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Monday 30 April 2012

It's Never Over 'Til It's Over

As a Gooner, you simply can’t sit and watch this evening’s Mancunian derby without feeling more than a little envious that we’re not involved in this exciting photo-finish, with the Arsenal lagging so far behind, battling it out amongst the also-rans.

Like everyone else, from a cold clinical perspective, I’ve been saying all season that I don’t want City to be Champions because of what this says about our game and how team spirit and genuine feeling for the club count for so very little nowadays, in the face of the relentless onslaught of club owners with the deepest pockets.

Nevertheless, anyone who’s capable of riling ol’ Red Nose is alright in my book and from an emotional perspective, as hard as I try, I simply can’t help but feel pleased for all those long-suffering, incredibly loyal City fans, who are finally savouring their moment in the limelight.

I very much doubt I’d have been quite so delighted if $amir Na$ri had wiggled his way into crowning City’s glory with a second goal at the death, but if Gael Clichy had miraculously managed to find the back of the net with his thumping effort, it would’ve been hard not to feel happy for the former Gunner.

Based on Gael’s consummately professional performance against Utd, many might think we were wrong to have flogged him. However, in my humble opinion, Clichy needed a fresh challenge, as he’d lost this sort of focus at the Arsenal. It’s not for nothing that there’s a truism about the necessity for either changing players, or manager every few years!

Meanwhile after enjoying the nervous intensity of tonight’s high-pressure encounter as a neutral, perhaps the most noticeable difference between our gossamer thin squad and that of both City & Utd is the strength in depth on the bench, with them having the likes of Balotelli, Dzeko, Welbeck & Young to turn to when Plan A unravels, compared to a striker who currently looks far more comfortable controlling a hookah pipe than a football!

Bring on Lucas Podolski!

Big Love


Unless one happens to be a big fan of the local delicacy of bland as brick-dust Oatcakes, an outing to the Potteries has the same allure of a trip to the dentist. Despite knowing that it’s likely to be another agonizing experience, one continues to partake in this masochistic ritual, in hope of filling the cavities that will ensure one’s teeth don’t fall out in the future.

To continue with my dental analogy, according to the law of averages doubtless there must come a day when Tony Pullis’ dour drill will eventually fall silent and we Gooners will depart from the Britannia with a smile on our faces and a triumphant lollipop to prove that we’ve made progress, but sadly Saturday’s encounter only served to reiterate many of the Arsenal’s more obvious orthodontic imperfections.

Nevertheless, it was a relief to come away with a conciliatory point, knowing how much more painful it could’ve been to have lost all three and some comfort that at least the Gunners didn’t merely lie back, open-mouthed and invite Stoke to repeat the sort of root canal trauma that we’ve endured at the Britannia in the past.

Yet in the majority of cases, it appeared to be a taxing effort for our over-stretched and far too flaccid looking squad, to clamber back into the chair. Although Van Persie continues to conjure up the sort of goal-scoring chances that are instinctive to a player of his supremely gifted ilk, it’s patently obvious that our Robin Reliant is running on empty. In the face of Stoke’s customarily physical attentions, RVP spent much of the 90 minutes struggling to stay on his feet.

As with the vast majority of other opponents, even with Stoke’s comparatively limited resources, Pullis has four strikers in his stable, able to turn to the likes of Ricardo Fuller & Kenwyne Jones, in the event that Crouch or Walters run out of steam. I’ve spent the past few seasons predicting that Van Persie was due an undisturbed period of fitness and it’s a crying shame that this has eventually transpired, at a time when the remainder of the Arsenal squad have declined into mediocrity, relative to the beautiful football we’ve grown accustomed to in recent times.

Yet the contribution of our flying Dutchman has become so critical as a result, that it seems tantamount to criminal negligence on Arsène’s part, for a club with the profile of the Gunners to be travelling to such arduous end-of-season fixture, without a single, viable, alternative striking option!

