Hello from North London. Find myself saying it in my dreams but this time, it couldn’t be more real. I am here and it feels good, albeit very very cold for me. This tropical accustomed body is very much feeling the chills here at the intersection of Gillespie and Blackstock Road.
Monday 12pm (UK time) was when I touched down at Heathrow. Preparing to land, the plane circles the city because of air traffic congestion and I got my first glimpse of Emirates. After that, it was a long queue at the immigration but luckily plenty of counters were opened.
Train was the best option to get to the hostel I was going to stay in. Pretty long walk to the underground station from the airport. Oyster card is a must if you want to get around on the tubes. Along the way to Finsbury Park station, there’s good views outside of the train. Though I cringed every time the door opened and the wind came rushing through.
It was a long walk from the station to the Arsenal Tavern Hostel. Battling through the wind was my big accomplishment of the day. My hands and face were numbed by the time I checked-in. I knew then that I needed more than jacket to keep me warm. Into the Arsenal store I went (one at Finsbury Park station) and got a scarf, a wool cap and the magazine to keep me company through the night.
Having enquired at the shop, I was directed the way to Emirates stadium. If the Muslims performed their Haji by walking in/to Mecca, this was my version of it. Again, the strong winds was not making it easy. The walk was brisk, all the way down St Thomas Road and turning right onto Gillespie Road. A bend to the left later and I have the stadium within my sight. That’s not forgetting passing by a Herbert Chapman creation, the Arsenal station.
There were not many people at the stadium, which is not unexpected seeing as it was 4pm on a Monday non match day. Crossing the Ken Friar bridge and I was now in full sight of the magnificent stadium. It felt really emotional to be there. Right in front bridge stood the magnificent statue of Tony Adams. Arms wide open welcoming me to the place. Decided to save the walking around the stadium for another day, I headed back to the tavern. The purpose of going to the stadium was merely so that I know the path to take for the match tonight.
I guess everything happened for a reason. Walking back along the Gillespie Road, I felt hungry and saw this cosy place that sells burgers. Imagine my surprise when I went in and I was served my two people who have faces that are familiar looking. Not that I know them but they were Asian and from Hong Kong apparently. The friendly lady told me that they have been here for over 30 years now. Never would I thought that I would get to speak Cantonese to a stranger 1000 miles away from home.
It was also because I went into that establishment that I stumbled to the best part of the day. Coming out from the cafe, I looked across the adjoining street and right in the middle of the street was not a sight for to die for. It was none other than Highbury. My eyes swell up here. I had planned to look for it some time during the trip but I couldn’t have known that I would stumble onto it this way.
Although there’s a Fitness First on the ground floor of the building and the place has now become apartments, it still felt very nostalgic for me. I stood there probably for a good half an hour just staring at the facade and imagining the glorious moments that we had there. This was a sense of fulfillment. I wish we still play there.
Anyway, moving away from my trip, let’s focus on the match tonight. It’s a big task facing us, no two ways about it. It’s a big gap to bridge and even then, we have to be exceptionally stingy at the back. I understand the sentiment of some who wants us to rest players for this match but we can hardly blame Arsene Wenger for trying to do the impossible. I’m not saying this because I’m here to watch the game.
We have plenty of injuries in the midfield department. A move away from the defence. Abou Diaby, Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky joins the treatment room gang, though the latter is due for late fitness test. Whether he recovers sufficiently or not, there will be a big call for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to get a start as the attacking midfielder. Here’s a prediction of the line-up tonight.
I think AC Milan will take the cautious option and sit back to try to protect their lead. That’s not to say they won’t look to counter attacks and try to get the away goal. We absolutely can’t allow them to score. If they do, I’m afraid qualification to the next stage would be beyond us. The massive number of injuries doesn’t help but we just have to do the best we can.
I’ve thought about it and the worst possible result result for tonight would be a 3-0 win for us. Because that would mean that we were so close yet so far. It is important for us to win tonight not only because to get to the next stage of the competition but also to maintain the momentum we have. Consecutive wins over Sp*rs and Liverpool have created a very mood among players and fans. It’s imperative that the mood doesn’t go over as we seek to get that Champions League spot.
I don’t know if we can go through or not but I’m fairly confident that we’ll get a win. If you see a guy with a Malaysian flag in block 109, please say hi because that would be me.
Up The Arsenal!!!