when one-on-one with Adrian, allowing the keeper to save.

But we keep it tight and take the lead on 40 minutes. Nocerino makes a great burst down the right, fires at the keeper and as the ball bounces off him, Jarvis bravely heads home despite a flying Arsenal boot.

“Top of the league and you fucked it up!” rings round the gleeful away end. We start to dream of another famous win at the Emirates. We just have to keep it 1-0 at half-time.

All seems to be going to plan until two minute before the break, Downing has the ball wide on the right of defence and instead of hoofing it down the line slices the ball inside. It turns into a perfect pass to Cazorla, who finds Podolski. The big effing German, who always scores against us, swings his sledgehammer boot and it’s into the corner of the net. Bit of a Scaloni moment as the Muppets explode with relief.

We urge Downing to make up for it a minute later as he gets into another good crossing position, only to hopelessly overhit it. Still, drawing at half-time isn’t bad, though as Nigel reminds us, it was 1-1 at half time last season after we took the lead. Though I counter that we would have won if Dan Potts hadn’t been injured, as we were just coming back into it at 5-1 down.

We begin the second half looking quite comfortable, only to be undone by Vermaelen’s long ball ten minutes in. Reid and Carroll appear to get in each other’s way and Giroud sneaks behind them to control with one sublime touch and fire through Adrian’s legs. Bugger.

Arsenal start to ooze confidence again. Cazorla makes a great run and fires just wide and then Podolski’s free kick forces Adrian into a save.

From the away end we get a great view of Mertesacker playing really well against Carroll, though when it became obvious Carroll wasn't winning much in the air West Ham should surely vary their tactics.

Just as Sam is preparing to bring on Joe Cole and Vaz Te Arsenal score a third after 12 minutes from time as sub Ramsey heads down for Podolski, who has momentarily lost Tomkins, and fires home another fine finish.

Jarvis, who has played well on the left, and Downing are taken off, Carlton Cole comes on for the labouring Carroll and there’s a bizarre cameo from Vaz Te. Carlton Cole does well to find Vaz, only for him to balloon a cross towards the full moon. Vaz Te follows this by lunging in to a Gooner and trying hard to get red-carded.

Another misplaced pass from Diame inspires an outburst of Tourette’s from the gentleman behind us: “F**king learn to pass before you talk about signing for f**king Liverpool you f**king Bag of f**king s**t Diame!” Must be a Vicar’s Son.

At least there’s a rousing Bubbles at the end and we’ve played reasonably well, though no sign of Arsenal being tired after their 120 minutes against Wigan

We brave the cries of “Your ground’s too big for you!” from the Muppets on Drayton Park and head back to Pete’s bar. With real ale, herb tea and toasted maize on offer it’s a step-up from the Central, though perhaps I should offer them some iffy dvds as well.

A frustrating evening, but we have been away to a side that is back in the top four. It’s now important we get something from the game against Palace so we can finally relax.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 6; Demel 6, Tomkins 6, Reid 6, Armero 6; Downing 4 (Joe Cole 5), Diame 6, Noble 6, Nocerino 6, Jarvis 7 (Vaz Te 3); Carroll 5 (Cole 5).

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