Crunch Time

ARSENAL 1   MANCHESTER CITY 1

After our heavy defeat at Chelsea and the anguish of a last-minute draw against Swansea it was important to give a performance, and get a result, that would restore some much-needed confidence and pride. And that’s exactly what The Arsenal did, ending a difficult week with a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City.

The first-half saw an understandably nervous performance and we went behind when Podolski was dispossessed on the half way line and City broke with pace. Szczesny made a fine save tipping Dzeko’s fierce effort onto the post, but the ball fell perfectly for David Silva to tap it in for 0-1.

There are some who would have feared the worse, but credit it where it’s due we came out for the second half and produced a brilliant performance. Inspired by the excellent atmosphere we started to take control of the game and after a moment of good fortune (when Szczesny palmed a cross into the shins of the BFG, narrowly avoiding an own goal as the ball trickled wide) we were back on level terms. Giroud started the move wide right, with the ball worked across to Podolski wide left via a serious of quick short passes. The German supplied a lovely cross for the on-rushing Flamini, who guided it home for a thoroughly deserved equaliser.

Flamini Celebrates His Equaliser Against City

It came in the 53rd minute, so there was still plenty of time to grab a winner, and if one team was going to get it, and deserve it, then it was us. In the end it wasn’t to be, with our best chance falling to Podolski, who saw his effort deflect agonisingly wide off the heel of Joe Hart. City had the better of the first half, we had the better of the second, and so on the balance of play a point apiece was probably fair.

It means we’re just four points clear of Everton ahead of our trip to Goodison Park this Sunday. The Toffees also have a game in hand, and given it’s at home to Crystal Palace, you could argue that our four point lead is, in theory, only a one point lead making this weekend a must not lose in my opinion.

A win would of course be excellent, extending our lead as we go into the final five league games of the season, and ahead of our FA Cup semi-final. But as long as we don’t lose then I think it’s well within our reach to go on and secure a top four finish, particularly if you’re hopeful that Everton may drop points in some of their tricky remaining fixtures (they still have to face City and United at home and Southampton away). But that’s me getting a little ahead of myself; for now let’s just focus on getting a positive result on Sunday.

DAVID ‘ROCKY’ ROCASTLE

Yesterday marked the 13th anniversary of the death of David Rocastle. Rocky was very much a part of my first Arsenal team and it was a pleasure to watch him represent our great club. The George Graham era is known to many as the era of ‘Boring, Boring Arsenal’, but in truth that is a tag that can only really be applied from 1992/93 onwards.

The teams of 1988/89 and 1990/91 had very solid foundations, but were also filled with flair, flamboyance and goals. Rocky was very much a key factor, alongside the likes of Merson, Limpar, and the less fancied, but prolific Alan Smith. Rocky had grace and guile, but was also fierce and tenacious. He embodied those two title-winning sides.

David 'Rocky' Rocastle

Rocky was a Gooner; one of us. He knew what it meant to be The Arsenal and we were so proud he was ours. We tragically lost Rocky far too soon, at the age of 33, to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on the morning of 31st March 2001, hours before a North London derby at Highbury. Following the most immaculately observed minute silence you will ever witness, we beat the enemy 2-0 with our then number 7, Robert Pires, scoring a beauty. The spirit of Rocky, who of course scored a famous winner against our neighbours en route to winning the 1987 League Cup, lived on that day and continues to do so. Gone, but never be forgotten, we miss you Rocky.

LONDON HERE I COME

Finally for today, a quick message to say I will be arriving in London this Friday. I will be in town for two and a bit weeks visiting family and friends, and of course going to The Arsenal. I’ll be at Goodison Park, Wembley, and The New Home of Football for our games against Everton, Wigan, and West Ham respectively.

I’ve very much missed attending games, and the fun it brings to be spending time with friends supporting the club we all love; I’m very much looking forward to seeing everyone again. I’d like to be leaving London with fourth place firmly in our control and with an FA Cup final to look forward to in May, so here’s hoping for three great results.

I’ll be coming home via a week in New York (sadly without the opportunity to see Thierry) so updates on here may be slow to non-existent (time will tell), but I’m sure you’ll cope just fine! Until the next time, up The Arsenal.

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