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Thursday, 1 January 2009

Sadly Another "Could Do Better" Half-Term Report

Thankfully I received a copy of my Scouse colleagues mid-season musings earlier this evening, otherwise I might well have forgotten all about the fact that I was due to file my own half-term report to the Irish Examiner. Having checked the email, I discovered that the deadline was New Year's Eve, so since I forwarded it to them at 23.59, I've met this obligation and somewhat miraculously, I've even come very close to meeting their 750 word requirements (or at least that is, close by my overly verbose standards!).

That means I didn't have room to comment on what I believe to be the absolute codswallop about Kolo Touré leaving the Gunners - which sounds to me as if they've turned a rumour about Kolo and Gallas not getting on well, into a fictitious story about his imminent departure. Kolo has always come across as such an incredibly inoffensive human being that his idea of expressing his displeasure would be to not include Willie in his Xmas card list!

I also don't give any credence to any of the stories in the media about the various tranfer targets Arsène is supposedly after (at least not until I see them standing there in an Arsenal shirt!). My guess is that Wenger will probably have some player that none of the tabloids have mentioned in mind, but if he can't get him for the price he wants to pay, as has been the case in the past, he won't have any qualms about keeping his chequebook in his pocket.

So my advice would be for us all to ignore all the far-fetched rumours and expect nothing, so as not to be disappointed and then if we do end up doing any business, it will come as a bonus.

Meanwhile if I've expressed any of the sentiments below in a previous missive, please accept my apologies, but having written this entry, I thought I might as well post it, for all you other boring old buggers who've nothing better to do on New Year's Eve

Mind you, one would have to be brave to be jumping in the fountain in Trafalgar Square (assuming it's not frozen over) in this brass-monkey weather.

Oh for the lunacy of youth, when I remember the invigorating feeling of swimming in the Serpentine on a similarly hypothermic New Year's Day with all those other nutters. As I recall, myself and a mate came out of the changing rooms and we both ran to dive in before we got too cold and changed our minds. Having dived in, swum a length and clambered out, you can imagine where we told the bloke to go, who was standing there with the TV news camera and who asked if we'd mind doing it again!

A Happy & Healthy New Year to one and all
Peace & Love
Bernard
____________________________________________________________________
It’s been an extremely frustrating first-half of the season for us Gooners, with the gloss taken off memorable triumphs against the likes of Man Utd & Chelsea, by far too many lacklustre displays against the Premiership’s lesser lights. Still I guess we should be grateful that we haven’t quite been left for dead, so long as the other 3 title contenders continue to suffer from a similarly inconsistent malaise.

Although, as I write, based on what we’ve witnessed to date, I doubt that even the most optimistic amongst us will covet ambitions of the Arsenal mounting a genuine title challenge. As things stand, I imagine the majority of us would be content with a return of the traditional status quo and a reaffirmation of our top four pedigree, hopefully combined with the opiate of a decent cup run to mollify the masses.

With the tabloid press going into overdrive as the transfer window opens, the Gunners are being linked with a myriad of potential targets. The arguments in the North London boozers extend on long into the night, over who le boss needs to buy. But the truth of the matter is that time and again, this Arsenal side has demonstrated their ability to compete with the best in the land.

So while I won’t dispute the more obvious deficiencies in our current squad, it seems evident to me that the principle factors responsible for the least impressive first-half of a campaign during Wenger’s tenure, are not something that can be cured by merely throwing money at the problem, by way of blowing Arsène’s alleged £30mil. war-chest.

It’s ironic that we’ve consistently punched above our weight ever since Wenger arrived and that it’s only now, with the revenues from the new stadium raising the club up to the level of genuine heavyweights (that is if the board’s rosy perspective of the impact of our substantial property portfolio is to be believed!) that Arsène finds himself on the ropes for the first time.

However perhaps it’s a newly acquired “big club” mentality that’s contributed to our capricious form. There could well be elements of arrogance and complacency involved in the profligate way in which we’ve blown so many points against the likes of Hull, Sunderland, Stoke, Man City and Boro.

Nevertheless Wenger has never been under so much pressure to splash the cash. But having spent more than enough time in seasons past, waiting in vain for the Sky Sports News ticker to dispel the post Xmas blues, by flashing up details of a mega-bucks signing, I won’t exactly be holding my breath. According to his parsimonious nature, I really can’t envisage le Prof spunking up a substantial fortune for a stopgap midfield orchestrator to fill-in for Fabregas. Besides, it’s not as if our squad is exactly short on dainty ball-players! Additionally I don’t see Arsène being drawn into a Dutch auction, at a time when excess demand and extremely limited supply (of genuine quality) guarantees seriously inflated transfer fees.

