Hold on to your butts, Gooners. We got ourselves a title race.
So yeah, on a quick personal note, the only thing more appalling than my pub attendance this season has been my lack of match reports. Sorry about that. Real life beckons at times, the bastard that it is.
Anyway, we learned something about our club today, and I reckon they learned something about themselves. There's a lot of work to do still before the job is done, but at this late stage we're still in the conversation, and that's all you can ask for.
Whatever happened today, those guys are no mugs. They've proved it against the big teams over and over, so for us to take all six against this lot is really something. They were always going to sit back and try and hit us on the counter, but Arsenal showed their intent in the opening exchanges. There were two solid chances to score before most of us could address our first pints.
Still, for a club known for their big attacking names like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, they can defend a little and it was bloody hard work trying to get through them. I can tell you that shouts of "Shoot" could be heard every ten seconds in the pub, but two things: 1) Fuck's sake, we're on the halfway line...give them a minute. 2) Their defenders are as aware of how to close down space as any team I've seen in ages. Every time someone got half a yard, there was a blue Praetorian Guard lined up like a fucking Roman phalanx in front of them. Try it with a row of chairs in your living room and see how far you get.
There weren't that many gilt-edged chances in the first half, but there was Peter Schmeichel's kid doing his best Manuel Neuer karaoke performance, and Petr Cech keeping Vardy out with a worldie up the other end. Bit of a goalie show, that. I can't say I'm all that thrilled with the sprog of that fucking racist Danish cheese farmer coming up against us with the season on the line, though. Gooners of a younger persuasion, Google "Ian Wright racist abuse" and learn up on a bit of our history. Somewhere, our old # 8 is smiling right now. Also, just know that his pigface dad broke our hearts a million times over back in the olden days.
Mostly though, the balance of the match was Martin Atkinson getting conned by the Leicester players over and over again. I get it, I think we all have to some extent, with this "everyone's second-favorite club" bit. Yeah we don't want the Scum or Dirty Oil Money FC winning anything, but let's not lose sight of the fact that these guys are like one of those jovial Grand Bazaar merchant types who are all "my friend" this and "my friend" that, then an hour later you're heading home with a pile of useless shit and an empty wallet. We're sussed your lot out now, Mr. Tinkerman.
Keeping that in mind, I can't say we should have been surprised when Funny Twitter Guy did his best dying swan over Nacho Monreal's leg and swindled a penalty out of it. I mean, this ref is going to the Euros and Michael Oliver will be home for the summer. Reckon. Anyway, Vardy sent Cech the wrong way, and we all had the miserable hump on during halftime.
There was always something a bit lucky about the Foxes' performance on the day though, and you figured it had to run out sometime. Queue up Danny Simpson taking one of the stupidest second yellow cards I've seen in 25 years (which still doesn't excuse the ref's performance - broken clock, twice a day, etc and so on). Francis Coquelin was lucky to not walk himself for pushing Mahrez on the way out - with Atkinson in this kind of mood, you'd have think it was nailed on.
It was always a siege on the Leicester net from then on, though. Mahrez came off immediately, I think Marc Albrighton did later. Vardy was left alone up front waiting for Godot while his mates tried to keep the door locked. The subs though, I don't know where they found these guys. The first guy killed in Eastern Promises came on first, followed by Kid...or Play...never was able to tell them apart. And these guys are trying to win a title here. Amazing.
As for the good guys, red card waiting to happen Coq came off, Theo came on. Smart, Arsene. It wasn't too long before that bore fruit, either. Hector Bellerin's cross was nodded on by Olivier Giroud, and up popped Theo to rocket it past Schmeichel. Get in you beauty.
There was never any danger of getting anything less than a point from then on, but you could tell how desperate our boys were for the win. Red shirts poured forward, blue shirts repelled them time and again. Alexis Sanchez grafted, but something was off all day. Mesut Ozil was on a World Cup-winning wavelength that his teammates couldn't get near. As for Aaron Ramsey...I said on a Facebook group page: "What is the point of a Ramsey? What does it do? Is it bigger than a breadbox?" I mean, I think he'll have something to say between now and the end of the season but he was an appendix out there today.
Arsenal had their tails up by then, but Atkinson's presence meant it was still 11-on-11. Danny Drinkwater should have walked for a horror tackle on Rambo, but I have to think the sad man in yellow got caught up in the underdog story.
Time was running out though, and Arsene had one last throw of the dice. The busy-but-ineffective Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came off, Danny Welbeck came on. Good to see him back, that's for sure. Somewhere along the way, Giroud sent a tracer through a forest of bodies in the area, and somehow Schmeichel got a big paw to it. How he even saw that, I have no idea. I'll admit it, I felt like we'd been done by a Danish brick wall once again.
Injury time was just about up when Eastern Promises Guy was guilty of The Most Needless Foul in the History of Association Football. Mesut stood over it, and floated in a beauty. Somehow, Welbeck rose highest, fought off the challenge of his own teammate Calum Chambers, and got the slightest of glances on it. All I remember was the net bulging and then jumping screaming hugging bedlam. Absolute magic.
You have to win these games if you want to fight for the championship. That goes both ways - you could see the stuffing go out of their guys the second that one went in. It'll be interesting to see how they respond.
Speaking of, our nearest and dearest just got done beating Oil Money FC. Fine. It's one thing doing it against those shagged-out mercenaries, let's see if you can do it in a proper NLD come next weekend. They've had this annoying thing this season where they've won the games they're supposed to in a decidedly Un-Scum fashion, but now it's the sharp end. We have guys who have won things...World Cups, Copa Americas, you name it.
We'll see you then. Bring your A game, cause we're going to bring ours.
Man of the Match: Danny Welbeck's noggin.