Heartbreak, Defeat, But Still Proud To Be A Gooner

By M. B. Zaidi

To be honest I woke up this morning and really didn’t want to put on the TV, listen to the radio or come onto the internet…pretty much do nothing! YES last night was depressing for us all, defeat to Barcelona the club that wants to snatch away our most irreplaceable player and captain….1-0 for SO LONG and so close to victory against all the odds in a jam packed Stade de France. Straight after the final whistle I went to my room to go straight to bed and listen to sad slow jamz….It felt like I had just broken up with my wife! Didn’t want to do anything but fall asleep and forget everything, some may think its sad that it effected me in this way but that is the utter truth of the matter. I didn’t even stay in the room to watch the ceremony or interviews, thinking it would make things worse!

But after thinking things through, I still felt proud of our players, our manager, fellow fans….overall, still PROUD TO BE A GOONER….after all nobody could have predicted we could have made it this far in the champions league this season but it shows how unpredictable the beautiful game can be, until last night of course. Still proud of the way we fought for so long, got 1-0 up and actually made Barcelona not look too dangerous at all. Our back four were absolutely SOLID for most of the game and even their two goals couldn’t have really been stopped to be fair. In this, I mean that no individual player was really to blame as such, perhaps Lehmann might have saved those two goals but that would be unfair to say anything bad about Almunia who really made some great saves throughout the match.

After writing my preview yesterday I did absolutely nothing all day, too much excitement and too much anticipation really isn’t good for me! I wanted to stay out as long as possible so that the time that I came home would be 7.45. Not to be, came home at 6 and sat in front of the telly watching sky sports news for an hour until the program started at 7! Saw Pires was starting for Reyes and was slightly annoyed simply for the fact I thought Reyes would have been the better choice, but it ended up not meaning anything as soon as we were one man down. Pires was the sacrificed lamb in our flock once Lehmann was sent off. You had to feel gutted for Piresm possibly being his last game for the club, a sad ending to a glittering Arsenal career where he has been one of our key players for so long, still notching up ten goals this season, what a player he has been for us.

The start of the match was absolutely electrifying, Henry could have scored in the 3rd minute from close range from Eboue’s pass from the right, and the from the resulting corner he ended up taking a shot from just outside the area which again was saved well by Victor Valdes. We started off brightly and our passing was very accurate and our movement was brilliant too, so much energy oozing through the whole team up and down, I really was optimistic at this point as we started the better team. THEN comes the bucktoothed superstar’s moment where he slid through Eto who was taken out by Lehmann on the edge of the area and Giuly tapped in to score. BUT it wasn’t counted because the ref had already blown his whistle, and I really don’t know why anybody is arguing over this decision as an Arsenal supporter, Barcelona supporter or a neutral. The ref on this occasion actually just did what the letter of the law said, he already blew his whistle, it was outside the area and Lehmann was the last man so he had to be sent off. FAIR ENOUGH….no argument there, but to have ten men down for the rest of the match seemed like a daunting task, but to be 1-0 down within 20mins seemed even worse, but we will never know what would have happened so lets not talk about which scenario was better for us.

Of course we can say at least if we went 1-0 down and we had ten men we would have had a chance to actually play our game and make it a contest. But the ref was right to do what he did (which by the way was about all he did correct all night), and now to move on. Almunia came on and 4-4-1 was the formation now, leaving Henry secluded upfront with the midfield running their arse’s off for the rest of the game.

Campbell scored a great header from Henrys free-kick and I was off my seat running around the house, rolling on the floor etc etc, thinking this could really be the night…half time came and we had done ourselves justice, defending brilliantly. Campbell had his best game for a long time as I predicted, Toure was magnificent all night, Eboue defended well against both Eto and Ronaldinho and Cole was probably one of our best players in the first half along with Toure. Then came the second half, heartbreak at the death of it and a goal by Eto that was quite possibly offside. What really annoyed me was that they didn’t even show the slow motion replay to see if he was offside or not, maybe they did after the game but I wasn’t there was I….anyway, 2-1 after such a long wait of agonising pain.

Henry started off so well and had a couple of one-on-one’s that on another day he might have put away and Freddie had that one left footed drive that was tipped over by Valdes. Even with ten men we still created as many clear cut opportunities as they did, Henry was right to say that Eto and Ronaldinho didn’t exactly shine, if anyone it was Larson who made the difference. We handled the other two quite well all game, Gilberto broke up play several times and Eto playing on the left in the first half really did nothing for them.

With ten men we still made it more than a contest, a tight game ruined by controversial refereeing decisions, not that im saying that is why we lost, just that the ref was quite inconsistent with his yellow cards. At least three times Oleguer broke up play with a foul on the counter attack, on the THIRD he got a yellow, that just isn’t right. That is not football and even if it does happen, it shouldn’t happen and that is where the referee didn’t have enough balls to give him a yellow the first time. If he had a yellow the first time he wouldn’t have done the other two and so on, the same goes to Puyol and Marquez who got away with murder ALL NIGHT. Henry was tackled from behind on several occasions and not even a foul was given, let alone a yellow. Henry was right to say that after the game, where he made a perfectly good challenge and got yellow carded.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong im not saying that because of the referee we lost because that would be unfair, but he definitely didn’t help our cause last night and if he did perhaps I wouldn’t be so depressed right now. Its 10am now here in London and the day seems dull and I really don’t know why. Its always cloudy so it cant be that, no my wife hasn’t left me, but I am heartbroken. A once in a lifetime game is what I called it before the match, and it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see an 11 against 11 contest because that is what we wanted to see. I cant fault the players effort or desire or commitment, Henry was even up for it for the word go, but the next point that we will come to now is whether Henry will be staying or going…

Seasons over, just a little matter of the World Cup to come now and the saga of Theirry Henry’s future. I don’t know now if he would want to play on the same team of those players that were taking him out on every opportunity, I don’t think he was even too impressed with Ronaldinho and Eto because comparatively we did well in the game too. I think last night he could have seen that, “Errr oui…ArsenAAL are really going places and ERRRR Barcelona aren’t so much better than I thought…”

Well I will write more on Henry’s future in the coming days but I think to be honest through the time I have been writing these words, this is almost a sort of therapy because I feel a bit better, a bit
more relaxed that we did our best and did ourselves proud, we almost made history and still did, just not the way we wanted to….The champions league will grace the Emirates stadium next season so there is that to look forward to and the emergence of our best young players and possibly a world cup for England? So to anybody else who felt the way I did this morning, and last night, then keep all this in mind, we played the match with dignity and passion. Represented our values and tradition of fighters until the end, but on the day it just wasn’t to be…..a disappointing night but a promising tomorrow…Still proud to be a gooner…

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