Wembley is a fitting stage for Arshavin’s brilliance (+ I hate you, Phil Brown)

Arsenal 2 – 1 Hull City (Barmby 12, Van Persie 74, Gallas 84)
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction here

In his post-match press conference, Arsene was (unlike his Hull counterpart) desperate to talk about football.  So let’s do that first.

In an exciting game at the Emirates, Arsenal triumphed 2-1 to take us onto a glittering FA Cup Semi-Final against Chelsea.  Hull had taken an early lead when former Spurs midfielder and partman-part-goblin Nicky Barmby’s deflected volley looped over Lukasz Fabianski.  That goal seemed to knock us out of our stride a little, and it wasn’t until the second half and the introduction of Samir Nasri and Nicklas Bendtner from the bench that a resurgent Arsenal took control of the game.

It was looking like it might not be our night when Alex Song’s spinning volley trickled just wide and a Van Persie header crashed off the bar.  However, with the clock running down, Bendtner provided the muscle in the penalty area we had dearly missed to get beyond his man and cross to the far post, where Andrey Arshavin was arriving.  A lesser player would have gone for goal, but the Russian knew a team-mate was better positioned, squaring for Robin van Persie to plant home his sixteenth of the season.

Arshavin had been doubtful to start the game after having had eight stitches in a cut to his foot picked up in the first half against Blackburn.  As late as Monday morning, he wasn’t even able to put a boot on.  And yet here he was last night, undoubtedly the classiest player on the pitch.  I was excited about his signing, but I think Dick Advocaat may have been right when he said Arsenal didn’t realise just what a good player we’d bought.  My favourite moment of his performance probably came when the ball was technically out of play – immediately after Van Persie’s equaliser, he called a halt to celebrations and insisted everyone get ready to pursue the winner.  Robin wore the armband, but Arshavin was the leader last night.

The winner did eventually come, with William Gallas nodding home from what appeared to be an offside position.  Unfortunate for Hull, but we’ve had our fair share of bad luck this season, and I don’t think any neutral could argue with the fact that on the night we were the side who showed the greater ambition to win the game, finishing it with six five forwards on the pitch.  We’re now in our first FA Cup semi-final since 2005 – a year where we went on to lift the trophy after beating Manchester United in the final.  Here’s hoping history repeats itself.


I sit down to write this blog having just done a very brief soundbite on BBC Radio 5 on what is now being called “CescpossiblyspittingatPhilBrown’sassistantbutprobablynot-gate”.   I always enjoy doing stuff for the radio – the BBC in particular – but on this occasion the appearance induced such frustration in me that my keyboard is now bleeding from the beating I’m giving it.

The problem was that my fleeting opportunity to espouse on the whole spitting fiasco was surrounded by opined wailings from fans of other clubs – or what I would describe as “idiots”.  First of all, almost to a man, they discussed the incident as if it was irrefutable fact.  As far as they are concerned, Brian Horton (who is probably capable of speaking for himself, despite indications to the contrary) is still wiping the gallons of spit from his face.

Whereas in fact, Cesc Fabregas has issued an official statement to the contrary, insisting that the allegations (for that is all they are) are unfounded.  Still, that hasn’t stopped the orangest man in football since David Dein fell out of it from pushing ahead with his one-man campaign to see Cesc “El Infidel” Fabregas brought to justice.

This is a question of one man’s opinion versus another.  I shouldn’t have to ask who you trust, nor should I have to explain why Cesc has no reason to lie.  But I will anyway: previous indications show that the punishment for an offence such as spitting is a two-three game ban and a fine.  Considering that Cesc is out injured anyway and that he has an awful lot of money, he really would not stand to gain that much by fabricating a story.

And now, why you shouldn’t trust Brown…

On the Radio 5 program a couple of callers insisted that Brown “wasn’t the type” to lie.  Their justification for this claim (a claim I have never made about Fabregas – I’ve just explained why it’d be illogical for him to) was something along the lines of:

“Hull are a good honest club, and Phil Brown is a very passionate manager.  He cares so much about Hull City that he gave a teamtalk to the players on the pitch to show the fans he didn’t accept their performance.  That’s how much he cares about Hull.  Do you really think he would lie?  Fabregas is a boy and Brown is a man.  I’ll take his word anyday.”

The above is an approximation, but not an exaggeration.

Why would Brown lie?  Because there is one thing that Phil Brown cares about far more than Hull City: himself.   I know the Emirates is a spacious arena, but I’m still surprised it found room for the ego of the terracotta terror of the touchline that is Brown.  And whose name is also Brown.

This is a man who the Setanta cameras caught frantically brushing his hair forward in an attempt to shift his hairline a couple of inches further down his forehead just before giving his showpiece interview.  As for his famous “Henry V” moment at Man City, that speech destablised his side’s form far more than even Rafa’s rant, and yet somehow receives commendation from a variety of folk who really ought to know better.

Brown’s post-match interview smacked of a sore loser.  Whilst I can appreciate that Arsene has occasionally been guilty of the same sentiment, that doesn’t make it right.  And I can’t envisage Arsene taking that disgruntlement and attempting to turn it into a national crusade against Jonny Foreigner and his liberal spraying of saliva.

What it will now come down to is Horton’s Brown’s word against Cesc’s.  Well, frankly, Brown’s story has more holes in it than 50 Cent.  There are inconsitencies all over the place – at one stage he suggested the incident had occurred on the touchline; now all of a sudden it’s in the tunnel.  Perhaps Fabregas strolled around the stadium, spraying spit like machine-gun-fire in all directions, causing Brown’s confusion.  Or perhaps the Hull City manager is just lying.

It would be easier to take his story seriously if he hadn’t spent the entire post-match interview spouting other unqualifiable untruths.  He claimed that it was the protests of Arsene Wenger, and not repeated time-wasting, that earnt Hull ‘keeper Boaz Myhill a yellow card.  What does he expect Arsene to do: politely applaud Myhill’s ingenuity as he takes thirty seconds to line-up a goal kick?  If Phil Brown feels so strongly that managers should accept the referee’s rule over the game and not protest, then he can stop mouthing off over our second goal.

In a bizarre plot twist, Brown has also criticised Cesc’s dress sense.  This from the man who turns up for some games in a coat that appears to be made entirely from the finest rat fur. (By the way, please click that link and listen to that interview.  Brown does a decent job of destroying his own credibility in just seven mintues.  Impressive, even for him.)

This storm will hopefully blow over in a few days.  We already know that Arsene’s Friday press conference will be more focused on Cesc’s salivary glands than his recovering knee ligaments, and that infuriates me.  Apparently Hull will attempt to see Fabregas prosecuted.  I wish them the best of luck in proving something that it seems only two men in a stadium of sixty thousand people saw.  Perhaps they could cite the character evidence provided by the idiots I shared a radio stage with.  And when their doomed campaign fails, I sincerely hope Brown is charged with bringing the game into disrepute for his false accusation.  Brown claims he is not one for “crying over spilt milk”.  Evidently, however, he is one for crying over going out of the FA Cup.  We’re moving on.  Beyond this, and to Wembley.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.