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Monday 24 January 2011

We'll Be Running Around Wembley.....

(seems my premature Alzheimers struck again, as I neglected to post last week's missive - feel free to ignore, but being such a pedant I felt obliged to maintain my weekly record, without allowing this one to go AWOL)

Make no mistake about it, if by parking their tractors on the goal-line, Ipswich manage to triumph on Tuesday night, there'll be more than a few amongst the Gooner faithful who'll be extremely miffed about missing out on a Carling Cup final.

Truth be told, if the mighty Gunners can’t beat the agricultural East Anglian outfit, then perhaps we really don’t deserve a trip to Wembley. But if we should still find ourselves fighting on all four fronts this morning, I can’t help but wonder if Arsène will end up regretting his customary reluctance to dig into the club’s supposed bulging coffers, in order to bolster our squad during the transfer window.

His mantra has always been that he won’t buy players unless they’re better than those he already has. But while on their day, the Arsenal’s best XI are capable of beating anyone, I fear that we might be in danger of being found out, should our squad find itself reduced to the bare bones. With games coming thick and fast and the furious and combative pace of so many of these high-stakes contests, it seems obvious to me our star performers are at risk of falling victim to the law of averages as far as injuries are concerned.

In fact, the closer the squad comes to reaching full strength, the more inclined I am to be holding my breath, every time one of our influential stars takes a tumble. Aside from the obvious perils of assorted tears and strains, when producing such bursts of speed in arctic conditions, endless encounters with opponents who are primarily focused on snuffing out the Gunners fast-flowing passing game, might lead one to conclude that our star players are more likely to end up lame because they’re on the receiving end of so much belligerent attention.

Yet while the likes of Harry has no qualms about raiding Spurs’ piggy bank, in an effort to add the sort of strength in depth that might offer our neighbours more hope of punching above their weight in the home straight, not only does Arsène refuse to twist but instead of sticking, he’s sending out the likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, one of the brightest stars in the Brady firmament, on loan for the remainder of the season.

Personally I pray le Prof gets it right, as you can sense the drip, drip, drip of Gooners running out of patience with our manager’s obdurate reliance on the resources at hand. For all his perceived blind spots, I remain a firm believer that there is ‘no better man’ for the job. But boy do we need a silver bauble or two to pacify those “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”. It’s not enough that we get to savour such sumptuous entertainment, without fear of having the club’s future mortgaged to the hilt; success is everything.

Our midweek outing in Leeds was a real throwback evening, a rare reminder nowadays of the tangible 12th man advantage of such an intensely raucous atmosphere; complete with the obligatory Neanderthals spoiling for a brawl and burly, brusque Yorkshire old bill, solely focused on herding riotous Gooners onto our train back down South.

I was half-minded to stop and watch the match on the box, with my elderly Ma after she landed up in hospital with her leg in plaster. At 77, she puts the Nancy Boy footballers to shame, as the lunatic was limping around for a couple of days prior, even putting the bins out with her fractured limb! But I’d have been gutted to miss out on such a memorable outing and I’d have soon fallen out with her consultant for appearing at 8pm. My Ma wasn’t exactly over the moon when she turned the TV back on after his brief visit, only to discover she’d missed the first goal.

We nearly contrived to miss Nasri’s perfectly timed opener ourselves, ending up legging it from a ‘sherbet’ stuck in gridlock traffic approaching the ground, arriving (staggered according to our relative fitness or lack thereof!) with moments to spare, before seeing Samir suck all the wind from Leeds’ sails. After the unsung Sagna’s stunner had been overshadowed by Johnson’s howitzer, giving the home fans a glimmer of hope at half-time, psychologically I’m certain the appearance of Fabregas and Van Persie from the bench must’ve been the straw which broke the back of any lingering FA Cup fantasies.

I was late again for the Wigan game, but in stark contrast to the intense excitement of Elland Road, the casual lack of urgency apparent in all the other latecomers on Saturday, was almost symptomatic of the rare predictability of a what proved to be as routine a win as you are likely to see in the Premiership these days. A fact reflected in a contingent of travelling Lactic fans that must’ve struggled to fill a mini-bus!

If Van Persie isn’t just flirting with a rich vein of form and Robin can remain fit long enough to quell my natural pessimism with a return to his prolific best, the Gunners might gain sufficient momentum for me to concur with those pundits proclaiming us as the team most likely to give Man Utd a run for their money. But until I’m convinced of the fortitude around the fringes of our squad, Cup success seems far more feasible.

We can hardly afford to be fussy after five barren seasons and I’d gladly run round the Emirates with my todger waving in the wind, to express my delight at seeing Fabregas lift a trophy of any description.

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