About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Lunchtime Indulgence

An early kick off yesterday, at the somewhat self indulgent offering of Arsenal v Chelsea, the media styled most expensive Premiership game ever.
This fixture was Arsenal's first Category A game since they restructured their match pricing in the summer and so the first where the minimum adult admission was £62. This naturally led to something of a furor in the press with a re run of all too common arguments about people being priced out of football. However the question people seem reluctant to answer is how best to allocate tickets at a match which is virtually guaranteed to be sold out, if not by market forces? An Olympic style ballot? The fact is the pricing of football at the top end is wholly down to its popularity. When, post Italia 90, the middle class felt safe enough to return to the match, they colonised grounds and forced prices up in the same way as happened to the housing market. As was shown a couple of years back less popular clubs such as Blackburn and Wigan reduced prices below £20 to attract support. What is illogical is to set prices at a level which leaves swathes of empty seats. When I clicked the button to part with £68.50 for this match I could only soothe myself with the delusion that my three visits to Arsenal in September had cost an average of £38. At least I got a good seat.
Ahead of kick off the watching media were given an easy opening paragraph when before national punchbag John Terry led his Chelsea team up the tunnel, national hero Mo Farah was introduced to the crowd complete with twin gold medals and babies. 
To be honest though the pantomine booing for Terry and ever ready Arsenal hate figure Ashley Cole soon subsided as attention focused on an enthralling contest between the two teams attempting to make a London challenge to the current Mancunian domination of English football. 
With both sides set up to attack goals felt inevitable and the final return of three was more a reflection of striking profligacy rather than defensive efficiency.
Arsenal had the better of the opening exchanges but the early departure of Abou Diaby through injury tipped the game in Chelsea's favour. Almost immediately the Blues took the lead from a free kick when Fernando Torres neatly flicked in a free kick which Arsenal allowed to sail into the area without challenge. The absence of Diaby's engine in the Gunners midfield then left Chelsea in control and they had ample opportunity to double their lead before, against the run of play, Gervais of the Arsenal equalised with a superb turn and finish just ahead of half time.
Chelsea soon retook the lead after the break with a free kick which was even more poorly defended than the one in the first half, Mata's strike floating through the red shirts into the back of the net with Laurent Koscielny's attempt at a clearance only blocking the view of Vito Mannone. 
Before the game Koscielny's presence in the team was seen as preferable to that of Per Mertesacker due to the speed of Chelsea's forwards but it seems the BFG was the source of Arsenal's much touted renewed defensive resilience. Certainly his calm but decisive actions at set pieces could have only helped matters, the lack of a truly world class goalkeeper at the club notwithstanding.
Following the goal Chelsea were a little more careful to protect their lead which left Petr Cech to play a leading role in the second half. He made two superb saves from Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud then did just enough in stoppage time to force Giroud wide enough so the Frenchman could only shoot into the side netting. All in all a case of close but no cigar for the Arsenal. For the future much to ponder for Arsene Wenger about the dichotomy of keeping a winning team together versus rotating players to maintain fitness, whilst Steve Bould needs to increase the number of set piece drills on the training ground.

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