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Monday 12 October 2009

Anyone Else Suffering Gooner Withdrawals?

Hi folks,

For those in the North London area there's a premier screening of the Gooner Review DVD at the Phoenix Cinema, in East Finchley tomorrow night at 9pm. Further details can be found at The Gooner Review web site. With Paul Kaye (Denis Penis) providing amusing links for a review of last season, which has been broken down into ten most significant moments, as described by the likes of Bob Wilson, Amy Lawrence, Nick Hornby, Tom Watt and a selection of familiar Arsenal fans, including yours truly, I can't think of many better ways to get a Gooner fix on a Tuesday evening, than watching / listening to 85 minutes of Gooner gabble.

Sadly being a public cinema, you won't be able to follow Paul Kaye's advice to "sit back and spark up a red & white bifta" but with him and Perry Groves apparently present to introduce the evening, we should be able to expect a giggle or two.

Meanwhile I'm delighted that the club didn't decide to take advantage of the fact that we drew Liverpool in the next round of the Carling Cup and kept ticket prices at the decidedly reasonable rates of 10 and 20 quid. If the club were as mercenary as we are occasionally guilty of making them out to be, they could've easily turned a tidy profit by charging such a attractive encounter at regular prices.

I only hope that this will ensure the same sort of audience that turned up for the match against the Baggies in the last round, with thousands of parents being able to afford a rare opportunity to take all their offsrping to an Arsenal game. These Carling Cup encounters have developed a completely different (somewhat slightly higher-pitched) atmosphere as a result of this recent tradition, with its very own 'raison d'être' as a means of offering a whole new generation of Gooners their first enthralling taste of the live match atmosphere.

Myself I've always argued that the price reductions make sound economic sense, since surely any potential loss of matchday revenue must be a relatively negligible sum, compared to sort of income the club can expect to generate, by way of ticket sales, merchandising etc over the course of a lifetime of all those young Gooners who's devotion to the Arsenal cause is signed, sealed and delivered by their first ever pilgrimage to The Home of Football II.

However I have some concerns that the level of interest in our high-profile encounter with the Scousers is such, that many of the tickets might not find their way into the hands of the more regular Carling Cup goers. Having given a mate the details of this morning's General Sale of tickets for this particular match, he duly turned up at 9am to queue for an hour and a half, until tickets went on sale at 10.30am.

He revealed to me that within ten minutes an announcement was made that the £10 tickets for the Lower Tier had sold out completely and he was annoyed because there were many people pushing in to the queue in front of him, supposedly having had their places held for them by a mate. Obviously I imagine that there was plenty of traffic on the Ticketmaster web site from the time they went on sale, but I can't help but wonder how many unscrupulous pond scum touts jibbed in at the front of the queue and snapped up the maximum ten tickets, in the hope of making a bit of a killing by scalping their ill-begotten gains?

Still as I consoled my pal, even up in the gods of the Upper Tier (from where I actually watched the WBA match), there are no bad seats in our new stadium, as the views from everywhere are spectacular (even if a pair of binoculars become are an extremely useful asset once one gets beyond the first dozen or so rows in the Upper Tier) and relatively speaking, in an age of extortionate ticket prices, he's had a right result, being able to buy three tickets @ £20 for approximately the same total price that would normally be charged for one!

With the visit of Birmingham and trips to Alkmaar and Upton Park to come before we play the Scousers in a couple of weeks time, there's plenty of football to be played in the interim. But I'm already looking forward to seeing how the likes of Wilshere, Bartley, Frimpong, Watt, Barazite and co. fare against Benitez' boys.

However if anyone else is hoping to do likewise, I'd suggest pulling your finger out pretty sharpish, assuming the match isn't already a complete sell-out!

Come on you Rip Roaring Reds

Big Love


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By the time the Arsenal trot out to play Birmingham on Saturday, sadly our goalfest against Blackburn will be a distant memory. We definitely could’ve done without this irksome domestic interruption, just as the Gunners were beginning to discover their mojo.

Yet with the likes of Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Song, Fabregas, Rosicky and Bendtner, all maintaining the feelgood factor in successful outings for their respective countries (even Senderos bagged a brace for the Swiss!), they should all return in a buoyant mood and as a result hopefully for once, we won’t suffer any adverse effects from this International break.

