Two matches attended in one week. Whilst my wallet has felt the pinch, every time you ascend the stairs and the pitch comes into view, the last thing on your mind is whether you have the spare £50 to buy your niece the latest useless piece of One Direction paraphernalia. No matter how often you’re exposed to the wonderful sight of The Emirates carpet and each stand as they rise to your eyeline, the impact is not dimmed.
The start of the day involved waiting for Daniel Cowan – my editor, friend and perennial annoyance – at Kings Cross station. As well as my unusual stature, the fact I was sans jacket was gleaning more raised eyebrows than usual. After ten minutes spent dreaming of pies Daniel arrived and we made our way to the home of pastry and dreams – Piebury. Being constantly derided and losing your temper works up a hell of an appetite so our meals were eaten with gusto. We met up with a few Gooners who we were already familiar with ( hello Letty, Jane and Michael ) and we made our way to the Tolly. Ah, the Tolly.
The venue for the Twitterati and hoi-palloi of the social networking scene soon filled up, leaving me with a face full of elbows. Conversation flowed much like the copious amounts of alcohol that flowed in the hands of others and the old adage ‘ time flies when you’re having fun’ came into full effect as before we knew it, we had half an hour before kick-off.
There is a sense of unity as you walk towards the stadium. No matter if colours are worn or not, as you mill amongst your fellow salmon making their identical pilgrimage upstream – you all share the same intention. It is quite a heady sensation – no matter if you make it weekly, monthly or once in a blue moon.
We made our way to our seats. We were in the North Bank and the seats were quite brilliant. No hindrances, no fans in the vicinity who were there simply to voice criticism. A plum spot, if you will.
The ribbing from Daniel had continued from the station to the entrance to the stadium but once we had taken our seats, it was football talk. We sang ourselves hoarse. We shouted. We moaned about the sometimes static nature of our attack. My larynx will testify to this as I know sound like Macy Gray after gargling tungsten tip screws.
Tactically, Southampton made it pretty evident that they had turned up for a point. Their usual rapier play was lacking and had been replaced by an iron will to deflate our attacks. They were missing Schneiderlin and Pelle is clearly out of form – showcased by him blazing over their only chance in the first half.
Our defence looks so assured when BFG and Koscielny are reunited. They both have assets that the other need to complete the puzzle. They weren’t overly troubled and Nacho and Chambers had free license to roam further upfield – as our full-backs are wont to do. Flamini is always a concern, either for his suspect form or for his flagrant disregard for yellow cards, but he was assured and was the sentry we needed just in case the uprising from the Saints did happen.
Sanchez was tireless. Everything went through him. Rightfully so too. When you have a player of his ilk, then your potential manoeuvrings will benefit from being filtered through this particular Chilean filter. Welbeck too was full of endeavour as well and was unlucky with a header from a set-piece that an inspired Forster tipped over. As the minutes slipped away, the frustration grew.
With the introduction of Giroud for The Ox ( which was roundly booed by a large proportion of fans ) came a change in impetus. Our attacks – which had so far required a pass through three sets of legs and the obstacle course from Total Wipeout – carried far more threat and Koeman sensed this. The Saints backline creeped ever closer to their box which in turn was a signal for our fans to ramp up the noise further. Cue a banging headache and vocal cords that felt like they had been dipped in acid.
Ramsey has been a bone of contention recently. He is still roaming upfield in search of that slick pass or rasping 25-yard effort, but his responsibilities as an all-encompassing central midfielder have obviously been refreshed in his memory by Wenger as he now tracks back with intent. His passing was at 87% and his presence alongside Mathieu was invaluable. The 13% missing? They were undoubtedly the many attempts littered around the opposition box. Whilst he has reigned in his attacking instincts so they aren’t to the detriment to his overall play, his goal threat is still struggling to show itself.
He did provide the assist though. To the last minute winner. What a glorious moment. It didn’t matter that it was just a League fixture and not a Cup Final. A winner late on, when resignation is setting in. When at least a quarter of the fans have upped and left on a quest for a train seat. When triumph shines on even the darkest of shadows, it dissipates.
When Sanchez plundered the winner, Daniel and I cut loose. I had already lost it by this point, declaring five minutes before that I would ” Bleed for you Arsenal “. We embraced heartily. Seeing as I’m considerably shorter than Daniel, I also received a mouthful of his chest. This didn’t sour the taste of our jubilation however and we danced merrily. The moment will live long and we exited the stadium after the final whistle floating on a cloud of satisfaction.
Three points. Great company. Piebury scoffed. It was a good day.