Sure we had Chamakh on the bench and while we were all baying for Chamberlain from behind the goal, I can appreciate the logic of throwing the Morrocan into the fray, as a gamble in the dying throes, in the feint hope of an airborne assist for a teammate to convert into a game-winning goal. But while Wenger was in the dressing room, I happened to notice Chamakh struggling to control the ball during the subs half-time kickabout. Poor Marouanne appears so desperately devoid of confidence that he seemed skittish just being out on the pitch, like a startled Wildebeest looking up from grazing to realize that the rest of his herd have long since migrated.

By contrast our pygmy Ox could’ve been guaranteed to put his head down and charge. Perhaps le Prof wanted to protect our latest prodigy from Stoke’s predatory instincts. But with Gervinho proving no less impotent than any of his peers since their return from darkest Africa, at the very least the positively fearless ankle-biter, Alex, would’ve provided us fans with far more bang for our bucks.

In the context of the immolation of The Toon’s European fantasy, we tried to talk up our draw on the return trip, but our “where’s your famous atmosphere” taunts only served as a reminder that with Stoke having so little to play for, we’d failed to take advantage of the fact that this wasn’t exactly the Britannia at its most fervent. With the exception of a solitary rendition of “Delilah”, their sarcastic parody of Le Prof’s petulant touchline frenzy was the highpoint of the home crowds’ animation the entire afternoon.

The meagre highlights on the box hardly lent weight to Wenger’s tantrum, with Yossi’s penalty shout appearing particularly soft on camera. But from our perspective behind the goal, Benayoun received such a forceful shove in the back, that it seemed a stick-on claim for a spot-kick, causing even Mike Pejic, the decidedly biased local radio pundit to admit “we got away with one there”!

Needless to say, I’ll be left feeling a whole lot less anxious if we can nail 3rd place with victory against Norwich, as on current form I really don’t fancy travelling to the Hawthornes needing a win from Roy Hodgson’s West Brom curtain call.
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Saturday 28 April 2012

One day we'll enjoy a trip to the Britannia!

Even Stoke City's own radio thought it was a penalty second half! After the final whistle

Thursday 26 April 2012

You Can Stick Your Early KOs Up The Arse

G’day Gooners,

It goes completely against the grain for me to have been screaming for the Germans last night, but the logic is that it's going to be that much more enjoyable to see Chelsea get beat in the final, knowing that smug bastard Mourinho won't be the one to profit.

One might’ve assumed that the death of entertainment on offer in Saturday’s non-event of a Derby would’ve left me with little to “write home about”, but somehow the limitations of the Irish Examiner’s wordage requirements have resulted in me having to omit a whole heap of anecdotal musings from my weekly meanderings below.

So feel perfectly free to scroll straight down to my regular weekly missive (even if it is a little outdated by now) unless you’ve really nothing better to do than to while away he remainder of your day, absorbing what's likely to be the sort of inordinately long-winded preamble that's almost guaranteed to result in verbal indigestion.

I'd love to see some stats on how frequently we've lost the toss at home and how often this has resulted in the visitors turning us around? I certainly don't recall playing towards the North Bank in the first half many times, but I don't know whether this means we're just a bunch of very lucky (coin) tossers, or that other opponents haven't thought of playing this card. But after turning us around served Wigan so well on Monday (with Martinez demonstrating his tactical astuteness even before a ball had been kicked!), I think it's fairly safe to assume it was no coincidence that Chelsea did likewise. In which case, we're going to have to learn to deal with this possibility poste haste, to ensure that we're not completely thrown by it, as I imagine every other opponent will have taken note.

I've an uncle with a couple of upper tier seasons tickets and with him having acquired a third for the latter stages of this season, not wanting a spare seat to go begging when my cousins have been unable to get to games, he's occasionally phoned my Ma to see if she wants to join them. However, gawd love her, my Mum has often been reluctant to accept the invitation, for fear of putting "the bok" on us and feeling singularly culpable in the event of a disastrous defeat.

