Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham City
I suppose football is the popular game that it is partly because, while money, good management and history will always bubble to the top over the course of a season, so much still relies on the vagaries of the human mind.
So it was yesterday. We started the game as we meant to carry on, besieging the Birmingham goal, and once van Persie’s opener had been supplemented by Diaby’s smart finish, the game looked to all intents and purposes to be over.
But one error, and the complexion of a game can change entirely. Having been as comfortable as can possibly be, Arsenal were suddenly only a goal away from dropping two points, and despite creating chances, so long as that was the case, then it promised a nervous ending.
While Birmingham equalising would have been larceny on a grand scale (or should it be Larssony?), the fact is that football is not quite as scientific and predictable as all that.
Fortunately for us, Arshavin did finally put the game to bed with a smart, curved right-foot slot-in, but because we spent 30 minutes with just a slender advantage, yesterday’s game never felt quite as safe as it could have been.
The fact is though, we played well, Mannone’s handling error notwithstanding. It’s hard to pick a single performance out, because it wasn’t that kind of game, but of the less cemented starters, Eboue had a fine game, Diaby looked dangerous and Gibbs assured.
Birmingham were better than I thought they would be. Not up front, where they lacked punch, but generally speaking their work ethic was admirable, they defended and passed pretty well and their heads never dropped.
Of course, we’ve been greatly helped by three of our rivals dropping all or most of their points this weekend. It leaves us in a strong position, but intriguingly, the top of the league is looking really competitive. On current form, there are probably seven sides who think they’ve got a chance of being in the top four come May.
It’s certainly building up nicely for what could be a rumbustious north London derby on Hallowe’en.
I know this has little to do with footall per se, but it’s a subject close to my heart. Strolling over the north bridge into the ground yesterday, my cousin took his iPhone from his pocket and stated: “First thing I do when coming here is switch 3G off”. I can’t speak for any other networks, but trying to get a data connection via O2 within gargling shot of the Grove is basically a non-starter. Even switching 3G off – the old fail-safe – makes almost no difference anymore.
But yesterday took things to a new level. Not only was web access almost impossible, but I couldn’t listen to voicemail either, and it was a full hour after the game when I got the rat-tat-tat of text messages that had been sent to me during the game, but which had simply never arrived.
I know I’m not the only one who grumbles about this.
Not very good, is it?