Good morning Afternoon Positivistas, though only just.
A mood of fear was abroad among the Baggies fans on the way to the game, anticipating a bit of a drubbing. “Best football team we played last season” was muttered, through clenched teeth as they thought back to their demolition at the Ems last May. Greying skies as the afternoon wore on, floodlights on, Winter football. They had much to contemplate. We, other other hand, I felt had much to look foward to. Top of the table by 5pm perhaps ? It certainly looked do-able.
And we did not disappoint the locals for the opening half hour. Though our game was not quite its clockwork best we probed and pushed, and penned them back until the inevitable opener. The landslide was on its way. The locals began to head for the meat pie and Bovril counters to avoid the half time rush. Le Coq’s departure was an unpleasant jolt though my first expectation on seeing the incident in real time was for Clattenberg to pull out a red card for our combative Frenchman. A wild tackle with, apparently, unfortunate consequences. Arteta on though, safe pair of hands, or legs anyway.
And then five minutes of nonsense in which we gave away a soft first goal, then contrived to knock in a second own goal in a combination human movement that was bizarre. I shall not dwell. I will give MacLean a tip of my hat as he had a good game and made a couple of chances. There is indeed no purpose in my dwelling because you have seen then far more often than I. I was surprised, the locals were stunned, I kid you not.
I was not however, even for a moment, concerned. We had more than a half of football to retrieve the situation. Immediately we started the second half with more purpose. Mikel was immediately pointing to the bench to be taken off and Mattieu was quickly into the action.
We began to fizz and buzz. We were faster and sharper. Ozil really had his A game in action. WBA fell back, stretched, trembled, relied on the long out ball to relieve pressure temporarily. They did not however break and the equalizer would not come. A very rare Baggies chance saw our goal frame shaken but Clattenburg unmoved on about 70 minutes after which for the last 25 minutes it was solid, relentless Arsenal, attack v defence. Sanchez was tireless, he ran, he turned, he dribbled, he leapt. I cannot recall ever seeing any attacking player put so much energy into a game as the Chilean yesterday.
The home crowd were by this stage on the edge of hysteria, finally raised from their collective stupor, Clattenburg was receiving terrible abuse every time he called a foul of gave a decision in our favour.
And then the penalty, and my goodness it was a deserved penalty (if there is such a thing). The point was at least saved, and with ten minutes to go or more maybe the full set would be pocketed after all. I have exclusive edited 4 whole seconds of footage of what happened next, courtesy of Number One son.
I say edited because after the ball disappeared toward the M6 the next shots are of wildly celebrating locals. You will just hear the start of “Yeee…” I know we have no use for such undignified monkey business.
Undoubtedly any one who watched the game on the TV will have seen a lot more than me. From what I did see we controlled it to the first goal, lost our concentration for five minutes and paid a price. Then faced a durable and motivated home side, who defended well and had a little bit of luck to escape with the win. A good day out in the West Midlands spoiled only by the result of the game.
Word of thanks to Baggies’ fan Sam Foord for providing the seats and the barge trip. Have a Banthams on me.