So being fully aware of her concerns to this regard, when Mum informed me on Friday night that she'd agreed to come to the Chelsea game, it was great to be able set her mind at rest, by informing her that she was entirely off the hook in the event of a bad result. This Gooner at the van hire company we use every week was desperate to break his Arsenal cherry and was chuffed to bits when I went in there on Friday morning, to inform him that a mate of mine had found a ticket for him. However I made it very clear that it might well be his first and last Arsenal match, if we ended up getting beat :-)

I hope he didn't take me seriously, but I bet he was relieved that we didn't end up blowing it. Still, considering it was his first game and the first time my Ma has been to a match in years, I was absolutely gutted for the both of them, since the odds of witnessing the only scoreless draw of the season at our place must've been pretty long (excluding Marseille in the Champs League).

Mind you, it didn't stop this kid getting the Gooner bug, as despite the fact that I imagine it's very hard for him to justify spending 50 quid of his hard earned wages on a ticket (I wonder what this equates to in respect of the number of vans he has to wash!), he's definitely planning on coming back for the Norwich game.

And I haven't even started with the story about having the membership card in my name confiscated by a steward doing spot checks inside the ground on Monday night because it wasn't me sitting in the seat (in return for a form on which this steward had ticked "suspected touting"!). Mercifully at least, I was able to get the card back in time for Saturday's match. Although then again, in light of the woeful entertainment on offer, they'd have probably been doing me a favour if they'd kept it!

But I'll save this tale for another time, as otherwise I'll never get this missive posted. Myself I'm trying to look at Chelsea's progress to the Champs League final from the glass half-full perspective of there being a possibility that the team finishing 4th in the league won't qualify for the big prize of Champs League football next season. Hopefully at least this should ensure that we turn up at Stoke and West Brom, knowing that we really can't afford to lose our grip on 3rd place? Personally I always felt that after all their misfortune against Barca, Chelsea were long overdue a lucky break against the Catalan cohorts.

Nevertheless, not only will it be a complete & utter travesty if Di Matteo's Blues actually manage to spoil their way to finally fulfilling Roman Abramovich's fantasy (especially when you consider how much the Ruski has invested in far better Blues footballing sides that have tried and failed in recent times), but the greatest crime would be if The Toon end up miraculously achieving 4th place, only to be deprived of the dream that's inspired them and to end up with the ignominy of Thursday night football. Truth be told, when you consider the lacklustre performances of virtually every other Premiership outfit and the fact that they're playing as if their season ended a couple of weeks back, even if the Alan Pardew charabanc should eventually prove to be a flash in the pan, on current form, compared to the way in which the wheels have fallen off Harry's wagon and our spluttering efforts to get over the finishin line, The Toon are probably the only side that is truly deserving of this highly-prized reward.

Big Love

You Can Stick Your Early KOs Up The Arse

If I never see another early kick-off at the Arsenal, it’ll be too soon! Our encounter with Norwich on what was always a sacrosanct FA Cup Saturday is the next. Could the TV tail wagging the football dog possibly do any more to smother their Golden Goose?

Time was when the opposition making eight changes for a crucial London derby would’ve been more than sufficient disrespect, to inspire the Gunners to produce a grandstand display.  By coincidence on London Marathon weekend, the Gunners, along with virtually every other club (seemingly bar the Barcodes!) are sadly showing obvious signs of having hit The Wall in the Premiership endurance event.

Still I suppose that we should be grateful for small mercies, since (as yet!) our form hasn’t nosedived quite so dramatically as our North London neighbours. My Spurs pals’ fanciful aspirations of finishing above us are suddenly looking as deluded as ever. Yet I can fully appreciate why they’ve been left scratching their heads, as if you compare our two squads, like for like, (with us being deprived of Wilshere for the duration) they actually appear to be a stronger outfit on paper and you can’t help but wonder how they’ve managed such an accomplished job of cocking it up?

