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Monday 24 September 2007

Is Your Climax Spoilt By Premature Evacuation?

The hordes of Gooners who’ve acquired the annoying habit of heading for the exits long before the final whistle, all missed the marvellous sight of the players having a post-match ‘knees up’ in the centre-circle on Saturday. The same has been true at all our other matches, where in addition to the group hug prior to the game, they’re now encouraging one another to gather together before departing the pitch, to take a moment to savour their victory and demonstrate the spirit of camaraderie, which is the key to our cohesive displays to date.

Some cynics amongst you might suggest that this is merely a show for the cameras, a gesture from modern day mercenaries that is no more sincere than the oft-repeated scenes of disingenuous badge kissing. But I’ve been watching football long enough to be confident in my belief that we’re currently catching the scent of something special.

Whereas Arsène’s constant claims in his programme notes about the spirit and the belief in the camp these past couple of seasons, have often rung pretty hollow, when they’ve been in complete contrast to the body language expressed by some of the players. Like a disaffected Thierry Henry staring daggers at his teammates for failing to put a pass on a plate for him, or an outbreak of furious finger-pointing, between our back-line and keeper, after our defence has been breached and they all appear to be claiming the footballing equivalent of plausible deniability. Back then it felt as if Arsène was intent on repeating these sentiments in the hope that he might just make it so, merely by means of auto-suggestion!

I have to agree with Andy Gray’s contention that the fightback against Fulham in the first game of the season played an absolutely crucial part in the confidence building process. An opening day defeat would’ve only fuelled all the disparaging stories about the Arsenal being on the skids after Henry’s departure and it’s fairly likely that our season would’ve taken an entirely different, far more disappointing course.

Whereas this victory and the manner of our revival, with its journey in those dying moments, from an abiding mood of abject resignation, through to euphoric relief, has proved to be the seed which has been carefully cultivated since, to the point where it’s about to blossom into an unyielding oak.

I know there are still plenty of transport problems, which are most people’s excuse for departing their seats with the game still in progress. And perhaps I can appreciate their point of view, when they’re likely to be travelling late into the night after a midweek match. However aside from the torment that they’ll have experienced, as they’ve trotted towards the station and heard the hullabaloo in the distance, resulting from the three last gasp goals that they must’ve missed to date, all these thousands of pesky, premature evacuators are sacrificing the most satisfying moment of the afternoon, merely for the sake of saving a few minutes on their return journey.

Personally I’ve been in the habit of heading to a vacated seat closer to the exit, only because I’m desperate to get out of the ground in order to light up a long awaited fag. Nevertheless, of late I’ve found myself lingering until the last player has left the pitch. After a couple of unrequited campaigns, it’s an absolute delight to be able to drink in the taste of an intoxicating brew, which is becoming distilled, match by match, to the point where both players and fans alike are beginning to get the whiff of a team spirit which might well be 100% proof.

Don’t get me wrong, as I’m not about to start making far too presumptuous predictions. In truth the slavish hype of the media bandwagon is somewhat bewildering, after a weekend when we’ve merely rolled over relegation certainties in waiting, whilst cruising in second gear. Most Gooners who’ve gone to every game will confirm that we’ve only witnessed brief glimpses of the sort of beautiful football that this squad of players might well be capable of, with several players still some way from producing anything like their best form.

However we’ve been incredibly privileged to enjoy this highly entertaining brand of Wenger-ball ever since Arsène arrived at the club. But with the snowball momentum inspired by that winning feeling these past few weeks (and perhaps the possibility that we’re starting to flourish as a team now that the focus is no longer on one individual?), everyone is starting to sense a distinct, albeit subtle difference, compared to the past couple of indifferent seasons.

The pundits might attempt to put their finger on it, with their suggestions that the long ball has become an option, which wasn’t in our armoury before. Or by pointing out that we’re more inclined to shoot from outside the box, as an alternative to our infuriating insistence on passing our way into the net. Yet despite the accuracy of such insights, to my mind they are merely symptoms of a more intangible remedy to our recent lack of success, whereby the harmony and the chemistry fostered within this squad by various factors, is enabling us to play with a freedom which only shows its face when there is no fear of failure.

To give the auld alchemist his due, Fergie was spot on in his analysis of Man Utd’s somewhat timid second half display at Old Trafford on Sunday, where he suggested that their performance was perhaps inhibited by the ominous portents of blowing three points. Although it’s marvellous to think we could have a five-point cushion if we win our game in hand, from what I’ve seen, our elevated status is more a reflection of the mediocrity of our rivals, than our own supremacy.

Indeed, on paper, the Scousers appear to have acquired the sort of strength in depth that left them looking like far more likely challengers for silverware than ourselves. Thankfully footie is played on a pitch not on paper and where Benitez’ constant tinkering has had a negative effect, Arsène’s reliance on a smaller group of established players has resulted in a much more rapid establishment of a resolute team spirit.

