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Saturday, 25 August 2007

Laughed? I Nearly......!!



No Arsenal fan, or at least not any of those amongst us Gooners who've been forced to spend the past couple of months enduring our Spurs pals' "bon-mots" about our club going to pot, could've failed to relish the hilarious irony of the subject of this week's media focus.

Personally speaking I couldn't get my phone out quick enough to text tease the Totts, when I first saw the back pages the other day "and you thought we had 'tzores'... at least another two seasons of torment whilst a new gaffer build his squad?"

But then I have to put this into (the tantamount to treasonous) context that I was in the car with four of them on route to the wrong end of Seven Sisters Rd on Saturday. Where they spent the journey to WHL whining about Martin Jol's absolutely maddening team selections -whereupon I have to admit that our man might walk on water, but they were surprised by my revelations about Wenger's point blank and decidedly frustrating refusal to ring any changes (with a half-time wake up call, à la Mighty Mouth) usually until 15, 20 minutes at most before the final whistle - and then the entire way back from drubbing dreadful Derby was taken up with an optimistic discussion about their Champions League prospects (qualification for, mind, they wouldn't know how to start contemplating about watching anything but Eastenders on a Wednesday and actually playing CL footie :-)

Talk about violent mood swings! North London shrinks won't be short of their share of manic depressives this season.

I was cracking up, as considering my closest Spurs mate's black mood these past few weeks (to the point where all footie has been totally off topic), we hadn't been back in the car more than five minutes when his missus was on the phone. He was due to be joining her, on holiday in the South of France the next day and from his side of the conversation, you could hear she was asking/informing him, about hiring a boat for the day when he gets there and then upping the ante even, perhaps suggesting a bigger boat, or a longer hire.

It was fairly obvious she'd been waiting on tenterhooks, to check the teletext at 4.45 (and her old man's resultant mood) and once he'd hung up and then again when she phoned later, after we'd arrived back, I was desperately trying to get him to wheedle out of her exactly what she'd planned on saying/asking if Spurs hadn't won 4-0!

However no matter how much fun I've had this week at the Totts expense...it was almost worth their pre-season optimism, as it's given the joy of knocking them back down again a whole new lease of life), it has to be said that the beautiful game in this country at the moment is downright barmy, largely as a result of the pirhana like feeding frenzy of those tabloid pariahs.

My lack of confidence in the much despised pre-season prediction request from the Irish Examiner, can be judged by the fact that I didn't bother to post them. And when I think how long I agonised over umpteen versions of them, I still don't even know if the paper ended up using them (they certainly weren't in the Premiership Preview that they were written for - hope I bloomin' well get paid !).

So really I doubt if anyone can pull me up if I wanted to tell porkies, but I initially went for Little Sam as the the first Premiership sacking, on the basis that ever since the Stewart Houston experience, I've never believed a no. 2 could go from carrying cones, to commanding sufficient respect from a mercenary squad of unruly millionaires. But after reading the predictions of the other Examiner columnists (naturally a Sund-Ireland supporter has been added as the latest member of our "Terrace Talk" crew), I changed my mind when it came to my final (final) draft and went with the bookies favourite, the Wigan manager (but then at the time le gaffer was third favourite, albeit as the first to part company, rather than the first to face the 'tin-tack'). However I haven't the foggiest whether Chris Hutchings is any kop, merely basing my decision on the most volatile chairmen.

Who would've thought Daniel Levy would be outdoing Dave Whelan with a severe case of "foot in mouth" with he and the Spurs board the orchestrators of such a monumental cock-up. It was the first I heard of an ominous suspension of betting on route to WHL on Saturday. But I was assured that it had been revealed that it was a clerical/mathematical/administrative mistake. According to 'no smoke without fire' logic, it seems something was certainly afoot and I'm surprised we've not heard more about an investigation into the matter. But then insider dealing is probably considered par for the course amongst some of White Hart Lane's City boy wiseguys (not that we haven't our fair share of these frequenting the new gaff, ever since a Club Level seat became the latest 'must have' accessory for every 'respectable' Footsie bull!).

Yet it's a sad reflection of these tabloid times that we now inhabit, that the majority of Premiership managers are all forced to exist only one bad result away from the assault on their follicles by the dreaded 'vote of confidence'.

