FA Cup Quarter Final
Arsenal 2 – 1 Hull City
0 – 1 Barmby (13)
1 – 1 van Persie (74)
2 – 1 Gallas (83)
Arsenal’s progress to the last four of the FA Cup has been overshadowed by claims that Cesc Fabregas spat at Brian Horton. Or at least that is what Hull’s manager, Phil Brown, claimed last night, a point he re-iterated it appears, in every news conference that he gave. It is a claim that was vehemently denied by the player. Indeed, Brown intimated that it had been at Horton’s body yet as the evening wore on, that changed to being aimed at his feet. Coupled with the change in venue of the alleged incident – initially it was claimed to have happened on the pitch, then the tunnel, back to the pitch again – the suspicion arises that it re-affirms the opinions in the media that Brown is losing the plot, cracking under the strain of being unable to arrest his club’s slide toward the relegation zone.
It is difficult to give credence to their claims. Horton has previous for being eccentric, particularly in his spell in charge at Maine Road. Could it simply be that Fabregas has spat on the turf and his actions misinterpreted by a duo who would not be out of place in The Keystone Cops? Further, Brown is seeking to find scapegoats for his failure to ensure that his team were sufficiently prepared to weather the inevitable storm that follows when visitors take the lead at The Emirates. Some inward analysis by the manager is more in order than outward ranting.
It was the part of a trilogy of rants last night, some had a point, others were so bizarre that instead of having a top-up in his local sunbed salon, Brown might be better served by actually taking a holiday. The only one worth any attention is that which ranted at the officials for not flagging Gallas offside. Yet, even this morning, I have changed my mind as to who got the final touch; to me it was not Djourou but the top of Myhill’s fist that had the last touch. If television cannot clearly define who played the ball into Gallas’ path, quite how Brown can be so sure is beyond me. More so, how was an official supposed to be 100% sure, the basis upon which they have to make their decisions.
Brown was not finished though. Apparently, Arsene Wenger is the biggest, baddest, greenest Meanie of them all. How dare he get Boaz Myhill booked for time-wasting? Did the referee not realise that he was tired and Myhill had to muster all of his energies from the first fifteen minutes to take a goal-kick. And as for Wenger not shaking his hand, well, did-bloody-dums. Get over it. As for Brown’s assertion:
For Arsenal’s club captain to spit at my assistant Brian Horton, shows you what this club’s about
As far as I am concerned, Brown can fall into the slowest descent into Hell. He is quite simply showing himself to be what he is: a classless acolyte of Sam Allardyce, a stunning example of tactical mediocrity who is plainly out of his depth and as close to Selwyn Froggat as a club manager can get. I feel sorry for the Hull City fans because I feel sure that they believe that their club has more class than molten lump of crassness that passes for their manager.
The match itself was the archetypal game of two halves. In the first forty-five, Arsenal looked lethargic, perhaps a sign that the wishes of the TV paymasters should be ignored and the fixture played tonight to allow full recovery after a gruelling ten days. Hull opened brightly, perhaps taking a deserved lead when Barmby’s shot looped off the boot of Djourou and over the helpless Fabianski. Cruel though the goal was, some fault must be placed at the defence’s door. Gallas had tracked forward to cover a shorter pass yet when the ball went over him there was no cover there to stop Barmby.
The rest of the half could have seen the match go either way. Barmby had another chalked off for being offside, Arsenal had their opportunities to level. Neither deserved to be out of sight of the their opponents. Whatever was said by Wenger at half-time had the desired impact. The team flew out of the blocks for the second period, to the extent that it was not a case of if but when, the equaliser arrived. Presuming that it came with enough time, there was a case to be made for when the winner would come.
Chances were spurned once more, Diaby went close with a header, van Persie closer still, rattling the frame of the woodwork. The pressure was building and in the end, the resistance was cracked. Bendtner swang and missed, typically for his luck in front of goal at the moment, before gathering control of the ball and imitating Arshavin’s close control of Saturday. His cross deflected to the Russian for van Persie to threaten to break the net with his finish.
With that the Hull defiance shattered and nine minutes later Djourou challenged Myhill and appeared to head onto Gallas who duly obliged by scoring. It appeared blatantly offside yet this morning, it appears to be less clear cut, almost impossible to say who got the final touch. In the end though, that does not matter. Gallas scored, the goal was given and Arsenal have won.
Wembley beckons for Arsenal, oblivion to Brown hopefully as he sinks into the mire of disciplinary actions that he faces.