Arsenal end up on the right side of a fine line

Roma 1-0 Arsenal
Arsenal win 7-6 on pens

Ye gods, what an epic nerve-jangler that was.

It was close – very close – and at times Arsenal rode their luck, but when Tonetto blasted the sixteenth penalty over the bar (prompting the predictable but excellent headline in one of the red tops, Just won, Tonetto), we all went a bit potty, didn’t we?

I was in a sports bar in London that was rammed with plastic Mancs – watching the Arsenal game but being forced to listen to the Utd commentary. Let me tell you now that watching one game and listening to another will not catch on as a concept.

It was a tough night against committed opposition in front of 80,000 fans, and Arsenal came through it admirably. OK, so it wasn’t the most fluid of performances, but last night was not about fluidity – it was about backs to the wall and nerves of steel. Roma were bang up for it.

Of course, there are still faults – we defended poorly for the goal, and our midfield lacked punch again – but do not underestimate the power this result might have to spur this team on.

It was one of those nights when, had Arsenal lost, we might well have been right back to square one. But by winning, this team can take enormous strength and belief. The line between success and failure really is that close.

And in the quarter-finals, we should have Fabregas, Rosicky and Adebayor back. With them, who knows what might happen? It’s a mouth-watering prospect and I just hope we don’t draw an English team – though we do have a 3 in 7 chance of doing so.

Wenger glowed after the game:

“I must pay tribute to the nerves of my team. There is something in there that comes out and that is huge mental strength. Our character has been questioned many times, but since November I have said many times that we are still extremely strong.”

He’s right to pay them tribute because they held their nerve astonishingly. After Eduardo’s first miss, we scored seven straight penalties – van Persie, Walcott, Nasri, Denilson, Toure, Sagna then Diaby. Fantastic stuff – and you could see what it meant to them at the end when they went giddy and stripped to the waist. There was hugging aplenty.

I think I might bask in this one for a day or two.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.