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Monday 29 January 2007

Could It Prove Josephine’s Lucky Night At Long Last?

It wasn’t until I arrived home from Sunday’s FA Cup encounter, when a flyer fell out of my matchday programme that had been handed to me by a pretty lass on my way around to the game. It was advertising the range of sexy lingerie on the Goonergirl web site and I should’ve realised a replay at the Reebok was always on the cards, as fate couldn’t resist the irony of sending Arsenal fans back up North for the most romantic night of the year.

It’s going to take a lot more than a “red cami & thong” twinset to pacify most Gooners’ partners, who’ll be left on their own, while we disappear off the Lancashire for Valentine’s Day. What’s more, considering Fat Sam’s physical side have stomped all over our FA Cup hopes up at their place, for the past two successive seasons, I can’t escape this picture of the loving wife, sitting up into the wee hours, wearing her sexy new outfit, only for all the candles to have burned down to the wick, before the old man eventually returns in a morose mood, with the sort of Allardayce inspired, almighty headache, which we’ve grown far too accustomed to in recent times.

Then again with the replay live on the box and judging by the rash of tickets offered online first thing on Monday morning, by those on the Away Scheme who are either in thrall to a missus who doesn’t share their passion and who won’t give them a pass for this particular night, or who simply cannot face the prospect of another masochistic trek to Bolton, there’s likely to be as many empty seats in the Arsenal end, as there’ll probably be in the rest of the Reebok.

Record FA Cup crowds, my arse! I’ve little doubt that a far more accurate picture of attendance figures, as a percentage of capacity, will prove that, while we might not have lost any passion for the tournament, long-suffering fans are feeling the pinch of extortionate ticket prices.

Personally I’ve passed the point of no return, where, having paid my dues and endured a succession of performances to slit ones wrists to at the Reebok, I’ll be schlepping back up to Bolton, just as I did earlier in the season, for fear of missing out on my reward, by not being present when the law of averages eventually proves to the Trotters that there’s no substitute for talent.

Unlike those teams treading a relatively easy route, against lower league opponents, it appears that we’re going to have to earn the right to our taste of glory, as one of the first teams to grace the new Wembley turf. It would therefore be most appropriate, if we exorcised the ghosts of the Reebok on route.

Meanwhile the stats suggest there’s a more pressing problem at our new gaff. Of the 17 fixtures seen at our new stadium so far, Sunday’s game was the 10th in which we’ve managed to battle back after going a goal behind. While Arsène’s attention to detail will have undoubtedly focused on the Feng Shui aspects that ensure an air of serenity in the Arsenal dressing room and while the pundits continue to heap praise on the surfeit of ability in our current squad, to my mind we’re still crying out for the sort of head-banging character, with the strength of personality to light a fire under the backsides of some of his far too laidback team mates.

Admittedly Bolton were bound to sit back somewhat after taking the lead on Sunday and credit where credit is due, we might’ve been dead and buried, if Nolan hadn’t been thwarted by a brilliant piece of goalkeeping that prevented an impressive passing move resulting in the visitors second goal. Nevertheless, almost from the moment we went a goal behind, suddenly the Arsenal began playing with a sense of urgency and a passion, whereby we almost laid siege to Bolton’s half of the pitch and left the likes of Campo, Speed and co. looking like leg-weary has beens, literally hanging on to the home team’s tailcoats, with their lead appearing ever more precarious, in the face of the vigour and vitality of the Arsenal’s onslaught.

I was just a little gutted to be on the wrong side of the ground for the best view of some of Gael Clichy’s remarkable second-half runs, as the young full-back rampaged down the flank. Ashley Cole! Who he? No doubt I wasn’t alone, when muttering under my breath whenever a shooting chance fell to Flamini. Yet whatever the French midfielder lacks in innate natural ability, much like his compatriot Gilles Grimandi, there’s absolutely no questioning his work-rate and commitment to the Arsenal cause. Combined with the bullish aggression of Kolo Touré and the increasingly fortissimo promptings of Cesc Fabregas’ cultured baton, we began to make the sort of music, which only left me cursing the frustrating lack of tempo to our staccato first-half performance and the fact that once again it took adversity to motivate Wenger’s troops.

Now if only Arsène could uncover the sort of player capable of inspiring the rest of the squad to play with this sort of intensity, right from the off, we’d be rolling most opponents over in the first 20 minutes. Hopefully we’ll extinguish any lingering pretensions Spurs have of playing in the last Cardiff final double quick, without affording them an opportunity to recover from psychological blow of the draw at White Hart Lane. Having dug our own grave and climbed back up out of it (as immortalised in the chant of the evening “2-0 and you f***ed it up!”), we can’t afford any ‘job done’ type complacency.

It would be marvellous if the young Gunners were able to add grist to the mill of Mourinho’s imminent departure, but I can’t say the prospect of a return to the Millennium is quite such an incentive, as the Schadenfreude of ensuring that we deprive Spurs of a glimmer of Mickey Mouse glory. We’ve grown accustomed to running a gauntlet of abuse on entering and exiting White Hart Lane. The hardest thing is holding in check the ear to ear grin that might give the game away, when walking along Tottenham High Road, to the sanctuary of the car, for a quick escape out of enemy territory.

However is it any wonder that we didn’t want 9000 scum, wrecking the karseys and scrawling on the walls of our pristine new arena, when you hear Telegraph journo, Roy Collins’ tell of how he walked out, of what he assumed would be the relatively genteel environs of White Hart Lane’s West Upper, at half-time, having suffered a verbal barrage for being a neutral and because he couldn’t bear “the vile abuse” directed at the likes of Baptista. The press box behind the dugouts at the Lane is a lousy pitch, but according to Collins “A limited view is to be preferred to the narrower, more bigoted one in the upper west.”

E-mail to: LondonN5@gmail.


Anonymous said...

Come on you mighty Gooners!