[Note: This week's TWAG was actually a TWAF as I was in Austin (Fadó) and not Chicago (Ginger's). A tip of the hat should go to the Austin Arsenal fans for putting together and collectively signing a get-welll poster for Eduardo. Nice touch, guys.]
Here's how bad it was. We cheered wildly the 60th minute substitution of Niklas Bendtner. Something is rotten in the Emirates when Adebayor's Danish punching bag is suddenly seen as hope.
It was already bizarro Saturday morning for the Gunners. They looked the slower team. They were spraying balls errantly across the pitch. They even put the ball into the wrong goal in the 27th. It was oddly appropriate, though, that Senderos beat Almunia to the short side from an Agbonlahor cross.
Agbonlaholyfuckmynamedoesnotflowoffthetounge had spent the early part of the match turning every counter into a chance to school the Swiss defender. Since the Villa forward couldn't seem to finish himself, Senderos just did him the favor to hasten the inevitable.
And with that own goal, the fairy tale seemed to make the inconvenient acquaintance of reality. The glass slipper didn't fit. The frog was still a frog after being kissed. And Snow White stays in the coma.
The "Do it for Eduardo" sentiment wasn't going to put balls into nets and United's march to the title seemed like an inevitability. Any doubt of that could be dismissed simply by looking over to the other half of the bar where the Red Devils were methodically dismantling Fulham. The accompanying cheers from the bar were frequent, regular, and irritating.
And as the clock wound and wound, those United fans had started to drift over from their half the bar in anticipation of a delicious climax to the morning. Seven days before the Mancs were 5 points adrift and down on goal differential. Now they were literally moments away from being back atop the table—level on points but ahead on GD (go fuck yourself until you figure out how to defend, Mr. Keegan).
There were more rationalizations than scoring chances: the injuries were piling up; the loss of Eduardo was too much of an emotional blow; many pundits had predicted we wouldn't even earn a Champions League spot, so we had really overachieved to this point and that should be enough; Senderos was bound to be exposed eventually; Cesc hasn't done shit since December; too many fixtures not enough bench; the Milan muff wasn't a freak accident and Adebayor's haircut really had killed his ability to head the ball down etc.
It was more depressing than watching a crowd emerge from a Larry the Cable guy performance.
Whoever said a tie is like kissing your sister was not a futbol fan.
Bendtner's last minute goal to level felt more like plowing Diane Lane from behind.
Not a bad turnaround of disposition as a couple of minutes before I was contemplating shoving my breakfast fork into my cheek to alleviate the pain of watching the game and the Prem slip away.
The last meaningful touch of the Villa game might be the most important point the Gunners collect all season. Sure, it's only a point and the lead over the Mancs is all but gone, but from a psychological perspective it could be huge.
And Wegner knew it. The fact that he had any reaction much less the Tiger-esque fist-pump should probably tell even the casual fan that he understood how much the season was slipping away.
In the 80th, Wenger brought on Denilson and Gilberto. I heard some guy over my shoulder say, "He's going for it." Sure, what choice did he have? It wasn't like there was anything to be gained by only losing 1-0 at home.
Goal differential might well be the difference between 3rd or 4th or, more importantly 4th and 5th, but with the two dick stompings of Newcastle by United, Wegner can't be thinking that there's much reward in just limiting damage.
Still, this wasn't the normal push-people-forward kind of go for it. With the two Brazilian subs the Gunners had gone to a 3-4-3 but the way they aligned was more effectively a 2-5-3.
I'm not sure exactly how you say "Fuck it" in French, but "deux-cinq-troi" is probably a reasonable translation.
It might be an overstatement to say that if Arsenal hold on, the Prem was won with Bendtner's goal. There's too much futbol left and the fixture at United is six points waiting for the taking.
And we'll see more in a couple of hours if there is a lasting uplift that carries over from the draw to the San Siro. But if nothing else, fuck it felt good to watch the smug and self-sure Mancs scurry back to their corner of the bar knowing that they were still looking up at the Gunners. And tenuous the hold might be, it's still a grip.