Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Arsenal - The Emirates Stadium

16th October 2011

Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland

As punishment for inflicting a McDonalds upon me the previous evening, I compelled Son to endure a few hours at Tate Modern before we made our way to The Emirates Stadium.  I had quite wanted to see Doris Salcedo’s Crack (as it were), but discovered someone had apparently polyfilla’d it in.  Which, I guess, could be considered art in itself; a comment upon the transient nature of culture.  Or something.

There was plenty to keep us (or at least me) entertained in the galleries on the various levels however, (although Son preferred to check out what the cafeteria had to offer).  The usual suspects were on display: Leichtenstien, Warhol and Mad Salvador, but one new name I discovered was Marcel Dzama, whose work shows that unique and unsettling combination of whimsy and weirdness which appeals to my slightly horizon-tilted sensibilities. 


I could have stayed in the place all day, but after an hour and a half I think son would have happily thrust heated darning needles into his own eyeballs rather than endure another gallery.  And given that our match this afternoon, at Mr Murdoch’s behest had been switched to a 1:30 kick off, we soon had to scoot across the Millenium Bridge to catch a tube.

Upon arrival at Arsenal tube station, we decided to fight against the flow of the crowd and wander up to Avenell Road to see what had been done with the old place, and  I was pleasantly surprised to see the main stand façade almost unchanged, having been incorporated into the residential development.  The area where the pitch had been (I doubt if any of the original grass remained) had been converted into landscaped gardens, although burly club stewards with Piss-Off faces had been posted at each entrance, presumably to stop obsessive Gooners sneaking in to worship at the former shrine.

A number of folks had given over their gardens to memorabilia sellers.  This chap had gone one step further by converting one shed into a makeshift club-shop, whilst from the other his Wife was taking bookings for travel to the upcoming away trip to Norwich.  The spirit of Del-Boy lives on in Islington.

The box-ofice - remote from the stadium in Drayton Park

The stadium from the outside - my stitching software perhaps making the ground
look rather smaller than reality.

The Emirates Stadium itself, one has to say, is an impressive beast - both inside and out.  Very clearly someone had decided to resist the temptation to cut any corners: superb views, massive leg room and (wow!) padded seats.  I had just settled by own well padded bum onto my seat when I was back on my feet to salute VAN PERSIE’s opening goal after just 29 seconds – if I have ever seen a quicker goal, I cannot remember it.

The Dutchman then chipped one onto a post, before biffing a shot just past the same upright, as Arsenal looked as if they may run over the top of their opponents.  However, the visitors weathered the storm, and began creating a few waves of their own as first Seb LARRSON bent in a free-kick, then Lee Cattermole made a real pig’s ear of a header from just three yards out.

Gervinho fails to take advantage of Mignolet's flap

A half-time display - perhaps in homage to Barcelona's Magic Fountain of Montjuic?

Having finished the half on a relative high, I thought Sunderland may come out and make a real go of things, but they were a bitter disappointment after the break, seemingly happy to withdraw into their shell, hoping to sneak a point.  But with just 8 minutes remaining, VAN PERSIE emulated Larsson’s first half feat from a not dissimilar position, to regain the lead for the hosts.

Only then did the visitors’ decide to push forward, and they discovered what I thought most folks already knew: that when put under pressure this Arsenal defence wobbles like of busload of drunken Weebles.  A few half-chances came Sunderland’s way during these frantic closing minutes but, for their negative attitude for much of the second period, I would have grudged them anything from this match, and 2-1 it finished.  Perhaps not the most scintillating match we have seen on our travels, but almost worth the admission for the two free-kick strikes alone.

Van Persie's winner

Someone clearly thought it a good idea to list, with dates,
all of Arsenal's trophy wins - that gap after 2005 looks awfully large.


Panorama of the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal F.C.

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