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Monday 27 November 2006

Bullying. See It. Get Help. Sort It!

Personally I don’t agree with all the pundits, as I’m sure there are plenty of twists and turns to come in this season’s Premiership title race and currently both Man Utd and Chelsea still look capable of dropping points. However sadly it’s pretty much irrelevant to us, as at this precise point in time we look a long way short of having what it takes to string together the sort of consistent run necessary to put ourselves in the title frame.

Having scraped into the Champions League last season, by the skin of our teeth, based on our inconsistent form to date, once again it pains me to say we look far more likely to be dragged into the dogfight with the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and any of the other also-rans that aspire to chase the priceless Holy Grail of Champions League football.

A team should be a collection of players whose attributes compliment one another and if you look back at all our trophy winning squads, in each of them, there’s always been a good blend between the flair players capable of picking the lock of the best defences and the hearts of oak characters with the resilience to roll up their sleeves and grind out a win when required.

Considering our “boring, boring” traditions, I would never have believed it, if you’d told me back in the dour days of George Graham that there would come a time when we’d have too much ability in the Arsenal squad. But when we are left counting on a teenage featherweight like Fabregas, with a size disadvantage that sees him bouncing off many of the bigger Bolton players, to come out for the second half at the Reebok and set an example to his team mates, by putting himself about and demonstrating his boundless desire, then surely the deficiencies in this Arsenal squad are obvious for all to see.

Is it possible that our problems are inherent in Le Prof’s pragmatic reliance on the statistical data that proves his players are all super skilled athletes. As far as I’m aware there’s no method of measuring the size of a player’s heart and the level of his commitment to the cause. As a result it is perhaps inevitable that the less dainty lummoxes who are capable of making up for their lack of natural ability, with their limitless passion and desire, are always going to be weeded out from our academy, long before being given an opportunity to prove their worth?

I’m beginning to feel like a broken record, but looking through the collection of talent in our current squad, I find it hard to envisage any of them having the physical presence necessary to provide the required “they shall not pass” focal point, around which the rest of the team can rally, for the sort of robust encounter we’ve come to expect at the Reebok. Perhaps the added stature of the likes of Gallas and Diaby might’ve made all the difference, but the significance of injuries to two members of our squad only highlights the imbalance.

Our annual outings to the Reebok are fast becoming an exercise in masochism and feeling utterly “cream crackered” after an exhausting week, I was sorely tempted to pull a “sickie” on Saturday. However not only would I have somehow felt personally culpable for the defeat if I wasn’t present, but after all our recent miserable results against Bolton, based on the law of averages, I couldn’t bear the possibility of missing out on a memorable victory over our bogey team.

In spite of our lack of strike power, in the absence of Henry and Van Persie, I was actually feeling strangely optimistic, hoping we’d be travelling North buoyed by the euphoria of the last ten minutes of Tuesday night’s triumph against Hamburg. Whilst debating Wenger’s selection dilemmas during the long drive, we all assumed he wouldn’t fancy such a physical encounter as being ideal for Theo Walcott’s away league debut. However I’m glad Le Prof plumped for our teenage starlet, as 90 minutes against Fat Sam’s side’s niggling, intimidating tactics should prove a vital part of Theo’s education.

Meanwhile without a league goal to his name since Anelka’s arrival in Lancashire, my mate Brian was convinced “le Grande Sulk” was likely to prove our nemesis. Sadly he was spot on with his prediction, as Sod’s Law guaranteed the former Gunner had been saving it all up, to remind us of the sort of prodigies we witnessed in his contribution to our last Double.

In truth the writing was on the wall from the opening moments, when Adebayor tamely tapped a prize opportunity into the welcoming arms of Jaaskelainen and any remaining optimism soon evaporated, with the déjà vu of our dodgy defending at set pieces.

Naturally we were all up in arms when Dean booked Davies. I didn’t know they’ve introduced an anatomical calibration, as whether it’s a shove in the chest or the head, I was under the misapprehension that if one raises one’s hands against an opponent on a football pitch, it’s an automatic red card. Also some felt it was Fortune by name and nature, believing the Bolton defender should’ve been more severely punished, when he totally wiped out Walcott, barrelling into the youngster off the pitch, as Theo bent down to fetch the ball.

With the home side having taken the lead, I don’t think it would’ve done us any favours if Dean had reduced them to ten, as it would’ve made for an even more frustrating encounter, with Bolton getting everyone behind the ball, while we tried to tip-toe our way through.

This heavy-handed (footed) treatment of Walcott was indicative of the sort of tactics that have succeeded in unsettling Wenger’s teams in the past and I only hope we aren’t set for a rash of aggressive encounters, against teams who attempt to repeat this formula.

Perhaps previous defeats have occurred at a more significant point in the season, or perhaps we are simply becoming far too used to Bolton rubbing sand in our faces, but we weren’t nearly so depressed on the long schlep back to London, as we have been in the past. Hopefully we’re unlikely to witness a repeat of Kolo Touré’s torrid performance, where three lapses in concentration proved so costly. He was at fault for failing to track Faye for the first. Admittedly Anelka’s strike was unstoppable, but Kolo should’ve at least attempted to close him down to try and prevent the second and the Ivorian was guilty of letting Anelka get goal side of him for the third.

Nevertheless considering the emasculated way in which we let Bolton get the better of us in the first-half, following on from Gilberto’s goal before the break, they reappeared with plenty of fire in their bellies and we took some comfort from a dominant second half performance that was only found wanting for some end product.

Arriving home after midnight and unable to endure more masochism, courtesy of the test match coverage from down under, I was tickled by the light-relief of an ironic piece in the matchday programme, entitled “Wanderers to Beat the Bullies”. It seems the club are involved in an effort to eradicate bullying and I found myself wondering if our players might’ve seen the posters for this campaign in the bowels of the Reebok, as they headed for the dressing room at the break. If so, they certainly took the “Bullying. See It. Get Help. Sort It” message to heart!

At the end of the day, a mere few millimetres proved to be the decisive factor in this highly charged contest, between the Arsenal’s three efforts which found the wrong side of the woodwork and the Bolton ones which bounced off it into the back of the net.

Finally, as an antidote to some of the gloom, it would appear that the Arsenal’s problems are not confined to on the pitch, as allegedly last Tuesday the male Exec box catering boss was dismissed on the spot, after being caught in a compromising position on a stairwell, with one of his male colleagues! And if the takings at our new stadium aren’t as much as expected, it’s likely that a couple of East European bar staff are somewhat to blame, as apparently they were also sacked during the match, when they were nabbed stuffing cash from the till into small plastic bags and throwing them through the metal grilles to some mates outside. It’s a funny old game!

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Anonymous said...

nice piece geezer.

fact is that sam is a cunt.

and also were we to have spanish referees overseeing our games, we would be top of the league.

what plebs bolton fans must be to enjoy such stale, meaningless bullshit.

Anonymous said...

The Catering contract means that Deleware paid the club for their contract and as such receive all income from the catering contracts.