Apologies for the delay in posting this missive. I filed my diary entry to the Irish Examiner first thing Monday morning, before dashing out the door to work (late as ever!) and in the typical feast or famine nature of my work with the ballet, I've been so busy ever since, that I've been too cream-crackered to even open my laptop until now.
It would appear as if the reserves maintained the goal bonanza mood by blasting 5 up at Bolton last night and it would be brilliant if the first XI can begin to build some momentum, with another emphatic win at Ewood Park this weekend. An early KO up at Blackburn, live on Sky, now there's an outing to test the true devotion of any Gooner!! After an exhausting week, I wonder how enthusiastic I will be for a crack of dawn departure to the North-West?
Sure it was only against 10-man Blackpool, but based on Saturday's scintillating form, you start to get this feeling that no matter what hardships are involved in getting there, you dare not risk missing a single Arsenal match, for fear that you might lose out, in not being there in person to savour another "shiver me timbers" tonking.
Amongst the many points that I failed to cram into my Examiner piece, was significance of seeing Theo step up to take charge of some of our set-pieces. I've long since bemoaned the fact that we've appeared to have so few candidates, eager for the responsibility of taking free-kicks. WIth the exception of the pace and precision imparted by Van Persie and Tommie Vermaelen's toe-poke style cannonballs, we've had no other obvious strikers of a dead ball in recent times.
You'd think that both Shava and Cesc should be able to pose a threat from a set-piece on the edge of the area, but neither has appeared to be particularly ardent free-kick takers, when in truth, you want players bursting with so much self-confidence that they're prepared to wrestle the ball out of the hands of a teammate.
Not only was I delighted to see our set-piece options increased by Theo's actions, but this alone would perhaps appear as the one most patently obvious indicator of Walcott's development, from the little boy lost of previous campaigns, into a player who's become sufficiently sure of his own ability that he truly believes his time has come, to stamp his authority on matches.
I imagine that up until now, Theo has felt too intimidated by the ability of those around him, to be taking free-kicks instead of others and whether he's volunteered, or he's been assigned the responsibility, it suddenly elevates him, from influencing games from the fringes in, to the pivotal figure of a leading man. It remains to be seen whether he's truly capable of living up to his new-found "big time" profile, as a crack-shot Gunner who's capable of stepping up and changing the course of history with a single kick of the ball. but like most every other Gooner, I for one cannot wait to see Theo find the top corner and to go wild with rapturous delight at the sound of that unmistakeable swoosh, as a Walcott curler nestles in the back of the old onion bag. The stage is set mate and we're all backing you to strut your funky stuff!
True it would've been utterly hilarious to have seen Spurs make a premature European exit last night, especially after they appear to have already begun spending the money, judging by the demolition work going on adjacent to White Hart Lane. But although I must admit to having mixed feelings, thinking about my Spurs pals gatecrashing our perennial Monaco party this morning, as there's something decidedly wrong with the picture of them, anxiously sitting around like all us Gooners, waiting to discover what Champs League delights await us over the coming months, at the end of the day, you have to imagine that in their case, a piss-take postponed, is a far more farcical one promised, as they end up being made debutante mugs over a subsequent six encounters, that also takes its toll on their domestic dreams, leaving their season in customary tatters, lagging behind with the rest of the also-rans.
Meanwhile Gooner eyes-down for another heart-in-mouth morning, waiting for the draw which will decide this season's carriage companions on the Champions League choo-choo?
Come on you Reds
The Tangerines’ fans weren’t going to let the trifling matter of annihilation spoil their big day out. I imagine we’ll witness few more staunchly supported sides at our place. Bless ‘em, the visitors spent much of the afternoon regaling us with a song about this being “the best trip we’ve ever been on”. But if a 6-0 drubbing is the most they can hope for on the road, it’s going to be one hell of a long season for the poor loves.
As much as it must feel like the fulfillment of every Tangerine dream to be a part of all the Premiership glitz & glamour, ironically, for Gooners like myself, who’ve had more than our fill of the infidelities of the footballing money-go-round, I’m actually looking forward to the real football reality check of a trip to the more humble environs of Bloomfield Road.