The media might play the lead role in the current farce (despite any codswallop protestations of passive reportage) but we are all part of a massive cast that's somehow managed to ramp up the Premiership pressure another few notches this season. Perhaps it's all down to a nasty case of early season angst? I'm told this particular genie can't be put back in the bottle, but personally I'd prefer to see a return to those days when we didn't see a league table for the first six weeks (no such sheepishness on Sky, but Line-acher even apologised for putting it up on MOTD).

Hopefully, while the weight of various unscrupulous agents' offshore accounts sinks the odd island or two, the one potential advantage of the recent spondulicks injection might be the promise of the most interesting Premiership marathon we've seen in many a moon.

Pre-season predictions are always a painful chore (it's not just procrastination, but if equivocation was also an International sport, I'd be double England captain!) but they were made that much more taxing this term, as when I tried to gen up on the transfers, looking down the lists of ins and outs, it dawned on me that many sides might be virtually unrecogniseable from the team that took to the field only a couple of months back.

And it was only on considering the vast sums of cash being splashed on various, relative unknown Humdilaleulahs from Hotzaplotz (with the same moniker as my Ma, "I'd love it" if Spurs multi-million pound centre-back proved to be a bit of a donkey, as I'm ready and waiting with the "my Eunice is a far more fearsome leg-biter than yours" type ammo) that I began to appreciate quite how much of a concerted effort has been made by many of the teams, trying to play catch-up. Although doubtless it is fear that has levered open the coffers of many a club, that sphincter trembling knowledge that they simply couldn't afford to lose their seat at the top table trough next season.

Just about the only sound conclusion that can be drawn from the punches thrown and taken these past couple of weeks, is that the Premiership is perhaps as unpredictable as it has been since I was a mere lad. Not that the usual Champions League suspects won't hit a sufficiently consistent streak to separate them from the herd (hopefully with normal service being resumed against City on Saturday and the customary dream quashing experience for the Totts at Old Trafford on Sunday - as you know the real Man U must stand up sometime soon?) but my instincts are that there could only be a couple of mini-leagues this season, consisting of contenders and also-rans, where below fourth, there won't be a team that's totally safe from the sinister relegation shadow and where most will spend the season only a couple of bad results away from becoming the subject of the sort of collywobble speculation seen at Spurs so far.

Thus its possible that Arsène is under no less pressure than any of his peers and judging by the time he has spent on the touchlline so far, perhaps his seat in the dug-out seems hotter than ever. A winning start this season could prove as important as it has ever been in Le Prof's entire Arsenal career, as it might never be more crucial for us to attach ourselves to the former, or at least to establish a position that's much closer to a trophy challenge, than the dog-a-eat-dogfight that's likely to ensue down below.

And talking of unknown quantities, Sven's coachload will be arriving around the corner in a few hours and if I prattle on much longer, I will be struggling to make it in time for kick-off. Then again, at least a late arrival will elicit the (sadly still all too) odd quip from the increasingly familiar faces around me that have begun to make us feel more at home.

I only hope that all the comments following my previous post prove correct and I couldn't be more wrong. In fact the more I think about my interpretation of Cesc's apparent disinterest in tracking back at Ewood Park, the more I wonder if it was merely a figment of my imagination. In fact I purposely saved the highlights of the Blackburn game because I planned on watching it again to see if I could've been mistaken in my perceptions. But to be honest I'd rather wait and let Fabregas prove my foolhardiness, with a dominant home display that serves notice of the young Spanish prodigy's intentions, as the same humble, hungry midfield maestro we've come to know and love.

I might not be one for predictions but I'm pretty sure we won't see this Arsenal side begin to really tick, without the energetic and inciteful promptings that put Fab up there, amongst the world's elite in the first place and whatever logical explanation there may be, most of those who've seen Cesc's appearancs to date will agree that his displays have been cause for some concern.

Moreover no one will be happier to forsake a little smugness about spotting Micah Richards as a player just a little bit before he became the next best British thing since sliced bread, if he ends up looking like a bamboozled, lumbering lump by the time Van Persie's put him through his defensive paces tomorrow afternoon. However for those of us sad sap punters who insist on talking of the Arsenal in terms of romantic metaphors, I certainly wouldn't kick Micah out, if he chose to get in bed with the Gunners

Come on you Reds
Big Love
Bernard

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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