We needed a miracle before Birmingham we still need a miracle now the only thing that has changed is that we need an even bigger one.
I would like to try and put a positive spin on the match but I can’t, the nausea in the pit of my stomach won’t let me. It feels like I have woken up with the mother of all hangovers and no matter how hard I try and remind myself what a good time I had at the party we call our season, enjoying exquisite football of the highest calibre — it doesn’t help, I still feel absolutely awful.
Wenger’s gamble failed, I am not about to launch into an anti Wenger tirade, I am fully aware just how easy it is to get things right with hindsight but Wenger stressed the importance of ignoring the Barcelona game and being fully focussed on Birmingham which surely included playing our strongest team – well he didn’t, and it cost us.
Playing Theo on a bowling green of a surface such as the Emirates when the play is tight is usually unproductive but playing him on a bobblely pitch like St Andrews and he is more than likely to go AWOL, which is exactly what happened, for seventy minutes he was anonymous — it was equivalent of playing with 10 men.
In normal circumstances playing with ten men against eleven does not deter the spirit of this team as they showed so admirably last week against West Ham but with Howard Webb so blatantly making it twelve against ten, things were tough, throw in an injury that reduced Fabrégas to a passenger and the odds were really stacked against us.
Still the nine men battled on with Rosicky mustering all the enthusiasm he possessed, Diaby was putting on a magic show in the middle, while Denilson albeit light weight was doing what he could but no matter how much they tried this midfield triumvirate just could not get the game under control and it remained deadlocked.
Then on seventy minutes Wenger decided to unwrap the big guns from Wednesday’s cotton wool; Arshavin and Nasri replaced Walcott and Rosicky, the difference was immediate, for the first time in the match there was eleven against eleven, well almost, they still had Webb but it certainly helped.
The two late arrivals were cutting through the Birmingham defence like a hot knife through butter, this galvanised the back line, lifted Denilson’s confidence and gave even more impetus to the Diaby show. It seemed like only a question of time before we scored and so it proved: our saviour was Nasri, a low drive through a sea of legs found its way into the far corner leaving Heart stranded — cue unbridled joy in the 12 Pins pub, Finsbury Park the place went absolutely mental.
Arsenal immediately took their foot off of the paddle and dropped a gear but with only ten minutes to go all seemed fine — wrong — out of the blue in injury time someone thrust their hand down my throat, ripped out my beating heart, throw it into the air and Almunia, instead of catching it, tried to push it over the bar which he pathetically failed to do — it hurts, it really hurts.