However before the cry of “Harry for England” comes wafting on the breeze from across the Irish Sea into Hollyhead lugholes, much like the charismatic Cockney Venables before him, Redknapp still seems best placed to use his affable, man of the people charm, to effortlessly negotiate the International high-wire trapeze act of charming the media (who in turn feed their insatiable public) and inspiring the best out of blasé stars in a tournament environment.

Meanwhile, it’s not as us paying punters are being offered reduced priced tickets for the below par product that seems to have become the norm in recent times, due to the detrimental effects of end-of-seasonitis, So in some respects I can understand the misplaced scorn, from those who took umbrage on the terraces on Saturday. Whether it’s a question of physical or mental fatigue, poor Aaron Ramsey is far from alone in running out of steam and if Wilshere had been fit, I suspect he wouldn’t have been required to perform so frequently.

In the pressure cooker circumstances of the Premiership, where every match is so significant, it’s inevitable that players will suffer from adrenaline deficit, where as the finishing line hoves into view and their thoughts turn to a tropical beach, they struggle to fire themselves up sufficiently for a sprint down the home straight.

Nevertheless, with the less glamorous likes of Stoke, West Brom & Norwich to come, you would’ve thought the Gunners might’ve at least motivated themselves to put their noses to the grindstone, for what amounts to our last big game of this campaign. Sadly Saturday’s Derby had all the dynamism of a damp squib, with Rosicky the only player in red & white looking to make something happen in the first-half.

But then it takes two to tango and unlike at the Bridge, where Chelsea were caught betwixt and between, by AVB’s ambitions for more aesthetically pleasing football, sadly the Blues reverted to the same pragmatic tactics that have served them so well in recent times. In the absence of the sort of inspirational player capable of finding sufficient space between the rows of seats of the Blues’ parked bus to unlock the door, the visitors were able to sit back in far too much comfort and soak up all our possession, waiting patiently, mercifully in vain on this occasion, to eventually profit from our gung-ho exuberance, as we throw caution to the wind in refusing to settle for a point.

Sadly the fact that both sides seemed far too content to settle for a draw made for a disappointingly drab spectacle. At least we didn’t lose, doubtless largely due to Di Matteo keeping most of his powder dry for their daunting trip to Catalonia. Yet in spite of their creditable success at the Bridge, compared to the mouth-wateringly entertaining alternatives, I simply can’t subscribe to the travesty of Chelsea stifling Barca, Bayern or Real, all the way to the big-eared prize.

Thus I felt the Blues had far more riding on all three points than we did, as 4th place slipped ever further from their grasp. My greatest concern for the Gunners is that with the likes of Arteta & Walcott dropping like flies, we’re in danger of losing all momentum and instead of finishing the season on a high, we could end up inconsolably limping over the line, should we fail to find sufficient inspiration to prevail against Stoke and West Brom.

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Thursday 19 April 2012

Intolerable Cruelty

We Gooners should be counting our blessings! I had to meet a West Ham supporting builder this afternoon & to highlight the paucity of entertainment at Upton Park under Fat Sam's unappealing regime, he explained to me that he's had season tickets for himself and his two boys for the past five seasons and the other week the kids turned around to him and pleaded "Do we really have to come to football with you dad?" They'll be reporting the Irons to the NSPCC next COYG Bernard

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Out fought & Out Thought?

Not such a g'day Gooners.

I hate writing in the immediate aftermath of a defeat, when I'm full of bile and rancour, without letting the dust settle sufficiently for me to be able to offer a more reflective appraisal. But as loathe as I am to point the finger of blame, quite frankly last night's disaster should come as no real surprise because the writing has been on the wall for some weeks now.

That Yossi Benayoun was our last line of defence in the build up to Lactics opening goal, as the only player in red & white sufficiently on his toes to recognise the visitor's threat, this spoke volumes about an Arsenal side that was never really at the races last night. In fact on this form, if the Gunners had been entered in the Grand National, we'd have been a guaranteed faller at the first fence!

