Back to the Premier League, we were off to Villa Park
and looking forward to extending our lead at the top of the table. But
Villa obviously had other plans for us. Within 10 minutes of the first
half, we were already 2-0 up after Silvestre (og) and Saviola had scored.
But Villa pulled one back through Joachim. In the second half, we played
one of the worse football I've ever seen. During a 10-minute blitz, my
defense decided to doze off allowing Joachim and Alex to score. Then deep
into injury time, Dublin added salt to our wounds by scoring another.
We were staring at an embarrassing defeat against Aston Villa.
Despite the little setback, Arsenal was sitting comfortably at the top
of the table with a 9-point cushion between Manchester United and us.
What was even more surprising, Manchester City was lying at third place.
We had 12 wins, 2 draws and 1 defeat, while United had 12 wins, 5 draws
and 3 defeats. The FA decided to play a little trick on us, when they
arranged us to play Blackburn Rovers twice in the Premier League in just
4 days. Odd as it seems, it was good news for us. Four days later, we
came out with 6 points and 6 goals. The first match saw us thrashing them
4-0 away at Ewood Park. Whereas in the return match at Highbury, we were
held back by their stout defending and could only manage a 2-0 win.
In the FA Cup 3rd Round, we came face-to-face with Liverpool. My Reserves
team played one of their best matches ever. It was a fiery encounter in
which 7 players were booked. Barrett scored the opener after 12 minutes
of play. Then it was a see saw battle between both sides which produced
one of the classic games ever. Just into first half injury time, Woodgate
tucked away a pass by Ashley Cole to score his first goal for the club.
The second half continued where the first half had left off. In the 54th
minute, Vernazza tried his luck from 25-yards out. GOAL! His first ever
goal for Arsenal. In the 67th minute, Liam Chilvers had his shot parried
by Westerveld and the rebound hit the post only to fall at Notman's feet
for a simple tap-in. GOAL! Liverpool started to play much more defensively
to stop the waves of attack by Arsenal. A cheeky back flick by Notman
allowed Ljungberg to slip through the Liverpool defense in the 82nd minute.
GOAL! 5-0 against Liverpool, I couldn't believe it!
The 4th Round saw us taking on Gillingham in a one-sided affair and we
walked away with a 2-0 win. In the League Cup Semi-Final match against
Charlton, we led 2-0 at half time through a brace by Saviola but was later
caught out by John Robinson's vital away goal in the 82nd minute.
Back to the Premier League, we went through a bad patch right after the
match against Blackburn Rovers. We could only draw the next 3 matches
against Leicester City (1-1), Chelsea (1-1) and Leeds (2-2). These matches
saw us having to make a late comeback to get a point. Luckily, our nearest
contenders were going through their own bad patch too and that allowed
us to maintain our lead at the top of the table.
We were faced with 4 big matches at the start of February. In Europe,
the Champions League resumed and we were up against Bayern Munich twice
in one week. We also had to travel to Manchester twice within a week,
when both United and City, who were lying in second and third place respectively,
entertained us. Bayern was no match for us as they slumped to a 3-0 at
Highbury. The away match at Olympiastadion was a thrilling encounter.
Santa Cruz scored the opener for Bayern in the 13th minute. But their
lead was cut short when Henry scored twice within 5 minutes to give us
a 2-1 lead. Woodgate added a third, 2 minutes before half time. The second
half was as impressive as the first, and Santa Cruz gave Bayern a lifeline
when he scored in the 65th minute. In the 72nd minute, Bayern had the
ball in the net but it was ruled offside. A goal kick from Manninger found
Joe Cole who flicked the ball for Henry. Henry aimed for the top corner
from 20 yards. GOAL! His hat-trick complete and Arsenal's ticket to the
Quarterfinals was confirmed.
Our trip to Maine Road was for the 5th Round of the FA Cup. It was a tricky
situation and we were just hoping for a draw. The previous match against
Bayern had taken a toll on the regulars, so I had to field my backup strikers:
Wiltord and Saviola. City defended well for the first 10 minutes or so,
but they were hampered by an injury to Tim Sherwood. 2 minutes later,
Saviola scored his 25th goal of the season from outside the penalty box.
In the 23rd minute, City's defense was caught out again when Ljungberg
flicked the ball for Wiltord. GOAL! Before City could regroup, Greening
tucked away a neat pass from Saviola. GOAL! With a draw on my mind at
the start of the match, Arsenal was now leading 3-0. Wiltord finished
the first half with another goal from a long cross by Ljungberg. We played
the second half much more defensively as we were keen to hold on to our
lead. Manchester City threw everything that had at us, but Wright was
at his best. In the 70th minute, a quick counter attack and Wiltord scored
his hat-trick. Full time score, Arsenal 5 Manchester City 0.