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Monday 28 April 2008

Who Ever Said Footballers Were Stupid?

Howdy folks

I've been in bed with a bug all weekend, but I am almost relieved watching the first-half of Derby v Arsenal on the box, as I would've been really sick to have schlepped all the way up to Pride Park to watch such a lacklustre first forty-five.

I'm just glad that Derby are so poor, or it could've been embarrassing, but meanwhile I thought I had better post this out, before a similarly poor second half showing necessitates a complete rewrite.

Meanwhile with Van Persie limping off at the break (with yet another injury) after his first goal in open play in SEVEN months and with Adebayor playing up front with his best pal, it will at least be interesting.

Macmanaman was giving Fabianski some stick at the break as the Setanta pundit, suggesting that he's too slight to be able to dominate his box against Premiership opposition

Big Love

Who Ever Said Footballers Were Stupid?

You know it’s been a disappointing campaign when you are left clinging to the PFA Awards for some solace. Yet in a season of such scant reward for such high-class entertainment, it’s of some comfort to see four Arsenal players voted by their peers in the PFA’s Premiership team of the season.

Mind you by the time you read this missive, we should have rolled over Derby and as far-fetched as it may be, while it remains within the realms of possibility (albeit outrageously improbable), it’s impossible not to reflect on the unlikely permutations of the remaining six results that would see the Gunners rise Phoenix like from the flames of our “close, but no cigar” season, to take the title.

As with most every footie fan, there’s this disconnection between head and heart, so that while I know full well that it’s not going to happen, hope continues to spring eternal that the likes of West Ham, Newcastle, Wigan and Bolton might achieve a collective miracle over the remaining couple of weeks.

It probably would’ve proved less painful if Man Utd and Chelsea had put us out of our misery, but with reaffirmation in their recent results that this is the beautiful game because there are so few safe bets and that the final furlong in the Premiership marathon is invariably the most arduous and unpredictable, in truth this has only heightened all our “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” torment, as we trawl through the ashes of our unsuccessful season fixating on each and every ember, every shot which hit the woodwork, or every decision which went against us, knowing that the slightest shift in the sands of fate would’ve left us all postponing our holidays, for the excuse for a knees up that is the traditional Town Hall parade.

The first-legs of the two Champions League semi-finals only accentuated this agony. The football in such weighty encounters is often inhibited by the intense fear of falling at the final hurdle. But aside from the cameo party-pieces from the likes of Messi and Deco, we witnessed little from any of the four teams that affirmed their right to a leading role in football’s greatest drama, whereas a scintillating display would’ve at least made it easier to accept the Gunners being cast as the gloomy understudy.

However, although events since the excruciating disappointment of our defeats at Anfield, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge have only underlined quite how close Le Prof is to getting it right, football is an unforgiving paramour. Not only are their no prizes for coming second (or third – and poor Avram could yet pip Utd and still be rewarded with the tin tack!) but in the Arsenal’s case, the majority of Gooners have become so spoilt by the way in which Wenger has (many would say miraculously considering the new stadium has necessitated shoestring expenditure relative to our immediate rivals) managed to set the bar so high over the past decade that it doesn’t appear to make any difference to them whether we are a hair’s breadth, or a hundred miles away, failure to bring home the bacon by way of a tangible trophy is just unacceptable.

I have to laugh at those throwing their toys out of the pram with obfuscated post-mortems pleading for wholesale surgery. Forgive me for mixing my metaphors but considering we’ve come so close and in fact, overachieved, in a season, which was expected to be one of rebuilding, it seems preposterous that some are suggesting we throw the baby out with the bath water.

To my mind these aren’t glory-hunters, they’re glory junkies, whose loyalty wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in the sort of success-starved wilderness we’ve endured in the past. I simply couldn’t imagine such “supporters” in the shoes of a West Ham, or Charlton fan, or any of the majority of teams that start each and every season hoping in their hearts for a sniff of some silverware, but knowing in their heads that survival is probably the best they can hope for.
Talking of which, as I sat watching an increasingly breathless Geoff Stelling on Sky’s Soccer Saturday, as he tried to keep pace with the fluctuating fortunes of the various sides whose fate remains in doubt, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the good old days, when everything was decided by twenty to five on a Saturday afternoon and all football related stress subsided for another seven days, with the familiar “De ne ne ne” tones of the Dr Who intro music, as opposed to the wall-to-wall live games that are dictated on an almost daily basis nowadays by the TV gods.

With terraces across the length and breadth of the country only partially filled with fans attached to their terrace trannies, like some sort of intravenous drip capable of doling out debilitating relegation details, or reinvigorating their very life-force with news of goals having a positive impact on their promotion, or play-offs prospects, I was almost sad to be a neutral bystander. But in the same breathe, having suffered more cyanide than saline from the Gooner life support system in the latter stages this season, I was glad to be on the outside, looking in on the thrill seekers suffering the last heart-stopping loop on the harum-scarum ride that is the glorious football season.

Meanwhile I imagine there’d be a consensus of opinion from most informed fans over the players’ choice of their Premiership team of the season. That is apart from disgruntled Blues (although I did say informed!). Personally I haven’t seen enough of Chelsea to pass judgement, but perhaps the perennial talents of the likes of Terry and Essien merit their inclusion. The funny thing is that it would probably be Arsenal fans that would be most likely to dispute the selection of Adebayor.

Personally I adore the Togonator for his work rate alone but even during his purple patch when he couldn’t stop scoring, Manny’s form, namely his first touch, wasn’t beyond reproach. In light of the number of goal scoring opportunities created by their respective teams, I can’t help but wonder if the 21 goals scored by Blackburn’s Santa Cruz amount to a far more laudable feat. And if he doesn’t merit inclusion in the team of the season, at only £3.5 mill, Santa Cruz must surely be a candidate for bargain of the season?

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