By Avenell Dave
'Same old Arsenal, always cheating'
Ring a bell? That's the lazy chant used by fans home and away to lambast Arsenal based on one misdemeanour in the FA Cup years ago.
For those of you who don't remember, Marc Overmars and Kanu failed to give the ball back to Sheffield United after the visitors had kicked the ball out so we could attend to an injured player.
With the Blades players slow to react, we went on to score what was the winning goal which caused no end of controversy.
I can only speculate what the likes of Fat Sam Allardyce would have done in the situation, but the class of Arsenal shone through, a replay was arranged and we won fair and square.
When you think of what inspires you in football, apart from simply winning, what is it?
For me, while my entire focus is on Arsenal, that doesn't mean I can't applaud a great bit of skill or a great goal scored by someone from another team (Ch*vs, M*nure and T*ttenh*m excepted).
I may despise the Cesc poaching by Barca players and officials this summer but some of their football on Tuesday was sublime and I cannot help but applaud.
We admire grit, determination, resolve, but what gets us out of our seats is skill and the sort of tricks we simply can't emulate at the local park.
I remember Arsenal playing Manchester City on a Sunday in the early 1990s and we played terribly.
George Graham's momentum had gone and the team was a shadow of that he had created that took us to two titles.
Somehow, with moments left, Paul Merson (sorry, not Ian Wright as I wrote earlier) latched onto a long ball and scored the goal that gave us the win.
I remember it clearly because I had such mixed feelings. Of course winning was vital and we'd achieved that, but the football was so dire, so nauseating that I was thankful to be an impoverished student watching on TV rather than having shelled out for that very typical display.
The Arsene Wenger era has changed all that and I can't say I'm disappointed.
We may be considered to be 'Barca Lite' and whether we go on to win anything this season is a matter for conjecture.
But we try and play football the right way - firmly, fairly and with no shortage of flair.
You can see that the players enjoy it and the showboating that tends to go on is mostly after we've closed the game out and there's no way back for the opposition.
That doesn't make us whiter than white or southern softies who can't take the physical aspects of the game.
You only have to look at the way we go into some tackles, the way we seem now more likely to make 'tactical' fouls rather than let others run past us when the team is stretched, to see how we've learnt how to blend the great with the graft.
And as for Fat Sam? Well, when he left Bolton for Newcastle, a team which demanded style as well as results, he hardly lasted five minutes, did he?
Blackburn was a perfect fit: a team where he could instill his 'working class seige' mentality on the former cotton-producing town's fans and players.
He plays a direct game that would never survive abroad and which is based on limited prowess and flair.
And I seem to remember one of my darkest days as an Arsenal fan, a Saturday lunchtime kick off April 26 2003, when he set his team to break us way beyond the rules or spirit of the game.
We were cruising at 2-0 and the game was won before Fat Sam changed tactics and set about his team to assault us every time we had the ball.
Lauren and then Freddie Ljungberg were taken out and with a weak referee, we let the lead slip and indeed the title.
Fat Sam had scored a moral victory but did it have anything to do with football? No.
The fact is, real football fans pay to see the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere or even Bobby Zamora or Antonio Valencia do things with a football that us mortals can only dream about.
When was the last time you got excited at the prospect of watching a neutral game featuring Blackburn, Stoke or suchlike?
Or how about salivating at seeing Chris Morgan, Ryan Shawcross, Paul Robinson or Kevin Davies battle it out?
No, I didn't think so.