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Monday 21 November 2011

Never Mind Being Put Out To Grass Me'thinks Arsène Much Prefers Chowing Down In His Technical Area

Hi folks,

I just wanted to thank all those who were kind enough to send me birthday greetings last week. I was hoping to let the anniversary of my half-century slide by with as little ado as possible. Fat chance of that in the Facebook and Twitter era! :-)

The Irish Examiner were also good enough to give me the weekend off (with no domestic competition and the big story being the Boys In Green's qualification for Euro 2012), which is. the reason I've been so taciturn these past two weeks. But much like the mighty Gunners, I'm back with a vengeance, looking forward to my midweek trip to Piebury Corner....I mean the Emirates.

I'm still not sure if I was having my leg pulled on route to Carrow Road on Saturday, with the tale that the local council have renamed a street in the vicinity "Letsbe Avenue" and while I might have indicated below that "Harry's going down" was the ditty of the day in our corner of the Jarrold Stand, if I'd repeated details of Gooners relentless references to the locals tendency towards incestuous behaviour, such remarks would've only ended up on the sport's editor's floor at the Examiner (obviously due to their impropriety, rather than any suggestion that it might be thought of as being close to the bone in the West of the Emerald Isle :-) . In truth our constant chants only left me contemplating the ugliness of East Anglian sheep and I assumed our taunts were all made in jest, until we were given a lift back to the motor by a kindly local, who alleged that it's not that uncommon in a classroom of 15 kids for 10 of them to be related!

Nevertheless such suggestions of a limited Norfolk gene pool don't go very far in explaining why the XI who turned out in yellow on Saturday all appeared to have left feet

Big Love


I imagine the more morbid amongst us might already be donning their sackcloth and ashes, if any of them are gullible enough to accept as gospel, the incessant reams of “redtop” media claptrap. Having prematurely sounded the Arsenal’s death knell earlier in the season, these low-brow seers would now have us believe that our manager will soon throw the towel in, accepting top billing with our last remaining world class talent, in the Arsenal’s remake of the Exodus.

Benjamin Franklin got it wrong, death and taxes are no less inescapable than the fact that nothing in football exists in perpetuity. Yet despite the looming inevitability (with each passing season) of the dawning of the day when Arsène Wenger eventually decides to hand over the reins, or the dreaded moment when Robin Van Persie finally hangs up his red & white shirt for the last time, why bother brooding on such perturbing permutations in the future, when there’s so much to savour in the here and now?

With its participants never more than the width of a post, or one bad tackle away from greeting fortune or disaster, with each passing appearance, never mind about next summer, the beautiful game is such a capricious creature that it’s impossible to predict what will come to pass next week. In the decade since Fergie made the mistake of announcing his impending retirement, he’s added a Champions League trophy and 5 titles to his insatiable haul of baubles. While many a lesser man might have long since succumbed to the unrelenting pressure of Premiership management, much like Fergie, I can’t quite envisage Arsene being ready to tend to his roses just yet.

Qualification for Champions League football might be a minimum requirement in le Gaffer’s mind, but following our early season wake up call, the only essential obligation for most Gooners is that we finish above our own increasingly noisy neighbours. As demonstrated by Saturday’s amusing ditty of the day at Carrow Road. “Harry’s going down”, why worry about the Gunners future, when we can revel in the Schadenfreude of Spurs fate, with them caught between a rock and a hard place. If Redknapp wriggles his way out of his upcoming prosecution by the Inland Revenue, he removes the stain on his reputation barring his route to becoming the next England manager (at least until another bone slips out from amongst all the skeletons in Harry’s closet!).

We need look no further than our first outing to Norwich in 7 years for a rationale as to why it would be pie in the sky for us to be aiming too much higher. The last time I needed my sunglasses to curb the glare of Canary yellow, Henry, Bergkamp and Pires were on the scoresheet. Theo Walcott might’ve begun to offer the odd glimmer of hope that he’s discovering the sort of consistency, which might finally enable him to live up to all the teenage hype. Yet the fact remains that at this precise point in time, the class of 2011 is a pale shadow of the star-studded Invincibles of yesteryear.

Losing Jenkinson and Gibbs to long-term injuries that leave us with the Brazilian laughing boy, as our solitary recognized full-back was a bit of a body blow (especially in light of Santos’ bizarre interpretation of his defensive role!). Nevertheless I felt a lot less anxious at the weekend with Koscielny standing in at right-back, rather than Djourou. Despite our lumbering German’s costly dalliance on the ball, it was hard to believe we could end up blowing this match, so long as Walcott, Gervinho and RVP continued to tear the Canaries apart at will. Although I must admit that after Norwich had profited from their first and only first-half effort on goal, there was a point when our umpteenth effort failed to find the back of the net that I begun to wonder if the curse of ref Dowd was destined to continue.

While the numbers turning up for treatment, instead of training at London Colney continue to increase at such a disconcerting rate and with no viable substitute for Van Persie, one can’t help but wonder if Messrs. Henry & Pires might end up being invited to do a little more than merely maintain their fitness with the lads? And it doesn’t help to hear that Mancini was able to leave the likes of Silva & Dzeko with their feet up on the bench, as they set about truncheoning the Toon into submission!

Perhaps we’ll have to wait for the African Cup of Nations to take its toll on City’s squad, but I’m confident they’ll hit a blip at some stage. I only hope this happens before all the media bluenosing results in them becoming completely wrapped in a cloak of invincibility. It would be too much to bear if the Quataris end up buying their way to beating our own prestigious record.

Still with Man Utd making such heavy weather of their trip to Wales and with both Chelsea and the Scousers vying for least likely contender, so long as the spirited likes of Vermaelen and Sczczny can continue inspiring the lads to grind out the wins, whilst we attempt to rediscover our rhythm, or the return of the likes of Wilshere aids this renaissance, I remain optimistic of the return to top billing on Match of the Day, which would signify that the Gunners might yet play a significant role in the title shake-up, even if it’s only to poop Mancini’s party.

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