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Tuesday 1 January 2008

Oh What Fun It Is To See The Arsenal Win Away

I would’ve loved for the coach load of kids from Sligo that I met outside Goodison, to have seen this Arsenal side win beautiful, rather than ugly. In truth, contrary to popular opinion, we were neither beauty nor the beast, but an entirely lacklustre performance from the Gunners was more than compensated by the three long balls that turned this game on its head.

The opening forty-five was a depressing anti-climax after the euphoria of only an hour or so earlier. They must have heard our whoops of joy over at Anfield, as we sat on the coach parked up alongside Stanley Park, listening to the commentary from the Boleyn, as former Gunner, Matthew Upson, did his old club a massive favour.

All those on the coach were waiting with baited breath, whilst two of us with terrace trannies kept everyone abreast of all the goal updates. But with us both tuned to different stations, it was barmy, as every time I rejoiced over Reading having taken the lead at White Hart Lane, the other bloke kept putting a dampener on the mood, with an almost immediate response, to indicate that Spurs had already equalized. When this happened for a third time, I was beginning to think he was winding me up.

It would’ve been a nice bonus if Reading had stuffed Spurs, but it was positively small beer compared to the significance of the result at Upton Park. It was nonetheless hilarious that events since the weekend should have revealed that far from the four goal contribution from their Bulgarian striker being evidence of him hitting his stride, but that it was more of a come and get me plea, as it would appear that Berbatov’s intentions were merely to put himself in the shop window.

We headed off on the short walk to Goodison, buoyed by the knowledge that the Hammers had kicked the door ajar and after Boxing Day’s utterly uninspiring bore draw at Fratton Park, we were praying that the Arsenal weren’t about to waste this opportunity to take advantage of this opening.

The uncharacteristically uncoordinated efforts of Fabregas and co. of late have left me bemoaning Arsène’s preference for playing 4-5-1 (in Van Persie’s absence). Without sufficient support from midfield, Adebayor has struggled to have much of an impact on his own up front. Thus I was delighted when I discovered we’d be playing 4-4-2 at Goodison, with both Bendtner and Eduardo earning a rare berth in the starting line-up.

However I’ve always pleaded for playing two strikers on home turf, whereas at Goodison, instead of Adebayor being isolated, both front men struggled to get a touch of the ball first-half, as we were over-run in midfield. In fact the Arsenal made such a poor show of retaining possession during the first forty-five, that a stranger could be forgiven for thinking that the two teams had turned out wearing each other’s shirts.

I was still queuing for my half-time cuppa when Gael Clichy hoofed the ball forward for Eduardo to equalize immediately after the break. But I’d been waiting for so long when the players re-appeared, that I was determined to be served. In the past I’ve been too embarrassed to admit to travelling all that way, only to miss a goal whilst getting a cup of tea, or when nipping out for a pee. Under normal circumstances I would’ve given up and gone back to my seat, for fear of just such a disaster.

However Saturday’s result was so significant and it wasn’t that I was so desperate for some refreshment, but I made a conscious decision that if fate was determined to have a good giggle at my expense, it would be well worth foregoing the opportunity of seeing the goal scored live. Although as the roar went up and the rickety old wooden frame of the Upper Bullens Stand trembled to the riotous tune of the euphoric Gooner contingent, the look of disappointment on the faces of those around me who’d also missed the big moment, suggested that they weren’t nearly so resigned to this fate!

Personally I felt it was a small price to pay for the sake of an equalizer. Actually I was tempted to stop downstairs for the remainder of the second half, for fear of interfering with the status-quo, as my superstitious nature left me feeling certain that Everton would score a second the moment I returned to my seat.

Mercifully I was proved wrong and it was entirely appropriate during panto season that Everton’s bungling back-line contributed to the festivities, with some comedic “he’s behind you” type defending. So despite struggling to get our passing game going for the duration, we did manage to conjure up a couple more punts down field, which combined with some finishing that was calmness personified, not only secured the all-important and psychologically significant three points, but at the same time reduced Man Utd’s superior goal-difference.

While David Moyes will have missed out on his congratulatory phone call from Fergie, I imagine that at least until the opening whistle on New Year’s Day, the Hammers will be welcomed at our place like conquering heroes. Hopefully we’ll prove to be the beneficiaries of the ‘after the Lord Mayor’s ball’ syndrome against the Irons and we’ll have enough left in the tank for our trip to Turf Moor on Sunday, to be able to maintain a four-pronged challenge for this season’s silverware.

It’s hard to envisage a dramatic upturn in our current insipid form, during the crowded festive schedule, when the players’ reserves of adrenaline are being drained thrice weekly, with no time for recuperation. But having maintained our place in the box seat while playing so poorly, it bodes very well for our prospects, when we do start stringing some performances together. So hold on to your hats, as apparently it’s all downhill from here and the rediscovery of that early season magic holds the promise of an absolutely thrilling run-in.


arsenalviper said...

ya gotta agree with the opening statement, it really was a case of 3 hoofs of the ball.
i hope the team remember that, cause they cant seem 2 get out of their funk of poor performances.
Its time to grab the ball & run wit it. manure will bounce back - lets get them on the board