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Monday 5 December 2011

Wojciech Is Our Leader

Like most car drivers, I much prefer being master of my own destiny, rather than getting drenched in both directions, trudging from Wigan station to the JJB and hanging around, waiting for trains. But it was definitely worth schlepping to the North-West for a soaking on Saturday. What’s more the journey back to London reminded me that there are some advantages to letting the train take the strain, enabling me to compare notes as I commiserated with a Lactics supporting resident of Stoke, until we changed trains at Crewe. Then adopting an all-together more cocky demeanour, as I shared my journey back to ‘the smoke’ with a bunch of understandably smug City fans (thereby disproving the theory that it’s only the red half of Manchester who travel South for the winter!).

It’s a far more genuine melting pot of football opinion, compared to the ear-bashing one gets when isolated in a smaller tin can on the motorway, listening to the opinionated lunatics who bombard the radio phone-ins on route home from games. Many of whose only comprehension of the quid pro quo relationship of those on the terraces (where the reward enjoyed is in direct-proportion to the amount of effort expended), involves the sacrifice made when forced to tarry on the sofa in front of the TV, instead of fetching another tin from the fridge!

For the 5000 travelling Gooner faithful, our pay-off for the purgatory of an outing to the industrial wastelands of Wigan (obviously aside from 90 unspoiled minutes of our demonstration of how the beautiful game should be played) came immediately after the final-whistle, in a few brief moments of joyous communion with our Polish keeper. After the more traditional token of his teammates’ appreciation as they tossed their shirts into the crowd, Wojciech Sczczny secured his entry into Gooner folklore, as he lingered to lead us all in a chorus of “we’re by far the greatest team”.

Who knows, after spending the entire afternoon virtually unemployed, standing around in the rain, perhaps "the Shez" was merely seizing upon an expedient opportunity to get his blood pumping. But no matter how sincere, it felt like much more to us. So even in the event that we’re forced to endure yet another fruitless season, it’s likely to prove a whole lot more satisfying than any of late because of this sense of some sorely missed, emotional commitment from the lads.

Not that our Carling Cup exit has caused me to write off all hope of a trophy, before we’ve even put the Xmas tree up. Traditionally that’s my Spurs pals’ prerogative prior to lighting the Chanukah candles. I don’t think many of us expected to endure against City. Yet on the night, there was very little to choose between the massed ranks of Mancini’s petro-dollar dandies and Arsène’s coterie of Carling Cup kids (of the calibre of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Frimpong & Coquelin), aside from the crucial difference between a thoroughbred strikeforce and our couple of goal shy geldings.

Unless Wenger can add some potency up front during the transfer window, all our eggs will remain finely balanced in our flying Dutchman’s all too fragile basket. Still there’s an auspicious tinge to drawing dirty Leeds in the FA Cup and so long as our confidence continues to blossom, we might yet give the big boys a run for their money in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

But we shouldn’t get carried away, on the back of a 4-0 win against lowly Wigan. While the “oles” echoed out from our terrace behind the goal on Saturday, for the first time this season, I rather suspect that the return of our mickey-taking ability to maintain control of the ball and the sight of Miguel Arteta finally influencing play in the last third of the pitch, was no coincidence and was largely due to the opposition’s dreadfully stand-offish display. Based on this showing, Wigan require a drastic improvement, if the extremely likeable Martinez and his friendly football club aren’t to be inexorably doomed.

We've Got Gervinho

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