Our recent form has been misleading, as although we've been scoring goals, winning games and somehow keeping all too rare clean sheets, with RVP's purple patch inevitably becoming seriously frayed at the edges these past few games, we've been forced to grind out games with the benefit of more than a little good fortune and the sort of isolated bursts of flowing incisive football which tend to create a false impression when viewed in highlights format.

Having failed to heed the warnings of our defeat at Loftus Road, this was an upset waiting to happen with seemingly to have foolishly set too much store in their own press and believing they only had to turn up, to win this game. With Johan Djourou something of a liability at centre back, with Arteta limping off to be replaced by an Aaron Ramsey who might as well have hit the beach after his last injury, judging by his slapdash lack of intensity since returning to fitness and with Theo Walcott seemingly lacking the capacity to appreciate the need to try and stretch opposition defences by making the pitch as wide as possible, we were always riding for a fall against such totally "up for it" opposition.

And considering the subsequent dip in form of the vast majority of players who've returned from African Cup of Nations duty, I could fully understand the frustration amongst the crowd around me, seeing Wenger sending Gervinho on with 30 minutes to play. As a tactical ploy it was tantamount to going into an Ultimate Fighting Competition with a view to tickling your opponent to death with a feather!

So by the time AW eventually turned to the Ox as a last resort, with only 15 left on the clock, the poor kid is so desperate to have some impact, that he was always going to be trying just a little too hard, lacking the sort of patience that we might get from him if only he'd been given a longer run out. And even if he did give the ball away, he did so while at least trying to make something happen. What's more despite his diminutive stature, the Ox appears a lot more robust than Theo and can therefore be relied upon to put a challenge in when necessary, instead of feebly shadowing a player for fear of hurting his tootsies

But I'd better stop before I go off one one, as you win as a team and you lose as a team and there weren't many in red & white last night who weren't deserving of criticism for their failure to match Wigan's desire.

Still based on that performance, Wigan deserve to stay up and I'd willingly accept defeat last night, if it acts as the inspiration to really show up and do ourselves justice against Chelsea on Saturday. Hopefully at least we'll have Kos back in harness


It’s a shame only 200 hundred Lactics fans made it to the Grove to savour Wigan’s first ever success at our gaff. Nevertheless the visitors received all due recognition for their deserved victory, from many of the Gooners who remained at the final whistle, including myself. The truth is that if it wasn’t for the customary congestion at the bulkheads, I would’ve been straight out the door to spark up a conciliatory ciggie, before dashing around to the pie stall for some comfort grub. But as Wigan wandered over to commune with the miniscule contingent of travelling fans, I felt obliged to stand and applaud their admirable efforts.

In his programme notes Wenger commented on Wigan’s fine form, suggesting it was a warning which should ensure our “complete focus”. With the Gunners already 0-2 down after only 8 minutes, nothing could’ve been further from the truth. Roberto Martinez’s side have been playing some remarkably entertaining football in recent weeks, but they really didn’t need to produce anything particularly special, to prick an Arsenal bubble that’s been puffed up by the disproportionate hype surrounding our Spring offensive for 3rd place. Sure we’ve recently rediscovered the knack of winning games, but we’ve hardly been setting many fires along the way.

We were fortunate to be 2-0 up after only ten minutes at Molyneux last Wednesday. With Wolves being a man down, it should’ve been game over, but sadly we slipped into such a complacent stupor that it was a big relief when Benayoun eventually banged home a third. By contrast, the Wanderers were working their socks off, until Yossi put the result beyond doubt. If any of their earnest endeavours had born fruit and they’d sparked the fervent home crowd by pulling a goal back instead, it might been an entirely different story.

