Saturday, 3rd March 2001
With Di Canio suspended also it was always looking like a backs to the wall job up the Arse. Whilst we were forced to omit our French star striker, Arsene was able to rest French World Cup winner Henry from Arsenals' armoury. The difference in the resourses of the two capital sides was reflected in the Gunners replacing him with another French World Cup wimming striker in Sylvian Wiltord.
That decision by Wenger was to prove to be most fruitful for the Highbury men. Stuart Pearce's sloppy headed clearance resulted in Wiltord being released, racing away,offside but allowed to continue and net. 1-0 to the Arsenal, with their first attack after 6 minutes play.
On 13 minutes it was two. Wiltord turning Pearce and Stimac before bending his shot beyond Hislop. A succession of corners saw the Irons threaten to get back into the game. That hope was shattered however on 39 minutes with Wiltord again running free, with a hint of offside again , to complete his hat-trick, merci very much. Game well and truly over. Many Hammers had had enough and headed home in the bitter cold.
The atmosphere inside Highbury was not much warmer than the wintery weather. The home fans had been taunted with "You only lost 6-1.....we only won 1-0....." which was later returned with "You only lost 3-0"and "Are you Millwall in disguise" as well as "You're just a small team in Essex".
It was all pretty quiet though ,summed up when a West Ham wag shouted "Can I hand my books back in please?". It really was like a library or church.
Sad as it will be to see this famous old ground with it's art-deco features go , Gooners fans must hope the new ground will generate a better atmosphere. Something that was hard for me to do sat at the back of the West Lower stand. It was like viewing the game through a letter box.
Arsenal continued to dominate in the second spell and could afford the luxury of replacing and resting several players. When Henry replaced Wiltord on the hour I feared the worst, another hat-trick maybe?
We did manage to stop them adding to their first half total but failed to muster one shot of any real note. The Arsenal rejects Suker and Diawara were not really working as a pair.
There seemed to be no game plan as such as this turned into a similarly tired display as at Anfield exactly one month previous. Harry must be hoping that he can bring in ex Gooner Stephen Hughes before the Chelsea game as the likes of Stu Pearce clearly need and deserve a rest.
Quite why Tihinen and Ian Pearce were not used then, I don't know. It must also be hoped that most of those injured stars will be ready for the big one against the Totts. Their absences today were crucial and boy did it show.
Hislop 7 - Could not be faulted for any of the three goals that left him exposed . Safe catching from corners and a couple of saves to keep the score down.
Schemmel 7 - Another energetic and gutsy days work from Seb. Brave and never gave up but crossing from advanced positions a let down again.
Song 6 - Very sloppy and untidy, covered well at times but spent most of his time on the deck.
Stimac 6 - Just seemed to stroll through the game as if he didn't really care.
Pearce S 6 - Very tired display from February's player of the month. At fault for the first and along with Igor for the second. Decent corners but needs a rest.
WINTERBURN 8 - Big day for Nutty Nige on his return to very familar soil. Responded to the captains role with an excellent performance. I don't think he put a foot wrong and was up and down the line like an 18 year old. Warmly appreciated throughout the game by the home fans.
Dailly 6 - Gave away the ball far too easily in the centre of midfield. You could see why so many see his best role as a sweeper.
Lampard 7 - One of the very few who looked at all bothered. He was everywhere. Chasing back as well as being behind the few good moves we made. Did enough in front of Sven to keep him in his thoughts.
Soma 6 - Showed some neat enough touches and calm lay offs but clearly not at home on the left of midfield. Not sure of his role too much but then who was. Needs a run out at the back.
Diawara 6 - Clearly not match fit, he was looking to do the right thing but not a lot of things worked. Got a fair amount of stick, not quite as much as Titi.
Suker 6 - Looked quite lively, well in the first 5 minutes anyway. Lost interest as the game wore on.
I Pearce (Stimac 75) - No real effect on game.
Todorov (Diawara 75) Full of running and closing down . Ridiculous booking after perfectly fine ball won in the tackle.
Tihinen (S.Pearce 82) If this does turn out to be his final game for us what a waste when Pearcey and Winterburn should be rested. Our best hope must now be that we can get him for peanuts when the new Norwegian season finishes for the Finn and the transfer system is finally resolved.
Subs not used: Bywater, Camara.
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