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Wednesday 1 April 2009

The Bigger Gob...Brown or Fab?

Probably all a bit passé considering I wrote the following ten days back but since there won't be many of you with access to the Irish Examiner I thought I might as well get it posted, just in case you've nothing better to do with your time

Big Love

PS. Naturally not too much Arsenal related content but if you missed this week's missive you can find it here: Get The Flags Out?

Drawing Chelsea in the FA Cup semi, thereby missing out on an opportunity to put a spoke in Man Utd’s efforts to monopolize this season’s domestic silverware, won’t bother me nearly so much, if we get an opportunity to pour sugar in the Red Devils’ tank in the Champions’ League semis and trample over their dreams of European domination

However this presupposes that the wheels don’t come off Fergie’s spluttering charabanc sooner and that the Gunners will vanquish Villareal in the quarters, which is a task that I for one certainly won’t be taking for granted.

On paper, Friday’s quartefinal draw has been kind to the Arsenal and Man Utd, but personally I would’ve much preferred for us to have pulled a bigger fish out of the hat and to be going into the first leg in a couple of weeks time as unfancied underdogs, rather than slight favourites.

The Gunners have travelled to intimidating cathedrals of the beautiful game like the Bernabeu and the San Siro and beaten the odds, by pulling massive results out of the bag in recent seasons. Continuing this trend of raising their game for the big occasion, the current squad have looked like the genuine “title challenging” article in putting Man Utd and Chelsea to the sword. Yet it was hard to believe that this was the same Arsenal side who’d endured an embarrassing defeat to Stoke and who’d capitulated against City, only the weekend prior to giving such a good account of ourselves in both glamour games.

Consequently I have my concerns that a return to the scene of a white-knuckle ride, semifinal triumph at El Madrigal in 2006 (courtesy of Lehmann’s last-gasp penalty save) might not prove to be a sufficiently inspirational occasion to get the adrenaline coursing through the Gunners’ veins. We were fortunate in the last round to come up against a Roma side without the resources to take advantage of our lack of intensity in the Olympic Stadium. But Villareal’s ranks contain quality aplenty and I very much doubt the Spanish side will be nearly so forgiving, if they face an Arsenal XI that fails to put them on the back foot.

However having ended the Tiger’s FA Cup fantasies last Tuesday and sent them back up t’North with their tail between their legs and then following this up with Saturday’s Toon Town triumph, we continue to gather some crucial momentum, as we approach the business end of this campaign (while around us, others battle to prevent their offensives from going off the rails!). As ever the International break couldn’t be a more badly timed interlude and it’s crucial we return with a bang, in a “must win” home game against City, in order to restore the buoyant mood double-quick, before the “make or break” matches start coming thick and fast.

I know there’ve been times in the past when Arsène has been his own worst enemy, when it comes to winning friends and influencing people with his social graces, but the furore that followed last week’s cup game was a complete farce. One journo came out of the Hull manager’s press conference and commented that Phil Brown had all but accused Arsène of starting the holocaust!

When in truth Wenger’s only crime was that, as usual, he’d viewed the game’s most controversial incident (the offside goal) through his red & white tinted specs. There are times when I admire Arsène’s efforts to defend the indefensible, in the face of incontrovertible evidence and I’m sure his squad must appreciate a gaffer who stands their corner come what may. Nevertheless le Prof and virtually all his Premiership peers could do with taking a lesson in humility from Roy Hodgson, as the Fulham manager always comes across as a genuine “mensch”.

Personally I’d prefer one of our players to lamp someone from the opposition, than the abhorrent act of spitting on them. But from what I saw of the TV pictures, Fabregas was no more guilty of gobbing on Horton, than all Premiership players are of spitting at the fans, when they spend the entire match clearing phlegm from their throats.

Meanwhile, after an exhausting day driving a hire van on Friday, I was still debating how I was going to get up to the North-East the next day, when I returned to my motor to find it had been clamped. When I added the cost of the congestion charge, to 130 quid cost of the clamp, it was utterly demoralising to think that it had basically cost me twenty quid to go to work that day!

At the exact same time, fortunately I discovered that the FA Cup semifinal tickets had gone on sale (as otherwise I might well have missed out completely!). So while waiting for the clampers, I got on the phone to book our two Wembley tickets, as I was terrified the £100 cost might be refused once I’d paid to have the clamp removed. Sadly the upshot of this unexpected expense was that I ended up having to sacrifice Saturday’s trip to Tyneside, in order to see the Arsenal trot out on the remodelled version of the hallowed turf for the first time. Even the most faithful of us football fans are beginning to feel the fall-out from the credit crunch!

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Mean Lean said...

Mate love your blog, you should get much more credit than you get.

Always read your stuff even if I do not have the time to comment.

Keep up the good work.

Squid Boy said...

Agreed 100% with the Lean one above.