Personally I’ve only got the one religion, the Gunners and I’m grateful that at least nowadays my chosen footballing faith is largely devoid of the sort of fanatical divisiveness that results in other religious extremists being responsible for so much of the world’s wanton death and destruction. Nevertheless, unfortunately Saturday morning proved to be one of those rare instances, when I was forced to attend an alternative temple, not wanting to upset one of my Spurs pals, by selfishly blowing out his son’s barmitzvah.
I might’ve been feasible for me to make it to the Midlands in time for KO at the Hawthorns. But instead of a risky mad dash up the motorway to the Black Country and the potential wrath of my pal for slipping away from the synagogue prematurely, I lingered for the fervent supplications of my Lilywhite mates regarding Gareth Bale and their own simian-like prophet’s speedy return to fitness, before a leisurely stroll around to our own stadium, to join a couple of thousand Gooners watching a live beamback of the Baggies game, amidst the plush environs of the Arsenal’s “Prawn Circle”.
Compared to its evergreen state these past forty years, the recent strangely mutable nature of the North London landscape was made manifest last Thursday night, as by contrast to our customary indifference, we Gooners prayed for the continued distraction of Spurs’ Europa Cup involvement and the subsequent euphoric eruption across all social media, concerning a mounting injury crisis that couldn’t have possibly been scripted better from our perspective.
Meanwhile all that really matters at this stage of the season is for the Gunners maintain the pressure and thus far we’ve managed to keep up our end, by reeling off the victories. Albeit that we’ve been fortunate in our last two games to have met the utterly dispirited Royals and a Baggies side seemingly having already put their feet up, satisfied with their mid-table security.
I was hoping that Saturday’s long awaited hint of some Spring sunshine might prove the catalyst for the Gunners to begin to produce some classy entertainment but our encounter with West Brom started off as such a low-key affair, as if both teams were principally focused on not losing the game and neither laidback outfit demonstrating the intensity of a team that was desperate to bag all three points.
I’m somewhat reluctant to pass judgement based on the TV coverage shown on the screens dotted around Club Level because with the cameras tendency to follow the ball, one lacks the overall perspective offered by being there in person. What’s more, for some strange reason, watching on TV always proves to be a far more stressful experience. I’d hoped that this might be alleviated by being sat with a large audience of Gooners, but in typically reserved British fashion, my fellow fans politely applauded every positive moment and groaned and moaned with every gaffe.
So as I sat squirming in my seat for 90 minutes, kicking every ball, there was actually little difference to watching a game indoors. With the Gunners seemingly doing their utmost to gift West Brom an opportunity to drag themselves back into the match over the last 20 minutes, by the end of it, I was bellowing frustrated blue murder at an inanimate black box, just as if I’d been sat at home in my armchair.
The postponement of Chelsea v Spurs has presented us with an opportunity to steal a march on our rivals by winning all three matches before Spurs next league outing. Yet if Saturday’s TV perspective offered one pointer, it is that Fabianski is bound to eventually come unstuck as a result of his lack of authority. And judging by the body language of the likes of Sagna and our positively flat-footed midfield, who failed to put any pressure on the ball as we desperately clung on to our victory at the death, we could badly do with the impetus offered by the return of the commited likes of Wilshere and Jenkinson.