Often Partisan

The day after

Wow. Just wow. I have to admit I’m still in dreamland; I’m still smiling like a cheshire cat and I can’t quite believe we did it. But we did, and I believe that it wasn’t down to luck. On Friday, I posted this blog where I allowed the dreams I had of winning the trophy to bubble to the surface just a little bit. It looks like quite a bit of it came to fruition.

Talking to an Arsenal fan on the tube in central London, on the way back to Waterloo, he commented that for all of Arsenal’s pretty football, it’s what is done in the two eighteen yard boxes – and it’s where Blues dominated. Zigic was at his beastly best; continually winning headers, really disrupting the centre backs – and Eck had clearly detailed Bowyer and Gardner to run on past him to get on the end of the flicks. It was nearly profitable within two minutes – only for an erroneous Lino’s flag we’d have had a stonewall penalty and Szczesny would have had to walk. Neither Koscielny nor Djourou could deal with the Serb’s presence in the air; the lanky Serb was also aided by a referee who actually understands challenging for the ball in the air isn’t a foul – normally Zigic gives away a few free kicks but I can’t remember him giving one away for a foul.

At the other end of the pitch, Johnson and Jiranek were imperious. England manager Fabio Capello was in the stands, and bearing in mind the only English player in Arsenal’s 18 man squad was Wilshere I’m wondering if he was casting his eye on more than just Ben Foster. If he wasn’t impressed by Roger’s contribution, then Roger will have to forget ever getting a cap. Whilst Johnson flings himself into blocks, Jiranek is a bit more of a studied defender; and his class was showing as time and time again he took the ball from Arsenal players simply and then passed the ball out. Jiranek only has a few months left on his deal and I think we should look into extending it for a year; a choice of Jiranek, Johnson, Scotty Dann and Curtis Davies at centre back is as good as we’re going to get and we’ll need the cover for those heady European nights…

Seb Larsson had about the best game I’ve seen him play for months; tirelessly running, getting into the huge amounts of space behind the full backs and delivering some wicked balls. I think the fact it was against his former employers might have given him a bit of oomph – and he showed Arsene Wenger what he’d missed out on with an excellent display. What also was good to see was unlike Andrei Arshavin, the mercurial Swede got back to defend and help out his full back – that sort of commitment is what Arsenal sadly lacked.

And that’s what lost them the tie really. They bottled it – as they’ve been known to do quite a bit recently. It was as if they expected to win – I think some of their players didn’t understand until the game had got going that we weren’t going to lie down and die. For all of their flair and class, they’re quite petulant – take Jack Wilshere as an example – and it costs them dearly. Without Fabregas they are short of a leader; watching the TV coverage back they talk of the need for a world class centre back, but I’d say they need themselves a Roger Johnson. An imposing defender sure, but a leader of men who will battle through blood sweat and tears to win games for his team.

For Blues, it’s back to the grindstone on Saturday against West Brom. Three points is a must; a good performance and a noisy crowd would be a massive help too. I’ll be there – will you?

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