Tuesday 10 December 2013

Arsenal 1-1 Everton [Carbon Bar, Perth]

Wow. What a game.

Perth has been the host city for watching the important clash with David Moyes' Roberto Martinez's in-form Everton side. If you look at Perth on a map, you'll realise it's just a little bit out of the way; 1,500 miles, give or take a few hundred, from Adelaide, the nearest major city and the one I was in last week.


A lot of people asked why I was traveling so far to see such a mediocre place. Forking out on a flight and sitting 4 hours in a tin can for a three day visit, those comments didn't exactly fill me with excitement. Fortunately it's one of those typically Australian 'my-city-is-better-than-your-city' things, because Perth is a fantastic place, full of character and there's a lot going on. If you want great weather and beaches, you won't be disappointed. The people here are super friendly, although there are also a considerable amount of drunk characters around, which might explain the 'super-friendly' bit.

Like most cities in Australia, Perth is home to a considerable-sized casino, which is quite literally open 24 hours a day. With the time difference regularly coming into play for watching live Premier League games, the casino's the only real place where fans can congregate to see their favourite team. So it was here, or more precisely the Carbon Bar inside the casino, where I would watch the match. Kickoff was midnight on a Sunday night, so I wasn't expecting a great turnout.

But this is a casino. It's the only place open on a Sunday night if you fancy a bevy and a cheeky punt, so the place was rammed with fans who turned up to watch, albeit slightly spread-out and not part of the official supporters group in Perth. One Gooner that joined us was an intoxicated chap from Aberdeen known only as 'infamous Rob'. He obviously lives under a rock because he was adamant that Aaron Ramsey is 'a s**t footballer' and that he's 'just lucky'. When you combine these comments with a thick, slurred Aberdonian accent, it makes for quite an event-within-an-event. Rob, we salute you, even if you are a prize plonker.

Infamous Rob
The game itself was, for all intents and purposes, a cup final. The tempo was high, the tackles were frantic, it was pinball, it was air-hockey. It was as if we were playing Man United - prior to Mr Moyes of course. When Ozil scored, the Carbon Bar exploded in rapturous applause. This was more like it. Unfortunately for us, the Toffees, perhaps deservedly, came back with a great individual effort from Deulofeu.

It was a disappointment. Yes, we played a great in-form Everton team and they have some very strong players, managed by one of the country's best. But we really had to win this, especially when we still have to travel to Napoli, the Middle Eastlands and then host Chelsea. Everton should have been the 'easiest' of these four games. But, the least we can take away from the game, aside from a point, is that we played very well defensively and we looked like we wanted it.

Most notably, we should be really positive and excited about the triple-substition that Wenger made to turn the game. It wasn't a last-ditch effort, which is something that you would typically associate with switching three players around. We weren't trying to claw back from being behind, and we were going to extend our lead by a point anyway. With 25 minutes to go, we used a 'would-you-like-to-see-what-else-I-have-in-my-warchest' move. Wenger, who never fails to surprise us, fished out an English crossbow in Walcott, a medieval spiked mace in Rosicky and some Semtex in Flamini.  Normally when a team switches three players around like that all at once, that match-day squad chemistry goes down a notch and the balance is lost, especially in a game where one slip of concentration won't go unpunished. But that triple-sub saw us go a goal up, and this is why Arsenal's stocks are on the rise; we have some real depth, the kind of depth we've been craving for the past seven years. This is an Arsenal side that can go the whole way. Will we win the league? Ask me again on Christmas Eve.

So the next stop for me is Sydney, Australia, where I'll be spending the festive period with some awesome Gooners. There will be a local fundraiser at the official branch of Arsenal Australia Sydney for the Man City game, where they are hoping to challenge the OC Gooners after they raised $1,600 back in November. Before that however, there is the important task of qualifying for the knockout round of the Champions League. And I'll be watching that one in Manly Beach. The things I have to do for my team!