View From The North Bank: Arsenal 1 Leeds United 0
A potential banana skin was avoided last night thanks to a perfect example of the romance of the cup. If only I’d had an FA Cup shaped piece of cardboard covered in tin foil to wave at the final whistle.
Forgive the cliché ridden opening but last night was a moment so poetic that it only seems possible to write about it in commonplace platitudes. It may have only been the 3rd round proper but the out pouring of joy was comparable to when Charlie George, Alan Sunderland, Andy Linighan and Ray Parlour actually won us the thing.
As he said himself after the game Thierry Henry is an Arsenal fan, that’s why we love him so much and why this goal felt so special. The finish was vintage Henry – the moment he opened up hios body the whole stadium knew what was going to happen – we’ve been here so many beautiful times before.
His celebration was as explosive and passionate as any in his first stint at the club. Lots of people claim to love a club or kiss the badge but you don’t believe it from most players. There can be no doubting the sincerity of the quotes made routinely by our former captain every time he is asked for his opinions on the club.
His return has been questioned by many. What could a 34-year-old, enjoying semi-retirement in the MLS, offer Arsenal? How would we feel if it was another 34-year-old striker? The fact is, it isn’t another 34-year-old striker. Henry may not have the ferocious speed or the mobility he once had but he does have the brain and the hunger to help his club. Arsenal is in his blood and that alone gives him a yard he wouldn’t have in any other shirt.
It’s hard to imagine an MLS game being much worse than the first half last night so I was always confident he could come in and do something. Playing in the Premier League will be harder but his movement and ability to finish where others would be happy to just hit the target means he will be a threat anywhere.
You also have to factor in what his presence does to the rest of the team and the crowd. Just the sight of him warming up had the ground rocking last night. If we’d had that element against Wolves I suspect we might have found a winner.
Aside from the obvious headline there were other performances worthy of comment. Chamakh started up front and whilst he linked up play reasonably well he just never looked like scoring. He looks so short of belief that it feels like he deliberately avoids putting himself into positions where he might have to shoot. There is no killer instinct left. It’s a slightly unfair comparison but Henry asked the Leeds defence questions whereas Chamakh must have been a breeze to play against.
Elsewhere, the curse of the full back struck once again and Coquelin was replaced by an even smaller temporary full back, Nico Yennaris. The 18-year-old slotted in confidently and barely put a foot wrong. On the other side Ignasi Miquel enhanced his reputation as a confident Footballer with a promising future, albeit against a Championship team that came for a draw.
Further forward, Arshavin worked hard to try and play himself into form. It wasn’t a world beating display but if he continues to put that sort of shift in you’d hope we’ll see some improvement on his recent poor displays. Like Chamakh, the little Russian looks a shadow of the player that first joined the club, and so often with out of form players he makes the wrong decisions. It will take a spectacular turnaround for both players to have a prosperous Arsenal career from here.
On the other flank, Alex Oxlade –Chamberlain looked dangerous once again. I thought he was unlucky to come off when he did but this is no doubt all part of Wenger’s plan to bed him in gently. He is direct and powerful with a willingness to have a go on his own. You can tell he’s a class act already.
Forgive me if I’ve forgotten any other details but really there is only one worth remembering. Last night Thierry Henry came home and I was there. Now we’ve overcome the worry of whether he still has anything to offer, we can dare to dream of fairytales to come. Our next home game is against United.
Keep The Faith.