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Monday 1 September 2008

He Who Laughs Last.....

The benefit of Saturday’s 5.30 kick-off was that it enabled the Kerry couple and their two kids to do the rounds of the museums, before meeting up with me. Three of the four were Man Utd fans and while Mum and the eldest boy were heading back to the hotel, the definition of devotion was demonstrated by Dad, who was taking his Arsenal supporting youngest to his first ever live game.

It wasn’t the wonders of the Science, or Natural History museums but the bizarre displays at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, which were the biggest hit with the kids. And for a while there on Saturday, they could’ve been forgiven for wondering if they were still amongst some of the planets strangest phenomenons, as they experienced the unprecedented sound of the more fickle members of the Arsenal faithful, begrudgingly singing the praises of Manny Eboué , after the Ivorian hothead had set up our second goal with his perceptive backheel.

Moreover, as we savoured a reassuring taste of the sort of entertaining entrées that we Gooners can hopefully look forward to gorging on as the season progresses, while basking in the warmth of the balmy early evening sunshine, there was a sense that the golden orb was taking one welcome last bow before its premature winter retirement, specifically to light the stage for the minor miracle that is Arsène’s Arsenal.

I doubt Wenger will thank his director, Danny Fiszman for alluding to the size of our war chest in the media in midweek and as I write, it remains to be seen whether he actually ends up spending any of the ALLEGED £30 million available to him. Le Boss is a stubborn bugger who certainly won’t be buying players merely to pander to media and fan pressure to bolster his squad. Nor will his pride allow him to be held over a barrel by any selling club and I suspect he’d rather walk away, than be forced to pay over the odds.

Yet if last week’s woeful effort at Fulham was a wallet loosening exercise, I wonder if Saturday’s victory might have the opposite effect and unless the player(s!) he’s interested in is available at the price he values them at, Arsène will have absolutely no qualms about sticking to his guns and continuing to swim against the tide of Premiership opposition, who’ve managed to convince the guardians of their respective purse-strings that they can spend their way into contention.

Ask me again, after awkward consecutive away games at Blackburn, Kiev and Bolton, if I concur with le gaffer’s philosophy, as I’m not going to get carried away, merely because we made hay with our mazy passing patterns, against Keegan’s Toon. Some might consider it naïve, but unlike many opponents they never come to our place intent on merely shutting shop and this usually results in the sort of open contest, which often encourages the best out of us.

Cesc Fabregas’ midweek return against FC Twente was the perfect cure for our Craven Cottage hangover as our little Franco restored the fluency, which had been so sorely missed until then and with the resulting four goals, we welcomed back the all important feelgood factor.

Then on Saturday we were aided and abetted by Rob Styles’ award of an 18th minute penalty. It helped to extinguish any remaining ambitions of the Toon team that had done us the favour of denying Man Utd 3 points at Old Trafford and any remaining Arsenal butterflies were banished as Robin Van Persie emphatically banged his spot-kick into the back of the net. With the sun on their backs and a goal to the good, the Gunners began to relax sufficiently for the natural quality of our sumptuous passing game to shine.

Even Van Persie, who’d been waiting far too patiently for the perfect goal scoring opportunity to come a knocking in the opening couple of games, was transformed into an influential contributor, intent on making things happen. The whole stadium held its collective breath as the Dutchman hobbled off, hoping against hope that this timely reminder of his class wasn’t about to be interrupted by yet another injury.

Nevertheless, nothing was going to put a dampener on what ultimately proved to be a good day to be a Gooner, as Carlos Vela came off the bench to offer a cameo display of his Eduardo like abilities. Minutes earlier Wenger was making like the proud dad, applauding on the touchline as Denilson iced the cake with the Arsenal’s third, capping a lavish flowing move with his debut league goal.

I’m yet to be convinced of the Brazilian’s ability to impose himself as Cesc’s midfield partner. It worries me how often he allows opponents to get goalside and ends up conceding free-kicks, when forced to tackle from behind.

It feels as if it’s become almost obligatory for an International fortnight to be timed to coincide with the Gunners hitting good form. However, signings or no, hopefully the three games on the road when we reconvene will prove to be the boarding ramp for us all to begin sharing Arsène’s unshakeable belief in his squad.

Much like the lad from Kerry, you have to admire the strength of such conviction, as the less well-trodden path is often the loneliest. Yet just as I imagined the youngster gleefully returning to their hotel to “give it large” to his big brother, I pray that it’s le gaffer having the last laugh come May.

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Fab 4 said...

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It's not popular as yours yet, but I hope I can get a few readers.