Even if the 20 players on International excursions return from the four corners of the globe unscathed, it’s no mean feat for Wenger to ensure that all his troops instantly regain the necessary blinkered focus. Especially when the media appear to have developed the nasty habit of abusing utterly unfounded gossip, or availing themselves of the sort of unguarded remarks that can often result when players are beyond the stultifying reach of their own club’s paranoid press officers, or digging up dodgy translations of the same, in their eternal struggle to fill endless reams of column inches during the domestic interlude.

Players might all claim not to read the resulting claptrap. But they’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind, to be completely unaffected by the tabloids attempts to titillate readers, while the collateral damage could result in an RSJ-sized wedge, being driven into the solid foundations of even the most robust of team-spirits.

As gutted as I will be when the fateful day does eventually dawn, personally I’m resigned to the prospect of Cesc Fabregas eventually returning to ply his trade on Spanish soil. Despite his clichéd badge-kissing display the other day, I’m certain his loyalty is to Arsène, more than the Arsenal. But the disadvantage of le Prof having purloined him from under Barca’s nose at such a tender age, is that Cesc is always going to possess a perfectly understandable yen to want to earn the sort of credibility in his home country that colleagues such as Xavi and Iniesta enjoy, by playing for one of the Spanish giants while still at his peak.

With time still on Cesc’s side and with him feeling sufficiently indebted to his mentor to want to repay the faith that Arsène showed in him, by way of some sort of tangible return, obviously I’m hoping that this won’t be for some time to come. But by the same token, the day we do achieve the objective of winning a major honour, this might well prove to be a double-edged sword, whereby Fab feels his debt is “paid in full” and takes it as his cue to exit the Arsenal stage right.

After all, while I might believe there is nothing Cesc can’t afford on his current multi-million pound wages, that would suddenly become attainable by doubling his salary in Euros, there has to come a time when he’s entitled to look out for no. 1. Still I’m certain there’d be a whole heap more professional satisfaction to picking up a trophy as captain of the Arsenal side he’s grown up with, compared to being drafted in to join the plethora of superstars collecting regular domestic baubles at Barca.

Besides which, the lad is far too much of a “mensch” to leave his mentor in the lurch, by taking his leave unexpectedly And yet Arsène simply can’t expect to continue selling his prodigy the promise of this vision on an indefinite basis.

In the meantime we’ll simply have to avoid taking the tabloid bait, as these rumours resurface on an increasingly regular basis, while the behemoths of Barca and Real continue to jockey for the inside track on this eventual coup. Otherwise instead of savouring Fab’s remaining seasons at the Gunners, we’ll end up like pitiful Gooner Chicken Lickens, walking around waiting for the sky to fall in!

Meanwhile I wasn’t remotely tempted to part with hard cash to watch a meaningless England performance on the Internet at the weekend (albeit a hugely significant encounter for the Ukranians). Mercifully we had live coverage of the Boys in Green to provide my Saturday footballing fix, even if it did mean taping “Strictly”. In truth, Italy were always likely to top the group by snaffling a result if required at home to Cyprus on Wednesday. Nevertheless such thoughts were of scant consolation, when Gilardino sucked Croke Park dry off all that euphoria, as Ireland switched off to gift the Azzurri a last gasp equaliser.

Even with FIFA’s best efforts to fix it for all those countries that have unexpectedly failed to gain automatic qualification by suddenly introducing seeding, most Ireland fans would’ve happily bitten off the hand that offered the current squad the opportunity of competing in a two-legged play-off for a place in South Africa next summer.

No matter which nation fate (with a little help from Sep Blatter!) throws up as Ireland’s opponents in Friday’s draw, I can’t help but feel that even without a command of the lingo (although in bringing his post-match interview to an abrupt halt, Il Trap understood well enough to be antagonised by the perennial Andy Reid question!), the old silver fox is blessed with just the sort of, ‘by any means necessary’ footballing nous to ensure the lads finagle their way over the finishing line and in some respects, the more illustrious the opposition, the more I will fancy their prospects. If the denouement to Saturday’s match was agonising, it’s likely to have been a stroll in the park, compared to the unbelievably intense emotional journey of the 180 minutes of football that is to follow!


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