all enquiries to:

Monday 6 November 2006

I'd Rather Have a Willie Than a C*nt

Janey Mac….talk about tempting fate. Only last week I wrote about le Gaffer’s gracious personality and it’s proved to be an invitation for Arsène to go and lose the plot! The touchline argy-bargy with Pardew doesn’t bother me. Our usually phlegmatic Professeur showed signs that even he suffers from the strain of the relentless struggle, to try and maintain the Arsenal’s title challenge. Personally I think it’s great when managers reveal their humanity and how much this “game” really matters. Nevertheless there’s no excuse for Arsène’s unsporting refusal to accept the obligatory handshake and doubtless his post-match disappearing act was a reflection of his immediate embarrassment.

If the Arsenal were going to gift anyone 3 points, I guess I should be glad it was the Hammers. At least it should mean that I’ll be getting plenty of work this week from my own, West Ham supporting, gaffer, who’ll be taking every possible opportunity to glory in Sunday’s post-mortem. Good luck to him, as it’s not like the Hammers have had had much to gloat about these past few months. They were good value for their victory, more than making up for any perceived ability deficit, as the Iron’s produced a display brimful of industry and desire.

Whereas if we’d beaten the Hammers, I certainly wouldn’t want to be holding my breath, waiting for a phone call from my boss. Mind you, this financial carrot is little compensation, for what was probably our most disappointing performance to date. We might have struggled to score in other outings, but at least we witnessed some wonderful football, where we were only found wanting for some end product to show for a plethora of goal scoring opportunities.

By contrast you know you are in big trouble, when the sum total of Sunday’s efforts left us relying on the award of a penalty by pompous ref Rob Stiles. It would’ve been providential at our end of the pitch, but in front of the baying Hammers’ hordes in the Booby Moore stand, as the saying goes, we had two hopes and these were no and Bob!

As a result, while I’m not grateful for a gruelling 8 hour round trip to Goodison in midweek, I am looking forward to what should prove to be a fiery Carling Cup performance from our second string, full of the sort of vitality that was sorely lacking on Sunday. After all, it’s only what you’d expect from the rare release of our youthful hounds. While at Upton Park there was evidence that the unremitting race after the Premiership rabbit is perhaps taking its toll on some of the more influential members of the Arsenal’s pack.

All credit to the Hammers for maintaining the work rate which enabled them to deny us space to do any real damage for the duration. Yet where Fabregas has found room all season long, from which to conduct the Arsenal’s symphony, the youngster’s suffered an obvious dip in form these last couple of games, that’s left me wondering if Cesc might benefit from a breather. Although much like Henry, Fab has become such a crucial component at the heart of the Arsenal engine, that it must be nigh on impossible for Arsène to leave him out.

Having struggled for his customary sublime touch all season, I keep expecting Henry to come good. With each passing game, I grow increasingly incredulous at his consistent failure. You’d think that by now, a player of his calibre would’ve played his way into some form, but his waning confidence leaves him that much keener to lay the ball off, passing on the responsibility to one of his team mates.

I was also studying Henry closely on Sunday, to see if there was any sign of him sulking, after the slap in the face he received last week. Against CSKA Moscow, it was most annoying to see thousands heading for the exits, long before the final whistle. When we should’ve been baying for a crucial last gasp goal, these early leavers sucked what was left of the atmosphere out of the game.

It seems that the Champions League “audience” at our new stadium is comprised of far too many of the corporate hospitality hordes, whose investment in the Arsenal appears to be more financial than emotional and who are apparently more interested in their complimentary half-time bevvies and beating the crowds home. Whereas on Sunday we witnessed the potential impact of a far more passionate crowd.

The Hammers might’ve been happy with a point when they started out, but when Sherringham and Harewood appeared for the last 15 mins, despite our vocal enquiries “Teddy where’s your Zimmer frame”, it was as if the home fans sensed there was more to be had from this match. They roared their team on and inspired the sort of hunger that had largely evaporated from the Gunners game, led by the example of our grumpy captain

If I sound a little envious, it is because I can’t help wondering, if the situations were reversed, whether we’d be capable of the sort of display of solidarity witnessed prior to West Ham’s encounter with Blackburn. Without a win since August and after a chastening cup exit to Chesterfield, I can’t imagine us still singing our support for our manager.

During the unseemly fracas on the touchline at the final whistle, my attention was drawn to the sight of a forlorn looking William Gallas, standing alone in the centre-circle, apparently struggling to comprehend how we’d conspired to give up the points, after he’d grafted his socks off. His frustration was explained by my mate who suggested Willie was used to playing for a team capable of maintaining their intensity levels to the very last minute.

As I hurried home to watch the other London derby, I wondered if Spurs might do us a favour. However at the end of the day I had mixed feelings about their first success against Chelsea, since Aaron Lennon was in nappies. I was gutted that we’d blown such a rare opportunity to gain back some ground on the Blues and the sight of the jubilant Spurs fans was equally hard to swallow. Especially after also seeing the Spurs side motivated by the sort of atmosphere that we’ve yet to generate at our glamorous new ground.

After having my knees crushed by the confines of the seats at Upton Park, I might be grateful for the amount of legroom at our new gaff. But I would gladly give up any such luxuries, if, instead of an impassive audience, our home crowd remembered they had a role to play in raising the Gunners game.

e-mail to: