The season started with 2 away trips against Everton and Newcastle United.
The former match ended 3-2 in our favour. It wasn't the best of starts and I was
beginning to wonder whether our poor showing in the friendlies would be
an indication of this year's title hopes. But my team had other ideas when
Newcastle United entertained us at Tyneside. Both Pires and Parlour were
on the pitch. There was no love lost when we took the lead through Van der
Vaart in the 10th minute. It was his first goal for Arsenal. There was no
holding back the rampant Arsenal side as we swept to a 4-0 lead at half
time. 2 more goals were added in the second half and the final score, a
6-0 drubbing of Newcastle United who had the service of 2 ex-Gunners.
We followed it up with a hard-fought victory over Southampton.
The Champions League Phase 1 group matches pitted us against the likes of
Feyenoord, Monaco and Servette FC. It would be an easy group after I witnessed
the draw at UEFA's headquarters in Geneva. The first match was away to Rotterdam
against Feyenoord. A freak collision between Elmander and Janssen saw both
of them being substituted. We took advantage of the situation to score a
2-1 win over them. The next match was even easier as we faced Monaco who
had Wiltord with them. He would be returning to familiar grounds at Ashburton
Grove and the fans gave him a voracious salute for his 132 appearances and
63 goals for Arsenal during a 4-year period. Unfortunately he would be returning
home empty handed after his team, Monaco was totally outplayed by us. 2
goals from Joe Cole and 1 each from Saviola, Vieira and Ljungberg gave us
a 5-0 win. [ScreenShot]
The match against Servette FC was an easy one as we cruised to
a 4-1 win despite having Frey sent off for committing a professional foul.
Back in the domestic front, I was awarded the Manager of the Month award
for September and October after some clinical wins over a few top sides.
Rafael Van der Vaart won the Player of the Month award for October. The
shock of the season came when we faced Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It was
unbelievable! Chelsea had been runners-up in the league for 4 seasons already
but this time around, they were dead and buried with just a quarter of games
35,000 fans were on hand to watch the match. Chelsea started the match strongly,
hoping to avenge for the defeat in the Charity Shield match earlier this
season. In the 11th minute, Van der Vaart started the move, which led to
Cassano feeding a pass to him inside the area. GOAL! Just before Chelsea
could compose their defence, we struck again. This time around, O'Shea combined
well with Barrett to unlock the Chelsea defence, leaving Cassano one on
one with the Chelsea keeper, Weaver. GOAL! Disaster struck in the 27th minute,
when Chelsea was awarded a free kick. Palermo sent the ball flying but it
took a wicked deflection off Canoville. GOAL! An own goal! 5 minutes later,
our 2-goal cushion was restored. A poor clearance by Gerard allowed Barrett
to sneak in and score. GOAL! The second half started the way the first half
did. Chelsea came out in droves to attack. We were forced to put men behind
the ball and rely on swift counter attacks. In the 51st minute, man-of-the-match
Barrett laid a pass for Calaio just outside the area. Calaio shoots. GOAL!
The goal forced Chelsea to slow down their attacks, which would be their
mistake. In the 63rd minute, Cassano received a pass from Barrett before
sending it towards the Chelsea goal. GOAL! A counter attack in the 70th
minute by Chelsea nearly resulted in a goal but the ball rebounded off the
crossbar and was well controlled by Pennant. A couple of passes later found
Cassano inside the area. GOAL! That's his hat-trick! 2 minutes later, Cassano
scored his fourth of the night and Arsenal's seventh of the match. Mighty
Chelsea has been brought to their knees in a 7-1 humiliating defeat at home.
With a quarter of matches gone, we were 4 points clear of Liverpool and
facing them in the next match. No one would have predicted that after the
thrashing of Chelsea, we would re-enact the same situation over Liverpool
who had become title challengers in place of Chelsea. This time around we
would be doing it at Ashburton Grove in front of 68,000 spectators. The
first half was an equal affair, both sides having their share of attacks
and near misses. But the start of the second half showed Arsenal in their
most devastating form. It took only 3 minutes of lapsed concentration in
the Liverpool defence for us to take the lead and increased it. Henry started
the ball rolling in the 56th minute by scoring from a Van der Vaart pass.
GOAL! In the 59th minute, a badly timed tackle on Henry resulted in the
ball falling at Cassano's feet. GOAL! Then in the 73rd minute, Alan Quinn
headed a Van der Vaart corner into the net. GOAL! 6 minutes later, poor
marking by the Liverpool defenders allowed Van der Vaart to send in a pinpoint
cross for Noble inside the area. GOAL! Just when Liverpool thought that
they have survived the onslaught, Van der Vaart's neatly placed header found
Noble in the area again. GOAL! Final score, Arsenal 5 Liverpool 0.