Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Today Could Be St Totteringham's Day (and I've Got Everything Crossed)

Robin van Persie (courtesy toksuede)

Chelsea were a bit lucky last night. They didn't play well and Bolton had two clear-cut penalties turned down. But that's the way it goes sometimes.

In fairness to the officials, I didn't spot either of the handballs myself watching the match on TV at full-speed, and it was only with the benefit of watching the replays (and in case of the second one, by John Terry, more than once) that it was obvious that they were both penalties. In addition (and crucially), on the first incident both the referee and assistant were completely unsighted, and so were completely blameless.

The second decision was, unfortunately, given by the referee's assistant. I think if the referee had seen the incident and had the earlier handball (which he probably saw on the replays at half-time) in his mind, he may have given it, but the assistant was adamant that it was Terry's shoulder rather than his arm that touch the ball. And in fairness to the assistant, as I said, it was very difficult to spot at full speed; it happened too fast.

But what irritated, frustrated and amused me in equal measure were ESPNs attempts to excuse the former England captain and current England player.

"It came off the top of my chest”, Terry explained. "I don't know what it looked like on TV, but it definitely felt like it hit the top of my chest."

Ray Stubbs, the man in the ESPN studio helpfully explained how: "if you repeat something enough times you begin to believe it and John Terry probably does actually believe it hit his chest."

Er, no. Actually, where I come from they call that "lying".

My other thought from watching last nights match was how lucky I am to be an Arsenal fan. Watching Bolton and wanting them to win against Chelsea, I was very aware of how difficult their players seem to find it to kick the ball in a straight line and find a teammate or the goal. I felt very sorry for little Wor Jackie Wilshere playing just behind the striker. He made lots of good runs and attempted one-twos but the ball just didn't arrive.

I've always rated Wilshere since I saw him playing for the youth team under Steve Bould, but when he first went to Bolton, Owen Coyle seemed reluctant to use him and I was beginning to think that his name was actually Jack Wilshere Sub Unused. Now that he's getting a bit of a run though, you can see what a great player he can become and Coyle obviously has a lot of confidence in him, which can only help his development.

Anyway, onto tonight's match and I'm feeling strangely calm. I'm nervous, but not as nervous as I should be. Perhaps the nerves will come later as we get closer to the match? This match is crucial to our title hopes. Fail to win and they are over, simple as. But tonight is also doubly important because if we win today will be St Totteringham's Day.

For the uninitiated, St Totteringham's Day is the day in the season when Tottenham can mathematically no longer finish above Arsenal in the league and is therefore an annual day of celebration for all Arsenal fans.

The good news is that Robin van Persie is fit, at least for the bench. He may not be back to full match sharpness, but just having him back in the squad is a big boost. And, who knows, maybe he can come on after 65 minutes and score us the winner?

But I'm worried. We are still without a load of players who would walk into the Spuds team, including Fabregas, Gallas, Arshavin and Alex Song, who will also miss this weekend's match with Wigan. All of these players will be missed, but to me Alex Song is the most crucial (and in fact has been my player of the season). He sits in front of the back four and gives the team balance in a way that I don't believe Denilson can. With a bit of luck and a couple of good performances from Denilson, we can still get past Sp**s and Wigan, but let's just hope that Song's back for the Man Citech match or we could be totally truly screwed.

Of course, if we don't win tonight, it won't matter anyway. So I've got everything crossed and will remain that way until we have the three points in the bag.

Likely Arsenal line-up vs. Totteham

Sagna, Campbell, Vermaelen, Clichy
Nasri, Denilson, Diaby
Eboue (or Walcott), Bendtner, Rosicky

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