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Tuesday 14 December 2010

Never Mind The X-Factor, Where's The "Who Really Wants It" Quotient?

It’s been a highly entertaining first few months of the season, with so many sides capable of playing with the sort of panache that has enabled them to take points from anyone, on any given weekend. But in some respects it’s felt as if we’ve been treading water, waiting for one of the big guns to kick on. The question is, are the Gunners merely pacemakers, or can we prove ourselves to be something more, when it comes to the crunch?

Certainly not on the evidence of our performance at Old Trafford. After yet more foolhardy full-back play presented “three for a tenner” with a flukey lead, following 40 mins of far too tentative sparring, much like Chelsea’s rope-a-dope display at the Bridge, Utd sat back in the second half and invited us to do our worst.

Once again, sadly our worst wasn't nearly "bad" enough. It was as if the Gunners were firing BB pellets, offering little more than a mere stinging sensation as they bounced harmlessly back off Utd’s defence, while we prayed in vain for an attack of the calibre of Clint Eastwood’s Magnum, capable of punching the sort of hole that might mortally wound Fergie's mob.

With most Gooners having few illusions about our tenuous sojourn at the table's summit, we'd have gladly settled for a draw. But it's also as plain to us as the red nose on Fergie's miserable mush that unlike the competition, Wenger's side simply doesn't possess the resilience to set it's stall out with containment as it's principal ambition.

All credit to Utd's solidity, but contrary to all Arsène’s assurances as to the belief that exists in our squad, an arduous trek back South in the wee hours of Tuesday morning felt all the more wretched, knowing that we'd performed without any real conviction.

Doubtless Arsène will turn to the stats, to argue that we deserved better. But for all our possession, in playing with the handbrake on, the Gunners never brought the sort of vitality and pace to this party, to sufficiently unsettle a more resolute opposition.

It’s a contradiction in terms to accuse an indolent Arshavin of recklessness, but if our diminutive Ruski deserved to be booked, then surely Rio’s full-frontal assault was nothing less than ABH? But then you know you’ve endured another night of unfulfilled expectations at the Theatre of Dreams, when the highpoint of the evening was some hearty “fat, granny shagger” ribbing of Wayne Rooney.

This was in response to the red mist that descended as Rooney lost his rag, when for once “Fergie’s rent-boy” ref failed to rule in the home side’s favour. I’m unsure whether the 60,000 Muppets heeded their manager's request in his programme notes to desist with the paedo chants, or if it was merely the Arsenal’s impotence which failed to inspire the home fans wrath. But just as I expect the Gunners to rise to le Gaffer’s defence, by producing the goods on the pitch, I often fear that we might end up regretting rubbing the likes of Rooney up the wrong way with such inflammatory antics.

With the incessant shenanigans of Nani and Anderson and relentless appeals from the terraces, I suppose Webb’s seemingly fatal intervention was inevitable. Although in this instance I like to believe that we played a considerable part in Utd's failure to nail down the 3 points from the penalty spot. From where I stood, I got the distinct sense that instead of focusing on finding the back of the net, Rooney burned with such intense indignation that he was hell-bent on imparting sufficient impetus on the ball to force the taunts back down the throats of a couple of thousand Gooners.

Mercifully we can take some comfort from a solitary cause for optimism, in the promising league debut of a young keeper, who might just have the necessary presence and personality to fill this gaping hole in the Gunners armour. Now if only Arsène could chance upon the Premiership Holy Grail of an equally charismatic outfield leader, the sort of character who might appreciate the significance of Rooney’s miss and who’d recognize this as the moment to step up and try to inspire his teammates to turn the screw, by grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck.

No matter if such efforts had resulted in glorious failure, it would’ve been far less unsatisfying than trudging away from the architectural wastelands of Old Trafford, wondering why we’ve put ourselves through the wringer once again, schlepping to the North-West on a Monday night, for a contest that was more Strictly Come Dancing than X-Factor, to support a side that’s patently failed another crucial examination of the hunger and desire quotient that’s likely to be the telling factor in a “who really wants it” title race.

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