Come the revolution (assuming it hasn’t already started!), it will be the fixture schedulers who’ll be first up against my wall, due to their customary lack of consideration for the long-suffering travelling fans, without whom the Premiership’s multi-million pound TV product might not be nearly so palatable.
Nevertheless, with the dampeners having been put on any remaining new season optimism, by the depressing anti-climax of a scoreless draw in our late KO at St James, I’m sure that unlike this aging wet-blanket, there were plenty of Gooners who didn’t particularly mind being stuck on Tyneside, with this at least offering them the solace of an excuse for a Saturday night out on the Toon.
Saturday night in Newcastle city centre has to be seen to be believed. It’s not that different to the London riots, albeit with revelry foremost on the minds of the thronging crowds rather than mayhem and destruction, mercifully there’s less of the burning and looting; while the masked faces give way too a little too much unflattering, bare-naked flesh, tottering around on high heels, with gangs of lads in their Saturday best sniffing around in their highly scented wake.
Yet this old fart was relieved to escape to the refuge of my hotel room with a takeaway, to watch Match of the Day. Where as if to highlight the lack of incisiveness of the Arsenal’s uninspiring display, the first two matches showed former Gunners Fabrice Muamba and Seb Larssen banging in spectacular goals for Bolton and Sunderland.
It was always a matter of not if, but when Fabregas would return to Barca and as for Nasri, in his shoes, I’m not sure many of us would be able to resist the lure of doubling our wages, with Mancini’s burgeoning army of mercenaries (although this didn’t stop me from joining in with the derogatory adaptation of Nasri’s chant!). Above all else, my greatest concern over the loss of two world class talents, is that the entire burden of responsibility to unlock the tightest defences might now fall upon the (hopefully broad) shoulders of young Jack Wilshere.
There might’ve been a time when taking a point from St James Park was not to be sniffed at, but any team hoping to challenge for honours would be expected to take all three from the sort of tame Toon outfit we enountered on Saturday. There were some positives and the loss of Gervinho’s much needed dynamism going forward could prove a costly blow in games against Liverpool and Man Utd. There’s also no doubting that Thomas Vermaelen’s tenacity leaves our defence looking a whole lot more secure, compared to the hesitancy we’ve witnessed while the Belgian has struggled with his fitness. However in Wilshere’s absence, sadly it seems obvious that we can’t rely on Rosicky for that crucial spark of creativity and such was our lack of potency going forward, on an off day for Van Persie, that we made Coloccini look like Carlos Puyol!
The consensus of opinion suggests that players need a couple of matches under their belt to recover their sharpness. An overweight looking Arshavin certainly doesn’t need more under his belt, but then his immobility around the pitch is perhaps more a matter of a lack of motivation? Meanwhile if the Gunners aren’t to rediscover some form, only to find our season is already over, then Alex Song badly needs to bring his A game to the party. Mercifully Song’s incarnation of the Cameroonian stamp remained unfranked, but he was a certainty for the ref’s attentions for much of the afternoon, with a string of fouls that resulted from him constantly having to make recovery tackles because our midfield destroyer was so slow off the mark.
It was disappointing that Walcott wasn’t able to make any sort of impact when he came off the bench, but hopefully the threat of our newest arrival from the South coast will prove to be the catalyst for Theo to finally fulfill all that promise. Unless Arsene intends for us to operate with two diminutive terriers tearing down the flanks –Oxlade-Chamberlain might be an expensive investment on the back of one’s shirt but please don’t hold it against him for being a descendant of Britain’s “peace in our time” PM!
I’m sure subsequent results will demonstrate that it only requires limited ability to dominate Pardew’s particularly lacklustre outfit but I didn’t end up too downhearted, as I spent much of this match waiting for the Toon to nick a win from a solitary assault on our goal.
Although it wasn’t until I sat down to watch El Classico on Sunday that I really began to feel daunted, as Real and Barca produced a thrilling performance, which really put the overall paucity of entertainment of the Premiership’s weekend offerings in the shade. When one considers the wealth of talent in the Catalan squad, I can’t help wonder if Wenger has missed a trick, when we might have profited more from a player exchange plus cash for the sale of our skipper? Ultimately the Arsenal will survive the loss of Cesc and Samir, but to contemplate a future after the departure of Eboué, now there’s real cause to don sackcloth and ashes!
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