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Monday 18 March 2013

It's Never Over, Until The Fat Cockerel Falls Off Its Perch

I doubt Arsène Wenger had the Carling Cup debacle against Birmingham in mind, when he told us that the Gunners had to treat each of our remaining matches as a cup final. But this is what we were laughing about behind the goal at the Liberty on Saturday. For much of the game it appeared as if it was the home side, not us, who still had something to play for. The Swans crisp, incisive possession was in complete contrast to our plodding, far too predictable football.

Once again Swansea stirred up painful rememberances of times past. While the Gunners struggled to find any rhythm for long periods of this encounter, the Swans pleasing on the eye passing game, ensured that theirs was a far better impersonation of the entertaining Arsenal teams of yesteryear than the fraudulent fumblings of the mediocre incarnation of Arsène’s modern day outfit.

Our fragile confidence continues to ensure that, instead of looking after the ball like it was their best friend, the Gunners tend to shirk responsibility for it, as if it was a psychotic cyber-bully. Nevertheless, momentum is everything in football and if victory in Munich last week served a purpose, it was to provide us with the sort of platform, upon which we might just be able to build a consistent run-in to conclude our Premiership campaign.

Such hope isn’t engendered by the prospect of free-scoring purple patch but the possibility that we’re finally discovering some composure in defence and that the genuine commitment of the likes of Jenkinson and Koscielny is serving as an example to their team mates. After being accused of failing to talk to one another, Arteta appears to have taken it to the opposite extreme, immersing himself in the responsibilities of the captain’s armband, constantly barking out orders and herding his charges into shape like a Basque Shepherd dog.

Flappyhandski has been left out long enough for many to seemingly have forgotten his past misdemeanours. But thus far in the best “change is as good as a rest” traditions, his reintroduction seems to have lent us some stability. Above all, I’m hoping that from the evidence of our last two displays, the most important change of recent weeks is that we might have at long last abandoned the patently obvious failings of a rigidly zonal defence at set-pieces, for a more flexible set-up.

I travelled to Munich last week, determined to make the most, of what I was convinced would be our last Champions League outing for some time. But with Gervinho leaving us all on the floor in shock, with the composed finish that secured all three points at Swansea and with Spurs never failing to provide the “wheels coming off” pleasure of blowing all three points against Fulham, suddenly we’ve everything to play for again.

I fancy there’s plenty of twists and turns to come in this particular passion play over the course of the remaining eight games. While recent events offer good cause for optimism, if Wednesday’s performance in the Allianz Arena was to prove our Champions League swansong, I couldn’t think of a better place.

We all got a right old soaking on the long walk back to Swansea station on Saturday. Yet despite being sopping wet, this couldn’t put a dampener on our high spirits. Even all the obnoxious posh twat rugby fans who invaded our train at Cardiff and proceeded to drown their miseries all the way back to London, couldn’t spoil our high, as Gooners recounted tales of the many litres quaffed in Munich beerkellers.

As hard as it is for me to admit, going to a match in Germany is football how it should be, a civilized, sociable experience, without detriment to the atmosphere and with far less sense of the separation between the plebs and the high-rollers. Our clubs and our police could do well to take a lesson or two from the Gerries!

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