Sadly we started against Wigan, where we’d left off at Wolves, in the exact same lackadaisical fashion; whereas the Lactics were “at it” from first to last minute, putting in a tireless shift, of the sort that made us look like indolent prima-donnas by comparison. Apparently it’s players that win games, not tactics and indeed Wigan were that much sharper and more focused, all over the park. However, typically ungracious in defeat, le Gaffer might’ve poo-poohed the significance of the Martinez 3-4-3 masterstroke, but in my humble opinion, Wigan’s unusual formation certainly played it’s part.

In such circumstances, with the likes of Walcott seemingly lacking the instinctive ability to read the game and react accordingly, our manager’s passive resistance to tinkering with his team is utterly infuriating. With both crowd and players equally gobsmacked by Wigan’s goals, mercifully the Gunners were galvanised into action and had the visitors on the ropes for much of the remainder of the first half. But after the break Wigan rarely appeared the least bit uncomfortable, so long as our far too narrow attack continued banging their heads in vain, against the centre-back brick wall in the middle of the park.

You didn’t need the bird’s eye view from the Goodyear blimp to appreciate that we were playing to the visitor’s strengths, denied any incisive momentum by an obvious lack of width. Al-Habsi could’ve spent most of the second half prostrate on his prayer mat, for all our attacking threat and as the Gunners threw caution to the wind, Wigan looked far more likely to put the game to bed by scoring again on the counter, than we were of breaking them down for an equaliser.

Much like Gilberto before him, it’s only in Arteta’s absence that one begins to fully appreciate his contribution. With Ramsey seemingly so out of sorts, unless Wenger can conjure up his own tactical coup, Miguel might be sorely missed come Saturday. Defeat to Wigan does at least enable me to empathize with my Spurs mates’ frustrations, watching the wheels coming off their Champions League charabanc, by blowing their home banker against the Canaries. But I pray that a more committed Arsenal response will be rewarded with a contrasting result against Chelsea.

We’d all forgotten about Wilshere’s battle for fitness so long as we were winning, but with no hope of our shining knight charging back into the fray, aside from a much-needed moral boost and avoiding being drawn back into an end of season dogfight, we badly need to beat the Blues, if only to afford me an opportunity to tease my pals about stocking up on the new Spurs (& Everton) brand Viagra, for the benefit of all those who can only manage a semi!

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Saturday 14 April 2012

Death discreetly and not so discreetly administered

RIP Synchronised (seems this gorgeous horse was trying to tell Tony McCoy something when he threw his jockey at the start!) and According To Pete.

Gazetta Dello Sport not so discreet with their video of poor Piermario Morosini :-(


Treacle relaxing after her arduous efforts...

....glad she got around safely. Shame as I also had £2.50 E/W on Andy Carroll but sadly he's still running :-)


Wednesday 11 April 2012

You Can Keep Your Catenaccio!

G'day Gooners

The one benefit of forgetting to post my missive on Monday is that at least I don't need to bother changing the references to tonight's match :-)


Big Love



Spurs failure to turn up against Norwich was like an intravenous shot of sunshine, as we Gooners wallowed in the rib-tickling Schadenfreude-high, which dispelled all the gloom of an otherwise miserable Easter Bank Holiday Monday.

Having turned a 13-point deficit into a 2-point lead (with a game in hand), I'll be absolutely mortified to see all Sunday's hard work against City undone, by dropping points at Molyneux tonight. A failure to show Wolves sufficient respect, with anything less than a fully committed display, would be absolutely criminal. Hopefully the Gunners will be travelling to the Black Country with the hard-learned lesson of Loftus Road still fresh in their minds, knowing that (unlike Spurs!) we simply cannot afford the creeping complacency responsible for our temporary derailment against QPR?

However while we fixate on finishing above our neighbours, as the potential saving grace to this "turvy-topsy" season, you have to wonder whether the "small" matter of North London pride is sufficient motivation for our players. I’ve made the mistake in the past of assuming that the lads might at least be fired up by the prospect of the prolonged beach-time that would result from avoiding awkward pre-season Champions League qualifiers.

