A moment in time

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Please listen to this song while reading the post…

Laurent Koscielny intercepts the ball for what feels like the hundredth time. He stops Barcelona’s attack dead like a wave breaking on a rocky shore. He pauses for a moment, deliberating over what to do with his second or two in space. Soon confronted by an wall of aqua, he twitches the ball right in customary fashion, seeking out Nicklas Bendtner, the only red shirt with courage enough to ask for the ball at this tense moment.

His first touch is good, his man backs off him briefly. But by dallying on the ball he attracts the attention of five Barcelona players, hungry to turn his self-confidence and awkward style into a chance of their own. It is in this moment that everything changes, for just as he looks certain to lose the ball, he squeezes a pass out to the left. One of the men pressuring him stretches out a leg but it finds its way to Jack Wilshere.

Arsenal’s world shifts.

Wilshere speeds the attack up instantly, controlling and passing the ball with the same touch. He understands where the players are around him. He understands that Koscielny and Bendtner have completed the hard task of moving the ball beyond Barcelona’s press. He knows there is space in behind and it his responsibility to take advantage of it. He is 19. He shouldn’t know.

He fires the ball into the feet of Cesc Fabregas just shy of the centre circle.

Upon receiving the ball the captain is already aware of the space afforded to him. He cushions the pass with his left foot, pirouetting on the ball like a figure skater setting up for a spectacular finale, and slides the ball up the pitch with the outside of his right foot. He has the ball for no more than half a second, but in that time uses it better than most will in their entire career.

His pass angles into the path of Samir Nasri, who is charging down the right-hand flank like it is the first minute of the game. It is not. It is the eighty-fifth minute and due to a hamstring strain he has not played football in three weeks. He should not have the energy to do what he is doing. But he does.

Nasri has spent the game probing the left side of the pitch, wearing down Dani Alves’ mind and body with his exquisite dribbling skills. This time he pops up on the right and draws the attention of three Barcelona players. The direct nature of his first touch, driving towards the goal, convinces a scrambling Pique to give him space. Abidal also sits off to cover space, leaving Nasri one-on-one with Keita.

He cuts inside. Everybody in the stadium expects him to shoot. He pauses for a moment to survey the movement of the players around him. He spots a player on the far side with his hands out-stretched. He notes the dawdling nature of the man who is supposed to be marking him, the man he has turned inside and out throughout the game. Like Bendtner three passes before, he squeezes the ball beyond the lunge of Maxwell — his desperation exaggerated by the frazzled nature of his flowing brown hair — and into the path of his intended target.

Barcelona’s world shifts.

Pique, standing by Victor Valdes’ side to help prevent the expected Nasri shot, now blocks the goalkeeper’s view. From loyal soldier he becomes a nuisance. Valdes peeks around his distractor’s body in an attempt to reassess a situation that is rapidly getting out of their control.

Andrey Arshavin’s little legs take three steps too many as he lines up to strike the ball. He prods at the ball without breaking stride, hitting a shot that penalty-taking manuals forbid. He doesn’t even place it in the corner.

But at the moment he makes contact the three men in front of him are moving the wrong way. They cannot shift quickly enough.

The ball goes in.

Have your say on Arsenal v Barcelona by leaving a comment.

Watch the goal again here.

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46 thoughts on “A moment in time

  1. I was a little bit disappointed about the orient game but what a reminder of a game i’d ALMOST forgotten. This post is epic, you beast.

  2. “Wilshere speeds the attack up instantly, controlling and passing the ball with the same touch. He understands where the players are around him. He understands that Koscielny and Bendtner have completed the hard task of moving the ball beyond Barcelonaโ€™s press. He knows there is space in behind and it his responsibility to take advantage of it. He is 19. He shouldnโ€™t know.”

    ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ I absolutely loved this part !!

    Come On You Gunners !!!

  3. Possibly the best arsenal blog entry I’ve ever read on the best game I’ve ever seen between two fantastic teams playing incredible football. All soundtracked by a stunning track on the new Radiohead album that I was listening to anyway. One thing you could have added was the way that time stopped while the 60,000 in the crowd paused to take breath before the greatest outpouring of joy I’ve felt at the Grove.