Moreover, with our first-choice players having created a winning momentum, they’ve laid down a marker that’s enabled our manager to rest players but from a position of strength. Thus hungry youngsters like Denilson and Eduardo, with everything still to prove, are able to slip seamlessly into the first XI with no noticeable impact, other than perhaps adding another dimension to our play.

There was a time when we Gooners might have been disappointed to turn up for a Carling Cup game, only to discover all our star players had been given the night off. However nowadays this competition has become such a wonderful shop window for Wenger’s up and coming kids. that even with all that additional capacity at our new stadium, there aren’t enough seats for all those who want to watch the potential talent waiting in the wings.

I was fortunate someone came to my rescue, as I was shocked on Saturday when I realised Tuesday encounter with the Toons had sold out prior to me purchasing a ticket. On the evidence of last season, I would’ve been absolutely gutted to have missed out on a taste of the future which holds just as much, if not more promise than the present.

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Anonymous said...

I am going tommorrow and I aint leaving till the match is over... even though I have to drive back to Bournemouth.

Anonymous said...

Haven't read your article but great headline!! :)

Bern said...

Good for you, since you've probably more excuse than most. We'll shame them yet into stopping in thier seats. Although sadly the side-effect of being the most entertaining team in the country, is that we're attracting more than our fair share of glory-hunting, fair-weather footie fans, who are more interested in beating the queues at the station, than stopping to savour the moment.

In some respects such spoilt folk need to endure a decade in a silverware starved wilderness, in order to learn to appreciate what we have at the present by savouring every precious moment

Anonymous said...

I don't like to see people leave early -- there might be an excuse at midweek games (though why buy a ticket if you can't stay the whole game?) but I'm at a complete loss to understand why anyone would leave a weekend game early. It was a nice day saturday, the team had played a great game and why not just relax and soak it up for at least a few minutes after the game?

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to go tomorro. I agree that fans could wait a little bit longer to see the true spirit of Arsenal. especially when you only live down the road in north london! i dont think an extra hour wouldnt hurt! cant wait for the match tomorro-a chance to see diarra and denilson work together in midfield!

Anonymous said...

I always stay to the end and I have to drive back to Norwich. In my experience those leaving early dont save any real time. So I take a meal and drink before I leave amazing how the road clears in that 1/2 hour.

Anonymous said...

i suffer from premature ejaculation and was most disappointed with the content of this article. please refrain from using such confusing headlines.

Many thanks
monsieur floppy

Anonymous said...

As someone who suffers from incontinence I was hoping to find a special offer on giant nappies.

I am disgusted that such a serious issue could be treated in such a laxative manner

phatosas said...

It is hard to point out what is responsible for our improvement this season. Last season we played well enough but we finished 20 points behind ManU. I think during the summer Wenger worked on things we didnt do very well last season.

The first change he made was sign a full back. We conceded so many goals from the right back position but with the signing of Sagna especially on the counter attack. The signing of Sagna solved that problem. He is also very good in the air and is a very smart player -what you call a natural defender by instinct.

Another thing he obviously worked on is defending set pieces. Last season we conceded goals from set pieces against Villa, Everton(2ice, Fulham,Bolton,Chelsea and when we ultimately got knocked out of the champions league against PSV it was from a set piece. This season we have not conceded a headed goal from set a set piece yet we have gotten a few ourselves. A commentator said last season that if we only stop conceding goals from set peices and we start scoring some ourselves we would be out there competing for the title. Take ManU and Tottenham as another example, the last 9 points ManU got in the league have been obtained from corner kicks while Tottenham are in the relegation zone because they cant defend on set peices. They have conceded a goal from set peice in almost every game.

Finally we have improved our finishing and we are shooting from distance rather than trying to thread the eye of the needle to get a scoring chance in an over crowded box. I also noticed that we are also playing a lot of dangerous balls into the box from wide area. These minor changes have improved our goal scoring. I think these minor changes have made us a more difficult team to play against and we are getting the results we deserve this season unlike last season.

Anonymous said...

Bernard - couldn't agree with you more! I also used to find a seat near the exit and dash out at the final whistle, but I adore the post-match huddles and the guys seem genuinely appreciative of the crowd. Add that to our fantastic start to the season and it's pretty much 'dreamland' again. We do need a real challenge but I think that after the less-challenging lead in we've had the team will be up to it. And I also agree with Andy Gray's comments on Fulham; barring injuries to Almunia and Fabianski I thinkJens has played his last game for the Arsenal first team. Oh yes - and a great blog!

Anonymous said...

yes great blog, you've nailed everything, but its early days yet -very early, our mail challengers united are worringly playin rubbish but pickin up points due to a steely defense, we need to seriously avoid injuries at back-lack of cover. but still im so happy we're back to what we als capable of the last few years. cmon the gunners