Bradford 1 (Thompson 16) – Arsenal 1 (Vermaelen 87)
Doyle – Scored 1-0 Bradford
Cazorla – Saved 1-0 Bradford
Jones – Scored 2-0 Bradford
Chamakh – Missed 2-0 Bradford
Darby – Saved 2-0 Bradford
Wilshere – Scored 2-1 Bradford
Connell – Scored 3-1 Bradford
Chamberlain – Scored 3-2 Bradford
Jones – Saved 3-2 Bradford
Vermaelen – Missed 3-2 Bradford
Man of the Match – Matt Duke (Bradford)
This is my third and final attempt at writing the match review. Third time because, I have been utterly and completely out of words. Twice I started writing, but I just could not conjure up anything.
I was awake till 4:00 AM last night, and watched one of the most horrendous Arsenal performances in recent memory. I seriously wouldn’t mind taking another 8-2 than losing to League Two opposition on penalties. I woke up, sleep-deprived, groggy, and heavy eyed, 5 hours later, only to thoughts about Arsenal’s performance.
I have gone absolute bonkers. It’s official. I love this club to bits. I will continue watching games, no matter what time into the night they come to an end. But, the shambles of all this should stop, really. It may really be taking a toll on my health. I am pretty sure I will die due to a heart attack caused by some goal we concede in the future, in stoppage time.
The match. Whatever of it that was. Arsene Wenger took me and everyone by surprise with his team selection. It was the strongest 11 on the night. All available regulars started, except for Arteta. I was surprised that Andriy Arshavin, with 5 assists and 1 goal in 2 games in the Capitol One Cup wasn’t even on the bench.
The setting was perfect for a romantic cup tie. The Valley Parade ground was packed, and recorded its highest attendance, for decades. It was biting cold, the pitch was slippery, and the goal posts looked like they were taken right out of the 70’s. The dugouts too looked ancient.
Bradford looked like a typical lower league cup team. They worked hard, harried and troubled Arsenal, pressed like Barcelona even at times, and just didn’t allow Arsenal players to settle down. There were talks of how Bradford could make use of their height at set pieces, especially with their lanky striker James Hanson.
But it was the tricky Nahki Wells who was making mincemeat of reputations, as he gave a torrid time to Belgian international Thoms Vermaelen. He attempted to play the ball past the Arsenal skipper, and tumbled at the slightest contact, to earn Bradford a free-kick at a dangerous spot.
Almost all Arsenal defenders were caught napping, and Garry Thompson smashed home the opener. The stadium erupted. Arsenal stuck to their task, but were almost negated by a Bradford side, ready to put their bodies on the lines on every single occasion.
Arsenal’s first attempt at goal came minutes later, when Cazorla’s long ball, aimed at Podolski bounced off former Liverpool defender Stephen Darby into the path of Kieran Gibbs, who managed to blaze narrowly above.
Bradford had set up like a firm brick wall, and barely allowed time and space for Arsenal to exploit. The Gunners had to wait 37 minutes to come close to scoring, when a Coquelin shot struck the post. Gervinho was at his woeful best, and if I had a gun I would have shot myself. He missed from less than a metre out from goal, with nothing but the goal to aim at, when a cross whizzed past him. Ah, the agony.
Nahki Wells, however, almost heaped more agony, as he tangled with Vermaelen again, but his shot went just wide off the mark. With rumors that the team had got a proper Wenger hairdryer, it was expected that Arsenal would do the needful in the second half to progress to the next round.
It was however the same old story as Bradford looked unpenetrable. Podolski looked very disinterested at one stage, barely making any meaningful runs, and Gervinho looked confused every time he had a ball. Clearly, not a trait of a professional footballer.
Jack Wilshere looked like the only player in the Arsenal lineup really battling hard for his side, and his effort, after creating space for himself was palmed away by Bradford’s resolute goalkeeper Matt Duke.
When it seemed like everything was over, and I was slumped over my couch like a sloth, with a complete look of bewilderment on my face, Cazorla retrieved the ball after a corner was cleared. He sent the ball straight back into the melee, and Thomas Vermaelen somehow bundled the ball home. RELIEF! Ah, I could finally walk to the toilet and relieve my bladder.
Cazorla almost scored the winner in extra time, when his shot, first off a free kick, and later in open play were both well saved by that monster of a keeper Duke.
The game went into extra-time, and Arsenal clearly looked like the side with more urgency about them, as they controlled more possession, but with very little to show for it. Arsenal came closest when Cazorla’s shot struck the woodwork, and then Chamberlain made a hash of his shit, sliding in to reach the ball.
The game was to be decided by penalties. Nerves everywhere , and by now I was on the edge of my couch. I never have had as much tension even while going to take some of my engineering exams.
Nathan Doyle scored for Bradford. Santi Cazorla did little wrong with his shot, but it was one fantastic save from Matt Duke that prevented the ball from going in. Garry Jones stepped up and dispatched his. Marrouane Chamakh stepped up, which meant I was on the verge of nervous breakdown. I had lost complete faith in his ability to kick a ball, let alone score a penalty. He didn’t disappoint. His penalty struck the post. “No wonder Bradford side haven’t lost in 8 penalty shootout’s” I thought to myself.
The Gunners were thrown a lifeline when Stephen Darby took a weak shot, and Szczesny made the save. Wilshere converted his, but former Sp*rs player Mathew Connell converted his. Chamberlain made it 3-2, and Szczesny pulled one more from the hat when he saved former Manchester United trainee Ritchie Jones’ penalty.
Thomas Vermaelen stepped up, but his penalty struck the post, and Arsenal were duly knocked out of the Capitol One Cup by Bradford City. As I sunk into the depths of the sofa, I knew this was an all too familiar feeling, Arsenal being knocked out of cups.
But this was even more painful considering we had been beaten by a side, 3 divisions below us. The parting scenes were those of the Bradford fans going wild, crowding their heroes, whilst even sparing a consolation or two for Arsenal’s players.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the worst defeats under the tenure of Arsene Wenger, and it comes at an increasingly worrying time, when nothing seems to be going right at the club. I can only feel for the fans, who made the long trip to Bradford, battled the elements, sang their hearts out for 120 minutes, but only returned with glum faces, and the free Santa hats that the generous Bradford Fans Association had handed out to them.
Right, I cannot conjure any more than this now. I am reeling. Crying almost! Where has my Arsenal gone?
P.S – I sincerely hope Bradford progress and maybe even win the cup. They were sensational!
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