Arsène has often expressed his concern about bringing in star players (with egos to match their wallets) and the potential effect on the delicate balance of personalities in the dressing room. To my mind, football management is hardly rocket science, but an instinctive knowledge of human alchemy is vital, when it comes to blending together disparate ingredients into a solid unit, where the whole is far greater than the sum of the individual parts.

There are times when I wonder if Arsène is a little too analytical and perhaps lacks something of this instinctive quality. As far as he’s concerned our players possess all the necessary attributes and although I might moan about our need for a natural winger, or a Gilberto or Flamini type water-carrier, in games that go our way, we’ve proved ourselves capable of getting the job done.

But when our backs are up against the wall, as has been the case all too often this season, the imbalance in our youthful line-up positively screams out to many of us. It seems to me that we’re crying out for the sort of catalyst who’s capable of offering both the carrot and stick inspiration, to encourage the best out of the rest of them.

I wouldn’t turn down the likes of Arshavin, or Arteta but the attributes we really need aren’t available “off the peg”. I believe Arsène needs to look within, if we’re to rediscover some of that “Good Old Arsenal” spirit, to some of the youngsters who left us all open-mouthed, in awe of their scintillating early season Carling Cup exploits.

Such home-grown solutions would be guaranteed to rekindle the fire in the sort of Arsenal “supporters” who tell me that they can’t be bothered to watch us on the box, or who suggest they won’t be renewing their season tickets, should we continue on, in the current vein. It says a lot about the spoilt nature of the Arsenal’s modern day audience that 5th in the table and the knockout stages of the Champions League can engender such apathy and dissatisfaction. I guess they’d have long since bailed if we were in bottom of the Championship Charlton’s shoes!
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e-mail to: londonN5@gmail.com

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

good article

happy new year!

Zachary said...

As usual, your missive serves to settle the nerves in the midst of rampant hysteria available elsewhere. In the past I've responded to you from my home in Ohio but having arrived in Devon on a 6-month stay I am sad to say that it seems the likelihood of the Gunners being broadcast live each weekend is far greater in the States. With one (News Corp. ughh.) channel on relatively basic cable entirely dedicated to football, and setanta in the nearby pub, I'd been able to watch all but 2 matches this season on proper tele. Here I'll be streaming Bolton and projecting it on the wall! It was quite nice to see RVP step up once again against Plymouth and although it may be naive, I do wonder whether or not he wearing the armband rather than Almunia might better galvanize the squad in the crucial weeks ahead.
Thanks.

Zachary said...

As usual, your missive serves to settle the nerves in the midst of rampant hysteria available elsewhere. In the past I've responded to you from my home in Ohio but having arrived in Devon on a 6-month stay I am sad to say that it seems the likelihood of the Gunners being broadcast live each weekend is far greater in the States. With one (News Corp. ughh.) channel on relatively basic cable entirely dedicated to football, and setanta in the nearby pub, I'd been able to watch all but 2 matches this season on proper tele. Here I'll be streaming Bolton and projecting it on the wall! It was quite nice to see RVP step up once again against Plymouth and although it may be naive, I do wonder whether or not he wearing the armband rather than Almunia might better galvanize the squad in the crucial weeks ahead.
Thanks.

Bernard said...

Thanks for your comment Zach

That's amazing to think of you watching the Bolton game projected on a wall. I hope you can find a decent stream.

It's a bizarre but true state of affairs that the live coverage abroad is so much more comprehensive than the UK (especially since the Gunners have slipped down the pecking order and we're not featured on live matches quite so frequently)

I believe a lot of this is down to the old-fashioned regulations that denies broadcasters in this country from showing any 3pm KO games live because of fears that the coverage might have a negative effect on the attendance figures

But I'm not sure such rules have much relevance in an age when turnstile revenues are a drop in the ocean compared to the income from TV contracts.

Meanwhile I have a better idea Zach. If you've come all the way from Ohio to Dorset, surely it's just a short hop from there to North London? Rather than going to the bother of watching a projection of the game (as interesting a proposition as this sounds), we've got to get you to experience the real thing. Send me an email, as I'm sure we can find you the odd ticket or two on the mailing list.

I absolutely refuse to allow you to come all that way and not make it to London to catch a game in person

Hope to hear from you soon