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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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Anonymous said...

darkest Africa? what?

Anonymous said...

The darkest Africa part is in very bad taste. For me its not different from calling Ramsey "he got only one leg". Daft