By Myles Palmer
Arsenal 4 Everton 1
To do what Arsenal did on Saturday was magnificent, brave and stupendous.
They showed the determination and professionalism of 2 Para or 22 SAS.
To crash out of the Champions League on away goals in Valencia on Wednesday night and come back and play Everton and look EXACTLY like a team that has just been knocked out of the Champions League and STILL battle through that lethargy and depression and collective disappointment was FANTASTIC.
For 21 minutes I thought : If Arsenal go on playing like this in the next three games they will be the only team ever knocked out of the Champions League TWICE in a month.
Then Thierry gave Freddie a lovely assist and the sparky Swede raced in from the right and scored with his left foot.I think that was the first time he has done that. Before it was : run in from the left and score with the right.
Kevin Campbell got the goal back, nice pass from the excellent Graveson, hit Seaman, knocked in the rebound for 1-1 at half-time.
Grimandi at last scored with header from a Pires corner, something he should have done months ago.
Vieira gave Wiltord a superb pass down the middle and when he stopped and turned 38,000 people thought, “Why is he turning instead of shooting?” And then he beat Pistone and rammed his shot in off the bar.
Xavier was sent off, late on Cole, second yellow.
Then Vieira’s flick hit Pistone and broke for Henry who took it round Gerrard and tapped in.
Wenger said,”It was more a victory of character and desire.”
And that is exactly what it was. No rhythm or fluency or great craftsmanship or momentum in the first half.
But as the game went on they gradually found their normal nerve and power and organisation and thrust and scored three goals and won 4-1.
Given the two traumatic disappointments the players had suffered against Middlesbrough and Valencia, I rate this victory as highly as winning 1-0 in Lyon.
Wenger looked absolutely implacable when the subject of Vieira’s possible transfer came up.
Whatever you may have read elsewhere, these were his exact words.
He said, “We are not interested in any offer of any amount.”
As ANR pointed out two years ago, PV is half the team. Except recently, when he has been two thirds of the team. He is the best player in England by a huge distance.
The crowd are not stupid.They sang Vieira’s name before the game and during the game and after the game.
If Vieira was to go, there would be no team. But he is not going. Patrick Vieira plays for Arsenal. He wears the No 4 shirt and he plays for Arsenal.
It’s obviously a concept that Italian presidents and coaches and journalists cannot get their heads round.
But that’s OK. Because PV understands it and AW understands it and so do you and so do I.
22nd April 2001