The former Arsenal trademark of applying such relentless pressure, right at the death, so that flagging opponents inevitably succumb, seems to have become a rare phenomenon in recent times.
Doubtless the wall-to-wall media hype was partially responsible for our euphoric celebrations, which were so ebullient one might have thought the Gunners had just guaranteed the title, with our last-gasp spoke in the wheel of the Foxes’ bandwagon.
Yet amidst this explosion of unconfined joy at having eventually managed to restore the natural order of things with Danny Welbeck’s winner, I found myself struggling to recall the last occasion when we enjoyed an equally dramatic “football, bloody hell!” moment.
I guess you have to go back to the cup final of 2014, but last-gasp goals seem so few and far between nowadays.
Normally, in a game of such magnitude, I’d be bellowing out my “never say die” encouragement, until my voice failed, or the final whistle blew. Yet when Mesut Özil finally found the touch that had been eluding him for most of the afternoon, with five minutes left on the clock and picked out Mertesacker, only for the BFG to glance a rare free header wide, it felt as if this might be the significant moment that we’d be left pointing to for the remainder of a depressing climax to this campaign. I spent most of the remaining minutes with my head in my hands, almost unable to watch as the seconds ticked away, towards yet another agonisingly frustrating date with the unfulfillment of being the Premier League’s perennial also-rans.
Mind you, I originally thought the game was up when Nacho dangled a leg out just before the break. Vardy needed no persuading to accept this foolhardy invitation to take a tumble and when ref Atkinson duly obliged by awarding the spot-kick, it seemed almost inevitable that we would be left chasing the game and even more susceptible to Leicester’s lightning counter-attacks.
In a woeful refereeing display, where Atkinson didn’t appear to get any decisions right, Simpson’s sending off offered little encouragement.
It was only going to leave the Foxes going to ground, battening down the hatches to hang onto their lead, when we badly needed our guests to be a little more adventurous, in order to find some space to really trouble Schmeichel.
I’d always felt that Özil, Alexis, and Giroud all had to be on song, if we were ever going to dent the increasingly durable ring of confidence that’s encircled Ranieri’s impressive outfit. However, sadly all three weren’t at the races and it was business as usual for our guests, with Kanté and Drinkwater looking like the only genuine thoroughbreds as they covered every blade of grass.
At least Alexis was trying to make something happen but nothing was coming off and about the only positive to be drawn from the first hour of this encounter was the obvious evidence of quite how much we’ve missed Coquelin.
It was therefore apparent that Arsène was going “all in” when Franny was replaced by Walcott. Thankfully this gamble paid off, with Theo soon breathing life back into this contest, by banging in an equaliser. The difference between Theo of late, lacking in conviction and the player who totally resuscitated the Arsenal with his zestful appetite, was remarkable and there followed a brief spell, when it looked as if we were about to put our quarry out of their misery.
Yet this swing in momentum began to peter out and le Prof turned to Welbeck as a last throw of the dice. It was a delight just to see Danny back in harness after his interminable absence. Yet for him to pop up with such a crucial contribution might just be the catalyst that we’ve all been impatiently waiting for.
Hopefully, this will prove to be the marker-point between an Arsenal meandering unimpressively towards our fate and a team that’s finally found the scent of a title charge, inspiring the desire and the dexterity necessary for us to be masters of our own destiny.
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