Considering the media’s massive David and Goliath build-up to Saturday’s first home encounter, it seemed downright ridiculous that a rules for rules sake red card, threatened to ruin the spectacle after only 30 mins. It was a tall enough task for the Tangerines with 11 on the pitch, but they made a decent enough fist of it, up until then. Unable to use his discretion, Mike Jones only added insult to injury, sending Evatt off, after awarding a dubious penalty for a foul on the edge of the box.
With the visitors own ambition being our best source of success, I feared it was doing us no favours for them to be forced to adopt a more conservative approach. Mercifully, despite Holloway’s subsequent best efforts at damage limitation, Blackpool’s immovable object proved no match for the Arsenal’s irresistible force. As one of those who’ve long been questioning whether Walcott is capable of developing the sort of intuitive football brain, no matter how many hours he spends on the training pitch, I reveled in Theo’s emphatic response to all his many critics.
As a particularly intelligent lad, I’ve always hoped that all it would take is the obligatory boost to his confidence, before Theo’s inhibited decision-making truly begins to blossom. I know it was only against 10-man Blackpool, but with Theo having inherited Henry’s no. 14 shirt, even the great man would’ve been proud of the composed way in which Walcott passed home his hat-trick goal, with his weaker foot. There’s little doubt that on his day, Theo has the capacity to terrorize any defence. I pray that this will prove to be the springboard needed, for Walcott to go on and have the sort of influential season we’ve all been waiting for.
There’ve been times in the past when we’ve been guilty of letting lesser opponents off the hook lightly, lacking the killer instinct necessary to make our dominance count. If I wanted to be hypercritical, Saturday’s game should really have resulted in a cricket score. But where previously our pretty passing game has floundered on the number of opposing bodies behind the ball, the most positive aspect was the cutting edge evident against Blackpool and a tempo that they simply couldn’t live with, thereby enabling us to convert possession into countless goal-scoring opportunities.
After a torrid hour, trailing in Walcott’s wake, left-back Crainey must’ve breathed a sigh of relief to see the last of Theo. But I almost felt sorry for the Seasiders, as it must’ve been positively soul-destroying at 5-0 down, to see the likes of our fresh-legged World Cup finalists, Fabregas and Van Persie, coming off the bench.
Despite a lack of service, I hadn’t been overly impressed with Chamakh’s apparent lack of appetite up at Anfield. However the Moroccan cut a much hungrier figure in his home debut. In heading home our 6th Chamakh served notice of what he might add to this Arsenal squad. But we’ll get a better idea at Blackburn next weekend, when our new striker will need to demonstrate that he’s equally capable of mixing it amidst the pre-requisite roughhouse tactics of Fat Sam’s side.
In ambling back onside, or failing to participate in forays forward, perhaps Shava is struggling for fitness, rather than it being a question of attitude. The diminutive Ruski has the sort of game-changing talent that makes it hard to exclude him from the starting XI but I hope his apparent lack of graft isn’t an indication of him taking his place for granted. The Seasiders were sardonically singing “Can we play you every week” and as much as I’d love to romp home 6-0 in every game, there won’t be many matches where the Gunners can afford to carry passengers.
After impressing in pre-season, no sooner do terrace songsmiths conjure up a new ditty dedicated to Samir Nasri, than the French midfielder is ruled out for at least a month. Similarly, a more long-term injury for Manny Frimpong must be a devastating blow for a youngster on the verge of hitting the big time. As for the motivation of the Machievellian William Gallas, in signing for the team at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road, I wouldn’t be surprised if he acted out of spite, after Arsène failed to make him feel sufficiently wanted for a return to London N5.
Doubtless my Spurs mates will be crowing about gaining revenge for our capture of Sol Campbell. But they might do well to remember Willie’s disruptive tendencies wherever he’s been. Hopefully Arsène is intent on addressing our obvious need for a more dominant personality between the posts, but the loss of old war-horses Campbell and Gallas has been tempered by the addition of Koscielny and now Squillaci, to beef up the Gunners defensive ranks. Besides which, Willie’s arrival at White Hart Lane might prove akin to pissing in Spurs engine and waiting for it all to blow up in Harry’s face?
Meanwhile the mood at our place is buoyant. It might never be Highbury, but Saturday’s visitors were suitably impressed. With the installation of a replica clock, the renaming of the stands (instead of different coloured quadrants), there’s an earnest effort to make the place feel more homely. But in truth, all that’s really required to transform our cavernous concrete arena, into a more comfy pair of slippers is the missing modicum of success.--
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