Yes, there were no Englishmen around, but you couldn't take your eyes off such a wonderful game of football at Highbury in midweek. The touch, the composure under such pressure, the pace, the power, the movement...it was all great to watch but so was the hard work Arsenal put in as a team. It brought a smile to my face.
What epitomised the game for me was how David Pleat likened Arsenal's game to a Friday morning five-a-side. Anyone in the game will tell you when you do a Friday five-a-side, the pace and quality is usually the best of the week. But we only do it for five or six minutes each way. Arsenal seemed to do it for 45 each way. You didn't think they could possibly keep it up but they more than did. Who would bet against that same team, with the confidence they have got, going over there and beating Juventus again? I certainly can't see them going just to defend.
I did wonder what Roman Abramovich thought of it. It looks like Chelsea will win the league easily, and the Cup possibly, but what would he give to have his team play like that?
And what would you give to be able to play like that, be good-looking and have a French accent? It must be the top of the world to be Thierry Henry. You should see my missus when she hears his accent.
It was a difficult game for Patrick Vieira having spent so many years at Highbury. Although he's a strong lad on the outside, on the inside he must be glad it's over.
I thought the referee contributed to a good game. He had no options with the sending-offs - they might even have been straight reds.
2. One referee has style
Talking about referees, last Saturday I was flabbergasted when I saw the dismissal of Sylvain Distin, the Manchester City player, at Chelsea because the referee was Rob Styles. I believe he is the most improved referee in the country in the last two years. His assistant should have got him out of the cart by spotting the handball that led to the situation with Distin having the ball under his arm and Rob saying to him "give me the ball". I think he will be very disappointed himself on reflection that he didn't just walk away from Distin knowing there was probably about 12 matchballs available inside the club. But although I thought he was totally wrong to have sent Distin off, I don't think that one decision should taint what I think has been an excellent record - and before you start writing in, he's not doing today's game against Stoke.
Actually, I do say quite a lot of good things about referees but the newspapers, especially the tabloids, don't seem to print them. I wonder why.
3. Divers head for a fall
While I've every sympathy for Distin, and I can understand how he felt cheated, handball is part and parcel of the game. Diving is different. It's about time the authorities got to grips with it but the onus shouldn't be on referees, they should be able to ban people afterwards on video evidence. As things stand, players can be penalised for not diving. A couple of weeks ago, after we didn't get a penalty when Ade Akinbiyi kept his feet, I wrote on my report "should I start teaching them to cheat"? The comment came back that they could not comment on that although they were sympathetic. As for Drogba, I think you have to give him the benefit of the doubt with that interview. I don't think I could give an interview in French knowing exactly what I said.
4. Shipps loves the oldies
I took my wife and some friends to see Neil Sedaka in Sheffield on Thursday. I had a spare ticket so I asked the lads if they wanted to come. Unfortunately, Phil Jagielka and Michael Tonge did not know who he was - so they say. Then Neil Shipperley said he wasn't doing anything so he'd come along. I told Jags not to get jealous, and I'd be sure not to sit next to Shipps. It turns out he was a bit of a dark horse. He knew all the words.
5. Nice to see 'Horse' play
Quite a lot was written about Geoff Horsfield and myself last week but every manager will tell you that senior pros aren't happy if they are not in the team. It's quite right they should come and see me.
Anyway, he's knuckled down and on Wednesday night I had him, Keith Gillespie, Chris Lucketti and Garry Flitcroft playing in the reserves at Forest and their attitude was first class. I would not want to play senior pros like that at certain venues but the City Ground is still one of the best arenas and surfaces so I thought it was a good chance to get an hour under their belt with the busy Easter period coming up. We won 4-0 and Geoff made a couple. It was a good mix with the older players really helping the youngsters, one of whom, Jordan Robertson got a hat-trick.
6. Paul Ifill can be our Freddie Flintoff
Paul Ifill's partner, Elle, is heavily pregnant with their first baby, so heavily that if she doesn't deliver by tonight, she'll be induced tomorrow. It doesn't seem to be affecting Paul's game, he played really well last week, but it's getting a bit tense. We had a false alarm yesterday, which meant I stayed behind with him while the team went to Stoke.
I'm hoping to drive him over this morning. I've told him not to worry, that labour can take hours, but just to be sure I've been banging on all week about what a hero Andrew Flintoff is, and how everyone has looked up to him, after he stayed in India to captain England instead of coming back for the birth of his baby. Do you think he'll fall for it?Reuse content