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Tuesday 3 January 2012

The Cracks Begin To Show At The Cottage

Hopefully the method in Le Prof’s madness will be revealed come May, but in the meantime it’s hard to appreciate the logic of sending Frimpong out on loan to assist Mick McCarthy in rotating 5 players for Wolves second game in 48-hours, while le Gaffer was forced to field 9 of the same fatigued combatants from the Gunners’ gossamer thin squad at Fulham.

The craic is always up to 90 at Craven Cottage, with travelling fans occupying the entire Putney Stand behind the goal. As such a firm favourite on the awayday calendar, I was all the more gutted to be bedridden with a debilitating lurgy, missing out on all the entertaining hi-jinks. Sadly it’s a barometer of how fearful we are of Spurs good form, when nearly all the terrace banter is focused on our neighbours and Harry “he pays tax when he wants” Redknapp’s impending date with the Inland Revenue.

Yet watching a rare Arsenal display on the telly was a reminder of how damaging to the health this can be. I’d hoped that the Gunners might’ve learned a lesson from leaden-footed efforts of all those who’d frittered points away over the hectic festive period. But sadly not, as there was an incredibly frustrating air of inevitability to the outcome at the Cottage, once we’d failed to kill the game of in the first-half. It seemed patently obvious that a slender single goal lead wasn’t enough to prevail against the determined talents of Dempsey, Ruis, Dembele, Zamora and co., but instead of trying to force the issue, we made the fatal and somewhat arrogant mistake of attempting to rest on our laurels.

I felt most sorry for Koscielny, because as just about our most consistent player so far, he’d more than earned his moment of glory. And after Sczczny’s feats to keep us in the game, our gutsy young keeper definitely didn’t deserve to end up as the villain of this dissatisfying piece.

Wenger’s teams have never been designed for “shutting shop” even when at full strength, never mind with our decimated defence and a flagging midfield. The truth of the matter is that we’ve been riding our luck, eking out the results, ever since we lost the last of our recognized full-backs to injury. But this didn’t diminish the strain on my blood-pressure, while I bellowed my exasperation at an inanimate box as we blew the 3 points, knowing that Spurs could have 9 more points in the bag (three home games) before we next travel to Swansea!

Nevertheless if you’d told any Gooner three weeks into the calamitous start to our campaign, or even in mid-October when we were floundering in 15th place, that we’d be turning the corner at the halfway mark, having clambered right back up to 5th, there would’ve been few complaints. Until the unfortunate demise of all four full-backs, we were making an extremely good-fist of our resurgence.

Hopefully with Titi chomping at the bit, the hero’s return will offer a much-needed boost to morale. But even at the height of his powers, Henry couldn’t paper over the huge fissions in this Arsenal squad. We can but pray that le Prof might learn from the defeat at Fulham that he simply cannot continue to rely on playing square pegs in round holes on either side of the park.

It hasn’t gone without notice that Henry’s brief sojourn will end with our trip to the San Siro and the Derby game against Spurs but I hope all the hoo-haa surrounding his arrival won’t deflect from our desperate need for more permanent relief for Van Persie, before the burden of goal-scoring pressure begins to take its toll on Robin.

Meanwhile the consensus seems to believe that so long as our competitors continue to be blighted by inconsistency, if we can somehow cling on to their coat-tails until we’re capable of fielding our strongest XI, there could still be a happy-ending to this campaign. Although evidence of Gooner expectation adjustment is demonstrated in the fact that our unrequited thirst for silverware has all but been forgotten, in our anxiety about finishing above Tottenham.

Deluded optimism perhaps, but if we should fail to finish in the top four, then I guess we’ll just have to go and win the bloomin’ Champions League!

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