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Monday 22 December 2008

If Santa's a Gooner, Then Surely Not A Fabu-less Xmas?

Hi folks,

Just to explain, my Scouse pal, Steve Kelly, who writes the Liverpool fan's column for the Irish Examiner, lost his father this week, hence the tribute at the end of this week's piece.

Meanwhile I thought it was an impact injury when Fabregas limped off, but if it's true he's strained his medial ligaments and is out for up to 3 weeks, thereby missing the entire Xmas schedule, it could either prove to be the final nail in our Premiership campaign coffin, or will the others step up to the plate, as the likes of Denilson finally comes of age?

Although it doesn't matter how well our midfield performs, if our defense can be undone by a single ball over the top. This was all the more disappointing on Sunday, when you consider that Gallas and Djourou are probably both quicker than Robbie Keane and our entire defence is going to have to be fully focused, if they're going to cope with the frightening pace of Ashley Young & Agbonlahor.

Here's hoping that it's Villa who are the turkey that gets stuffed this Xmas
Wishing you all a Merry Xmas/Chanukah and a happy & healthy New Year
Come on you Reds


It’s amazing that it takes a sense of outrage and injustice to get Arsenal fans up and out of their seats nowadays, offering the sort of vocal support that at long last turned our new stadium into an intimidating cauldron of noise on Sunday. In fact considering the way in which the atmosphere went from its customary lukewarm, to white hot, as a result of the apoplectic riposte to Howard Webb’s red card and that this in turn prompted such a positive response on the pitch, I was left quipping “I wish he’d sent Adebayor off half an hour ago”.

Having seen Fabregas limp off at half-time, in truth I feared the worst when we saw Diaby warming up during the break. Although Cesc doesn’t quite have the same talismanic status as Steve Gerrard, it must’ve been a major body blow to lose our best player (and captain to boot), in the midst of a match that had been built up as a must win contest, if the Gunners were to cling on to any genuine title pretensions.

Personally I think that 2 wins and a draw is a more than acceptable return from the so-called mini-league between the top teams. In seasons past these stats have proved significant because we were the only sides that could be expected to beat one another. However in such an unprecedented campaign, where all the big clubs are blowing points against the lesser lights, in such a profligate fashion and could conceivably continue to do so, when playing for such high stakes every week, with the entire chasing pack only 2 games away from either the relegation mire, or a potential seat aboard the UEFA Cup gravy train, this mini-league isn’t likely to matter nearly so much, as our comparative results against the remaining 16 sides.

In this context and with Gooner bums beginning to squeak over the perceived threat to our highly-prized Champs League berth - no matter how much Martin O’Neill tries to minimize the expectation levels and the pressure upon his Villa side, by playing down his club’s (hopefully temporary) intrusion into the top of the table game of musical chairs - our Boxing Day outing to Birmingham could prove far more important, both in a practical and psychological sense, than Sunday’s inconclusive affair.

Watching Diaby’s rigorous warm-up routine, my first thought was that perhaps the loss of Fabregas wouldn’t be felt so acutely, if Abou was to be given a rare opportunity to replace Cesc in the heart of our midfield. It wasn’t until the battle was rejoined, that I realised Wenger was always likely to opt for restoring Denilson to the middle of the park, alongside Song, with Nasri switching to the right flank and Diaby on the left.

Don’t get me wrong; all 4 players have great individual attributes. Yet each also has their failings and it was no real surprise the Scousers gained the upper hand early in the second half. I can’t envisage any Premiership side being exactly intimidated by the prospect of facing up to this midfield foursome and if that’s the last we’ve seen of our captain this Xmas, I imagine Villa will be looking at a Fabregas-less team sheet on Boxing Day and really fancying their chances!

Liverpool’s left-back was impressive, but this was partially due to the fact that Nasri lacked sufficient match fitness to offer Sagna much succour in the second half. Still, Samir’s perfectly weighted pass for Van Persie’s goal was evidence enough of the sublime quality that merits his inclusion. Song also deserves credit for working his socks off, but sadly Alex appears somewhat clueless whenever he gets into advanced positions.

Denilson is another grafter and at only 21, he continues to mature into an increasingly valuable asset. But the Brazilian lad still isn’t cut out to be our main man, as he’s not blessed with the physical presence to impose himself upon the more feisty battles and has yet to demonstrate the perceptive instincts to be the Gunners principle orchestrator.

As for Diaby, I get the distinct sense he doesn’t enjoy the wide role Wenger has chosen for him of late. When everyone else was putting their shoulder to the wheel after being reduced to ten, Abou should’ve had the freshest legs of them all. But he was the only player in red & white who didn’t really look up for it.

Speaking of colours, what was that Liverpool kit all about? The Scousers half-home, half-away ensemble only added to the potential for confusion. I therefore assume it was chosen at Webb’s behest, so that an official, who’s the antithesis of an inconspicuous ref, might stand out that bit more!

Then again if it wasn’t for Webb demonstrating the lack of insight of someone who can’t possibly have ever kicked a ball, we might not have witnessed the display of fighting spirit, that was in such contrast to some of the insouciance we’ve suffered this season.

I adored Van Persie’s quote about scoring with his “chocolate leg” and Robin will soon top every Gooners’ Xmas card list, if he continues to maintain the level of desire and commitment he displayed against Liverpool. Not that I want a striker conceding reckless free-kicks on the edge of our area, but give me this sort of tenacity any day, over the indifference of an overpaid prima donna, who doesn’t think work-rate comes within his remit.

Meanwhile, as certain as I am that the rumours linking Wenger to Real Madrid are utter codswallop, I can’t help but wonder if something major is in the offing. It’s the only conclusion I can draw as to the motivation for the positively Machievellian shenanigans that have resulted in the ousting of such a seemingly innocuous board member as Lady Nina.

If the Gunners aren’t destined to mount a serious title challenge this season, I hope the Scouser’s go on to triumph, in honour of Steve Kelly’s dear old dad. I guess the passing of time and Benitez’ kidney stone will tell.

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Anonymous said...

It was great to hear the contribution of the often fickle fans who have the priviledge of being in the emirates. It's a great shame that the atmosphere for opposing clubs is not always so hostile, a little hell-raising against Hull or Villa couldn't have hurt. I can't imagine how the gooners going to villa park on boxing day could be anything less than completely up for it as this match is surely the most important of this campaign. And it is the midfielders many charge with our our ugly position in the table that have the opportunity to go a long way to redeeming themselves- i should think they'll be 100% up for it as well.