  4. Of course I shall spread it around `Facebook`.I love your post`s Andrew and,you have come up trumps again.You have cheered me up,after `coming down to earth with an almighty bump` after yesterday`s result,with another cracker.Jack has got to pick up a couple of awards at the end of the season…..`Best young player` and `Most improved player`….in my opinion anyway!

  5. I loved the song BZW,,,some peoples may ask why we are talking about this again and again. but I cant stop about that game. and for some peoples who have been talking about Arshavin….i think he gave the answer with that amazing goal, that’s Arashavin!!…

  6. I don’t know what was better : The brilliant post or the fact I was listening to “Lotus Flower” just before I read this, which inturn progressed to “Codex” as I began reading.

    Arsenal gods perhaps?

    The post does the game justice Andy – well done.

  7. Thanks for the stupendous summary of yet another wonderful moment in the history of the Arsenal. The impossible is possible.

  8. what a discription of such a wonderfull counter attack goal…it is one of the finest counter attack i have ever seen.

  9. Great!great! Great! Great Andrew Webber. Thank you. This sweeps my gloomy face after last nights draw with 0’s and also after another costly error from our spanish waiter,Manuel Almunia.

  10. comprehensibly spot on Andrew…….

    A single play that generations of Arsenal fans will encapsulate for ever.
    Yet, why should any of us be amazed?
    It’s ‘out’ Arsenal.

  11. Lovely piece – more poetry than analysis and does justice to the poetry that was our second goal. Have watched this so many times and you’ve described it perfectly.

  12. @ Gruggy – Sometimes fate just takes care of you, right? I was listening to the song while writing it so I thought I’d share it with everyone. Combining music with writing changes the reading experience a bit, I feel.

  13. @Andy – Couldn’t agree more.

    It’s like cheese on a hamburger, sauce with your chips, peanuts with a beer and Arshavin and a match winning goal. Some things just… fit together.

    We’ve got a Cup final coming up on Saturday night (Sunday morning here) fellas – Fire up!

    P.S – Any Sydney based Gooners interested in heading over to Cheers Bar to watch the game?

  14. I really wondered if such a late comment on the Barcelona-game could be interesting yet ……….. but you surprised again………… poetry……. it lifted up again…….. this special moment made that evening unforgettable……… it’s just like that – great write ๐Ÿ˜€

  15. Who knows, I may not be able to walk, nor write, hell not even speak. But eons down the line, when I re-tell my grand-kids about the very first time my Arsenal won a quadruple, mark my words, I’ll ask him to go through this piece.

    An opinion as late as this, wasn’t supposed to be this simple. And. Beautiful.

  16. Mt heart bursts with joy and pride!
    Arsenal has many artists and now one more …..
    add the name – Andrew Weber!

  17. Enjoy it while you can gooners because in camp nou we will destroy and eliminate you. But congratulations on beating the best team ever and by having the balls to do it by playing football.

  18. Freaking loved that man, best ever, not going to spread it though I dont think other fans would relate or enjoy it as much as us and they may even sneer our celebrating of what they see as one game…..a week later and that article has brought it all right back though, great stuff.

  19. This is the best written description of the winning goal in the first leg. Beats everything else I have read in print journalism.

  20. Awesome post….tried singing it though.
    Read it after watching the goal again and its just perfect. Wish the feeling could last forever.
    I told you guys to be PATIENT with Arshavin, didn’t I?

  21. Fabregas…… Its Nasri
    Can he go all the way here….
    Its still Nasri…..
    Looks for ARSHAAAAAVINNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!
    We’ll never forget those words courtesy of Martin tyler, we’ll never forget that goal Arshavin scored and we’ll certainly never forget that magical night when we beat arguably the greatest ever football team which, let Me remind you, had lost only ONCE, that’s right only once in 35 matches prior to last Wednesday night. That barcelona team will get beaten again one day, it’ll lose matches but it’ll never ever get beaten at it’s own game and We managed to do just that….
    Now that my fellow Gunners is a fucking incredible achievement which we should all cherish for the rest of our lives…… Longlive Arsenal FC blog, longlive Arsenal FC

  22. Amazing moment. Nothing else to say. Thank god i was there at the Emirates that night. I was happy, i was proud and i wont forget. Happy New Year for You all.

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