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Tuesday 13 March 2012

Toon Insert A Tazar Up The Arsenal

I spent much of the weekend struggling to resist the temptation to gloat over Spurs defeat at Goodison, for fear of tempting fate. But with seemingly little tread left on the three wheels of the wobbly White Hart Lane wagon and with the auld enemy leaving the door wide agape, for the Gunners to be able to whittle a massive ten point gap right back down to one (all within the space of a sensational 16 days), I strolled around to the ground last night after a gorgeous, sun-soaked Spring day in the capital, increasingly convinced that Pardew’s Barcodes were bound to rain on our parade. I was pessimistically predicting that it wouldn’t be completely out of character for us to fall flat on our Arse as we attempted to cross the threshold into a fantasy land that was less credulous than Narnia only a few short weeks back.

Pardew does appear blessed with the ability to galvanize his troops, but Tiote & co. set about putting a muscular spoke in the Gunners’ engine, with such physical intent that they forgot to play football. Yet where we’ve been bullied out of our rhythm in the past and wilted under similar pressure, there are promising signs of hardier Arsenal perennials amongst this season’s crop, in the likes of Walcott and Rosicky rediscovering a willingness to resist all efforts to steal their sunlight.

However, as evidenced by the electrifying response, both on and off the pitch, in some respects, it was probably fortunate that Ben Arfa found the back of the net with the Toon’s solitary moment of fluid football. It was as if a Tazar had been inserted up the Arsenal.

I’ve been touting my own “Pay him what he wants” version of the Van Persie “scores when he wants” ditty. Yet in spite of Robin’s almost instantaneous rejoinder, by his own stratospheric standards, this was a decidedly bad day at the office. The longer the Geordies resisted the fairly relentless, second-half waves of red & white pressure, the more I began to fear yet another "coulda, woulda, shoulda" conclusion.

However as we wallowed in the post-match euphoria of Tommie Vermaelen’s tremendous last gasp triumph, it was my neighbour who pointed out that if one didn’t know any better, you might conclude that the denouement of this campaign had been specifically designed to “pump up the volume” at what was previously our far too passive new home.

All too often in the six seasons since the move, I’ve had cause to complain about the sterile atmosphere and our theatre-like audience’s inability to influence games, in the manner that we’re accustomed to at more fervent grounds. How gratifying it is that in the space of the past three matches, the Grove seems to have suddenly found it’s voice. Quite apart from refusing to accept a draw, with the crowd’s contribution in roaring the team on to this victory and the North Bank successfully sucking the ball into the back of the net, I’m convinced we had a definite influence on the addition of those five vital minutes of injury time, with our relentless and somewhat OTT objections to Krul eeking out the clock with every goalkick.

I had some sympathy for the likes of Ben Arfa and Cabaye, as they spent the second half, watching the ball sailing over their heads for the few brief moments that the visitors retained possession. With Pardew paying such devoted homage to the Harry Bassett school of percentage foot(head!)ball, in the end it was poetic justice that our panache won the day. Not to mention being one in the eye for so many of the Emirates’ premature evacuators. I had a couple of irritating tourists sitting on the other side of me, yapping the entire game through. I couldn’t help but feel that in their unfathomable efforts to beat the queues at the station, they’d got exactly what they deserved, by missing out on such a magical climax.

Meanwhile I couldn’t help but spare a thought for all my mortified Spurs mates, watching with their fingers prematurely poised on the text message “send” button, counting their cockerels as the 90 minutes came and went. They should take comfort in the fact that there’s likely to be plenty of twists & turns still to come in such a topsy-turvy season.

Don’t ask me how, but having miraculously managed to gain a foothold on 3rd place (with the likes of Santos, Diaby and Wilshere still waiting in the wings), the big question now is that with little else to fight for, can we continue to maintain the same focus and intensity, for the sort of positive sprint-finish that can truly provide Van Persie with sufficient promise for his future?

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