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Monday 15 November 2010

À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu

I always look forward to the annual Everton expedition. Like a comfortable pair of battered old shoes, Goodison Park remains a Coronation Street style peoples’ palace, compared to the modern glass and steel aesthetics of the Gunners’s iconic Canary Wharf-like atheneum. With chips & gravy for all, under the familiar shadow of Dixie Dean’s fixed bronze stare, rather than the exclusive surroundings of the Arsenal’s 190 quid a head pre-match haute-cuisine.

Followed by 90 minutes spent dodging either side of a post holding up the roof, in the positively ancient Archibald Leitch environs of the wooden Upper Bullens enclosure of the Toffees’ Grand Old Lady. Some jocular banter with the Scousers and best of all, skipping round Stanley Park, heading back to Lime Street station with three points in the bag, making just about bearable the traditional Sunday train delays due to seemingly inexorable signal failures and engineering works, which turn the return trip into a riotous Red Army trudge.

Moyes was spot on about neither side being at their best, but I’m certainly not bellyaching about it. It’s been a while since we awoke on a Monday morning to find the Gunners breathing down the neck of the league leaders. I imagine there’ll be plenty of pundits prognosticating about the Arsenal’s capabilities of mounting a credible challenge. Nevertheless, while the league table may never lie, the more avid spectators amongst us will confirm that the Wenger Boys still look some way short of convincing title-winning material.

I almost felt sorry for the Wolves fans on Wednesday, their evening spoiled by a first and last minute Chamakh attack that once again left Mick's Black Country boys feeling deservedly hard done by. And if Everton had pulled a goal back on Sunday with a little more time left on the clock for a Canonières meltdown, we might just as easily have collected a mere deux points, instead of six, from our forays North these past few days and would be going into Saturday’s big derby, with the Gareth Bale show arriving in buoyant mood, our neighbours retaining misguided delusions of reeling the old enemy back in.

Instead of which, our annual St. Totteringham’s Day festivities suddenly hove into view, with their customary inevitable feel, as we soar into 2nd, five places and seven points to the good of Harry Redknapp’s 'glory, glory' wannabees. On the face of it, with our squad returning to something vaguely resembling full-strength, with the likes of Van Persie and Walcott cooling their heels on the bench, hopefully impatiently waiting to remind us what they have to bring to the Red & White party and our manager getting more than his fair share, everything is looking decidedly rosy. So why am I not feeling more a flutter with excitement at the prospect of the Gunners kicking on?

Sure Cesc Fabregas finished Everton off in fine style on Sunday, with the culmination of a sadly all too rare flourish of dainty “pass & move” football at it’s very best. However considering how accustomed we’ve grown to Fabregas being the Gunners creative fulcrum, the inspiration behind all our most incisive moves, it’s disconcertingly evident in recent weeks that the Arsenal’s formerly shy and retiring skipper has developed into an all together different, more resentful creature.

After seeing Heittinga trying to bully young Jack Wilshere, to the point where poor Jack was left nursing his bruised limbs on the bench after the break, it’s not the occasional evidence of the Gunners biting back that bothers me, as many might contend that a sighting of this sort of mettle is long overdue. However Cesc’s couple of rash tackles, his recent relentless tendency to try (and more often than not fail!) to pick the perfect through ball and the fact that Fab’s struggling with that World Class trait of finding time and space in the most frenetic of circumstances, this might all be construed as evidence of his personal Barca frustrations boiling over and having a negative impact on the pitch?

I was gutted when Howard denied Samir Nasri a potential goal of the season on Sunday, following the French midfielder’s mazy run from inside his own half. Hopefully with the likes of Nasri and Wilshere stepping into the limelight, we’ll no longer be quite so reliant on the promptings of our Spanish pass-master. I’m certain Cesc will continue to shine when the Gunners are on song but it’s when our backs are against the wall that any underlying bitterness is more likely to manifest itself.

I sincerely hope time proves me wrong, but truth be told, I’d have rather Cesc had packed his bags for the Nou Camp than to have him trash so many wonderful memories, should we have to spend the duration questioning whether our skipper’s heart has long since departed London N5.

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Anonymous said...

He has not been at his imperious best this season but signs are that he is coming around and at least he is busting a gut out there regardless of how well he is playing. I don't doubt his committment to our cause-regardless of whether he still wants to go home or not.

Anonymous said...

Give Cesc a break. He had a difficult summer, whatever way you look at it, didn't have a proper pre-season and has been struggling with injury when he has played this season. But he's on his way back now and is geting better with every game. He loves Arsenal, loves the fans, has nothing but respect and gratitude for Wenger. He clearly loves Barcelona too, but I for one don't believe he bears grudges because he didn't get to go there in the summer. I don't doubt his commitment and wish the fans would give him the benefit of the trust and belief he deserves. If they can't give him that, why on earth would we deserve his continued commitment?