Yesterday I journeyed up from Brighton on the train with my neighbour at the Amex Jack to see Arsenal play Leicester City. Leicester did have a Brighton connection as our two best players last season Ulloa and Upson now wear their blue colours. Jack, despite following Brighton for 62 years and deeply knowledgeable on them, also supports Arsenal. I was invited by an old friend. Being from Suffolk, his family all traditionally support Ipswich but since moving to London and the demise of Ipswich, his children wife and himself have become Gunners fans. It raises the question of club loyalty as Alan now that he spends more time in Sussex comes to the Amex regularly.
After a swift bevy at the Wetherspoon in Victoria Station where I met my pal we went by Tube for an Italian meal at Trullo close to Highbury Corner. There we had a fresh pasta with beef ragu and grilled mackerel with liberal servings of Soave. It was an authentic trattoria of which Daphne would have approved. The immensity of the Emirates stadium like a airline terminal impressed me. We are justifiably proud of our Amex but the Emirates can hold double our capacity. Seated high but in the middle we had superb sight lines.
As when Arsenal played Brighton in the Cup they started sufficiently well to indicate a high scoring victory. Leicester played 3 at the back with Upson and Robert Huth featuring but had difficulty in coping withe the mobility and fluidity of Ozil, Walcottt and Sanchez. Koscelny side-footed home from a corner and, after Schwarzer parried Ozil’s shot, Walcott was on hand to make it 2-0. Just like the cup tie with the Seagulls it was a quite different second half – Arsenal took their foot off the gas. Leicester’s clever forwards Mahrez and Kramaric asserted themselves and it was no surprise that the latter scored. An equaliser seemed on the cards and Mahrez squandered a fine opportunity to do so. Balotelli was the Arsenal hero of the night, his late goal meant that Arsenal over took Spurs in the title race. My friend, a good judge of the game, thought that Arsenal lacked the intensity to win a trophy. At 2-0 Chelsea would have closed the game down, Manchester United in their pomp would have won 4-0 but Arsenal let an inferior side back into the game.
As we waited outside the Tube we debated live attendance v telly watching of sport. I must confess it takes quite a lot to get me off the sofa and the 55 inch Samsung but the collective emotion of the stadium is still a big draw. I could have done without Ian Wright badmouthing Stoke, Leicester and of course Spurs fans in a half time interview or an impolite man arriving late to the seat at half time and rudely expecting me to stand without so much of a “would you mind.” let alone being jostled in the Tube . Yet was it all worthwhile? Yes it was.
Brighton who have lost three homes games in succession manifested their better away form with a goalless draw at Cardiff. Alan texted me that Fulham after taking the lead at Bolton lost 3-1. 17 championship managers have been sacked this season but Bolton seemed to have made a fine appointment in Neil Lennon as they have moved smartly up the table as have Birmingham under Rowett. The Seagulls and Cottagers still remain well in the lower half. And this troubles both Alan and I.