No matter the appetite for the consolation prize of 3rd place, although inspiration might’ve been in short supply in Sunday’s game, the Gunners were certainly not found wanting for the necessary application to ensure we retain our seat at Europe’s top table. The misguided antics of Mancini’s pet “Bozo” might’ve stolen all the headlines, but in truth Balotelli only distracted attention away from the fact that only one “team” turned up at the Grove determined to prove a point and this definitely wasn’t City.

If I’d made the long trip down from Manchester, knowing how vital it was for City to grasp the last remaining thread of their title pretensions and with so many million’s worth of star-turns at Mancini’s disposal, I would’ve been seriously disappointed by the way in which they set their stall out so conservatively. But then when it comes to such crunch encounters, the Italian’s “catenaccio” pedigree always seems to prevail.

With David Silva apparently running out of steam, in the absence of the Spaniard’s guile and once Yaya Toure had limped off, I must admit I was feeling confident. But perhaps most surprising is that we deservedly won this game, with a performance that was some way from the Arsenal at their best.

Jack Walker proved with Blackburn (on a budget that is laughable compared with the bottomless pockets of football’s modern money-moguls) and Abramovich has demonstrated since that it is possible to buy the title. But ultimately, over the course of a 38-game marathon, you simply cannot expect the same selfless team-ethics from the coming together of eleven, money-motivated individuals, when compared with the sort of committed camaraderie, evident in a squad that’s been grown more organically.

I spent much of Sunday’s game bellowing myself hoarse, pleading for the Gunners to up the tempo, dissatisfied with our lack of drive and positively desperate for Walcott, Van Persie or anyone in red & white to impose themselves, by grabbing this contest by the scruff of the neck – obviously prior to Arteta finally grasping the nettle in such stunning fashion and our the piss-taking Poznan response.

Evidently I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about handing Utd the title on a plate. But far more important than this, ultimately, every Gooner present savoured the sadistic delight (eg. “Carlos Tevez, he plays when he wants”) of our ability to demonstrate to the forlorn looking City suits in the directors box that the Premiership conundrum cannot simply be solved by the benefactor with the biggest bank balance.

Ramsey’s greedy last-gasp bid for glory excluded, it was the Gunners’ integrity and our willingness to put in a shift, which won the day. Whether feigning, or not, I very much doubt we’d witness the Arsenal all trotting into the dressing-room at half-time, without paying the slightest heed to a team mate rolling around on the turf.

Meanwhile, such was my own emotional investment in this match that I doubt I’d have been left feeling any more spent if I’d actually played for 90 minutes. Hopefully both myself and the Arsenal will have recovered in time for tonight’s encounter. After having given our team-spirit ‘the big ‘un’, they bloomin' well better not let me down!

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Monday 2 April 2012

Rangers' Rodents vs Musophobic Gunners

Hi folks,

Watching at Loftus Road on Saturday, I couldn't escape this image of Oxlade-Chamberlain running amok out wide instead of Ramsey, leaving their defence for dead as he danced his way through an immobile Nedun Onuoha's legs! I'm sure there wasn't a single Gooner in the dilapidated School End ("my garden shed is bigger than this") who didn't wonder why, with two wingers twiddling their thumbs on the bench, Wenger continued with the unfathomable choice of playing Aaron out of position.

Yet unlike more arduous awaydays which tend to be the exclusive domain of the religiously faithful Gooner, the proximity of London derbies always seems to attract a liberal sprinkling of the sort of fickle glory-hunters that sadly we've been forced to become accustomed with, due to their proliferation at our place.

My advice to them is that unless they're going to get behind the team, please don't bother coming. I had someone hollering his disgust at Wenger's team selection in my ear for the entire 90 minutes. But while I was no less incensed, I have to believe that le Boss has his reasons, even if I'm not privy to his insight and from the moment they take to the turf, we're obligated to get behind whoever he chooses to wear the red & white and lend them our support.

