Well, at least the cricket score and obvious added humiliation didn't happen, as we produced a mostly resolute performance to mostly frustrate the Gunners. I say "mostly" because our fullbacks disappeared on two vital occasions in the second half to allow Sanchez to poach the goals.
Unusually, I appeared to be the only one aboard the 1401 from Darlo heading for the match, but not far down the east coast main line news came that Harry was living it up in Miller's. Rob called to say he'd checked into our luxury (that's what it said on the website) hotel and that he could hear the tube from his cellar. With instructions to ring him at the Lamb when I arrived, so he could get me a pint, I exchanged pleasantries with Monty and Bally as I left the station, and checked in an hour later. Into the attic. While it was nice to be able to see King's Cross from the window, every time I looked out there was at least one bloke who looked like a Polish builder having a tab on the roof opposite. So, I was off to the Lamb, my room door closing with a bang that probably knocked the pictures off the wall in the Museum Vaults.
37 years I've been doing pre-match cocktails in the Lamb, and it gets no worse. The pub, I mean, as, like most people, we were rightly fearful that the scoreboard would blow up by 21:15, especially when the team news came in and we concluded that it was three at the back. We tried the Shakespeare's Head in Holborn, but it was closed for what looked like a serious refurb. Don't bother at the weekend, folks. So, it was Penderel's Oak where we miffed the city workers by playing with our Witherspoon app and having our beer delivered to the table. Perfect transport timing got us in with five to spare, and time to take a photo of Rob with Kevin Maguire, just to make Sandra jealous.
Jones O'Shea Kone
Manquillo Catts Ndong Seb Oviedo
Kicking away to the right of the visiting lunatics, and in front of a ludicrous number of empty seats in the home sections (Monty and Rupert must have had an artisan bakery workshop to attend) it turned out that it was most certainly three at the back. Despite Ozil and Sanchez pulling the strings, with the latter having an early shot blocked and Giroud having one chalked off for offside, O'Shea marshalled Kone and Jones well to raise cheers amongst us Mackems as we blocked, tackled, and generally got in the way of the Gunners.
Further up the field Catts provided the bite to back up the hard work of Seb and the darting runs of Ndong, which meant that when Manquillo and Oviedo pushed up we actually stretched the home midfield. Look, I'm not implying we were brilliant, but we were looking sort of OK thanks to hard work and organisation. We still had Pickford to thank for some cracking saves, and after one of those he fired a 50 yard pass to Defoe on halfway. A clear run on goal looked on, but Bellerin was lucky to escape with only yellow when he cynically grabbed the ball. The free kick produced a bit of a scramble in the box, and Defoe slipped at the crucial moment - a pox on these silly modern boots.
That seemed to spur us on, and we finished the half actually going for it, with Ndong bringing a good save out of Cech and Defoe blasting one across the goal. Hard going, but not too bad - and we've kept them out. Those were our thoughts as we headed for our half time cocktails. Oh, and thank the Lord for Jordan Pickford.
No changes for the second period, and it was more of the same as we pushed up, forcing Monreal into a Nyronesque back pass that was headed for the bottom corner until Cech tipped it wide. The ref seemed unsure of the ten yard rule for the resulting indirect free, with Arsenal filling the six yard box ( the clue is in the word "six") meaning that Holding could head over the bar to safety. Soon after that, we played a killer ball to the back post where Billy Jones dived in but got on top of the header and a relieved Cech gathered. A couple more saves from Pickford, more resolute defending, then Wenger did the dirty and replaced Ramsey with Wellbeck. We taught him all he knows.
The remaining twenty were mostly Arsenal, and when Ozil got away from Borini to find the line, he popped it into the middle for an unmarked Sanchez to score as easy a goal as he's ever scored. No way back from that for us. Where we could bring on Gooch, Gibson, and Januzaj, they could add Walcott and Iwobi to their ranks. Not fair, and with ten to go another Pickford save, this time from Giroud's header, fell nicely for another simple Sanchez strike. Three added, nothing left in the tank for us, and another defeat.
Having said that, there was a bit of pride restored, for what it's worth. We gave it our best shot, for a change, but it wasn't good enough. Our support was superb, with plenty of self - deprecation, including a banner with the message BRUCE OUT. At least the players deserved the applause after the whistle.
Man of the Match? For a change, no rank bad performances, and at the risk of being repetitive, it has to be young Jordan for one of the goalkeeping performances of the Premier League season. That's upped his price a fair bit.
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