The Independent, a relatively Arsenal friendly newspaper (some might even say a piece of Arsenal propaganda – but i wouldn’t go that far) has picked up on, or created, a debate. Simply put, for the sake of immediate explanation, it asks are Arsenal cheaters or cheated on. A desperate housewife from America’s midwest with no sense of irony might say you can be both but this is football and we like to polarise. It must be one or the other. So, where do i stand?
Right in the middle. To polarise sucks. Forget what i said. Let’s have a debate. Consider both sides and then come to a conclusion that in all probability ends up reflecting my starting position. Is that honesty or prophecy? Spend another sixty seconds reading the following two hundred words and find out.
The 2003 FA Cup final against Southampton. Thierry Henry is through on goal very early on, within a minute i think. Lundekvam, the Southampton defender, brings him down with a reckless and overt pull. Only Henry doesn’t fall to ground. He declines the invitation for a penalty. Anti Niemi then makes a save from Henry’s one on one effort and the score remains 0-0. Sure Pires went on to win us the FA Cup but in that first minute Henry had no idea how the game would turn out. He didn’t cheat. He could stay on his feet and he chose to even though if he stumbled to the ground or merely pulled up and beckoned the referee he would surely have been awarded a penalty. It was a cup final and Arsenal did not cheat.
Then again i also remember countless times when Pires, Eboue or even Henry would fall to the ground suspiciously easily and win us a penalty. Often enough this happened in matches where we were favourites to win anyway so the controversy was never great but the association developed and over the years has never left. Arsenal did cheat.
49 matches unbeaten, the invincibles headed to Old Trafford knowing if they avoided defeat they would, obviously, reach the half century mark. All was going well but then Wayne Rooney dived (this was the development of a habit against us) and Manchester United scored a penalty. We lost, the unbeaten run ended and things have never been the same since. No wonder a few months previously Wenger said he has still not forgiven Wayne Rooney for cheating- Wenger and Coleen have something in common shocker! Arsenal were cheated.
So, what do i conclude?
Arsenal cheat, don’t cheat, have been cheated and have not. Just like any other team in the league. What is clear is that the association of Arsenal and cheating has still not disappeared and so long as people keep mentioning the two in such a fashion it will remain.
Shall i do my bit and delete the article then?