That's why we're labelled "supporters" not "castigators" and at such a decisive stage in the season, in my book if you've not got something positive to contribute, then please keep schtum!

Big Love


Whether it was the fault of the pitch, or the wrong studs, the Arsenal players seemed to be incessantly slipping over on the Loftus Road turf on Saturday. It was therefore perhaps inevitable that one of these mishaps should result in Mackie finding himself completely free to put the ball on a plate for Diakite’s winning goal.

Thomas Vermaelen was so enraged at having given the home side such a helping hand (with both goals!), that for a while there he seemed intent on singlehandedly putting things to rights. But in all honesty, it was too little, too late and it was infuriatingly disappointing that the Gunners failed to demonstrate this sort of determination from the opening whistle.

The fact that I was almost relieved to go a goal behind, in the hope that this might at least inspire us to pull our finger out and exert some concerted pressure, is a telling indicator. Whether it was down to complacency, or maybe even a case of some seriously misguided arrogance (a fortunate seven game winning streak certainly doth not “the Invincibles” make!), sadly this was obviously a contest which meant so much more to a relegation threatened Rangers.

Never mind “the Verminator”, Thomas looked more like a musophobic pest controller, against Zamora and the irritating band of rodents who got the better of our defence all game long. Instead of whinging about having to take a little argy-bargy, Vermaelen needs reminding that it’s part of his centre-back job description to be dishing it out! However he was far from alone in his culpability for such a monumental cock-up.

It could be argued that we’d be better off playing two games a week, in order to keep our players honest. Having put our feet up for a week, following our stroll in the park against Villa, we seemed to have forgotten the formula for success and the sort of commitment necessary to ensure we end up on the right side of that extremely fine margin between triumph and abject failure.

“How sh*t must you be, we’re winning at home” rejoiced the Hoops fans, but in pouncing on our obvious discomfort at not being able to evade their physical attentions, within the tight confines of Loftus Road, Rangers literally rubbed our arrogance in our own faces and fully deserved their success.

From the lack of focus that resulted in our failure to follow up Van Persie’s set piece early on, to the constant buck-passing of a Gunners side that shirked their responsibilities at either end of the pitch, almost everyone in red & white was guilty of a hubristic & ultimately fatal “job done” attitude.

As a result, instead of slamming the door shut and reinforcing our hold on 3rd place, we’ve not only gifted Spurs with renewed hope, but we remain in serious danger of being dragged back down into a four-way fight to the finish, for the positively priceless reward of a Champions League berth.

Still hopefully it might prove fortuitous that we’ve been brought back down to earth with a bump, by this timely lesson in the basic principles of industry and desire, before Mancini comes a calling, mob-handed, on Sunday, with City desperate to drag themselves back into contention. After having wallowed in the euphoric pleasure of watching the Gunners drag themselves up by the bootstraps, the reverse side of this coin really doesn’t bear thinking about!

Still if the decidedly modest, but all the more intimidating environs of Loftus Road failed to inspire, one would expect the exact opposite to be true in a glamorous opportunity to rub salt in City’s wounds, by proving that no matter how high the mountain of wedge stacked up against them, the ethics of the team can still triumph over the talent of the individual.

That’s assuming we don’t remain hamstrung by Arsène’s insistence on playing Ramsey out of position - thereby denying us the width to ensure we don’t end up banging our heads against a resolute brick wall in the middle of the park - or his apparent inability to recognize Rosicky’s leaden-footedness beyond the hour mark.

It’s unlikely that Spurs will prove similar masters of their own downfall in their date with the West London wanabees. But if Barton’s cohorts can ruffle the Cockerel’s feathers and by doing so, save me from another long trip up North by securing their Premiership status, Saturday’s defeat will feel a whole lot more palatable. So long as it proves a best-forgotten blip, rather than the prologue to a devastating downward spiral!
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