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Monday 6 May 2013

By Far The Greatest Team?

My Spurs mate contends that Fergie's team selection against Chelsea yesterday (with the inclusion of the positively anonymous Anderson, Valencia and Cleverly) was contrived to ensure the defeat that might end up denying Spurs Champions League qualification and allow old Red Nose to feast on the spoils with the purchase of Gareth Bale this summer. Far-fetched perhaps, but I do love a conspiracy theory!

Meanwhile it was excruciating sitting here praying for RvP to do us a favour, with one of those 'Fergie time' late winners that have spoilt the mood on so many Sunday afternoons in the past, only for Mata to come up trumps and steal the points for Chelsea.

And thus all eyes will be turning to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, hoping Benitez's side can get themselves back up sufficiently to do the business again and as I understand it, thereby ensure that a four point return from our last two games will be sufficient to get the Gunners over the Champions League qualification line, even if only on goal difference.

However while all my Spurs pals are just desperate to secure themselves an invite to the big boys party, I can't help but feel slightly more ambivalent, after 15 successive years of schlepping around Europe, in a vain search for that elusive big-eared prize. When I contrast our snoozefests against Fulham and QPR, to the high-octane Champions League semifinals in midweek, it's hard to look at this Gunners squad as one being capable of exactly lighting up Europe's greatest competition.

Then again, as it's said, if you are not there, you are nowhere, but there's also the argument that our failure to qualify might be the only outcome that might sufficiently stir the suits at the club from the current status-quo and that by scrabbling to fourth place this will only offer further encouragement merely to carry on as you were, in our current, highly profitable, but disappointingly unambitious fashion.

Still, until we witness the outcome of Wednesday encounter, all such debate is moot, while our future rests in the hands of the footballing gods

Keep the faith


Much like Fulham, QPR ranks as one of the friendliest London derbies nowadays. Having arrived in West London early, to plot up and listen to the radio comms of all the thrills & spills in the 3pm KOs across the country, I was sat in the Spring sunshine, outside a local cafe, shooting the breeze with a couple of QPR pensioners. As I sat there bemoaning the fact that despite our somewhat deceptive undefeated run of recent weeks, the Gunners ponderous performances have been the source of increasing disillusionment, with so many of our players seemingly having long since been far more focused on the idyllic location of their tropical summer getaway, instead of their football.

These two old geezers soon set me straight, reminding me to count my Gooner blessings because they’ve suffered an entire season watching a Hoops side who’ve seemingly had their feet up since last August!  So I know I really shouldn’t be whinging after a “job done” weekend, in which we’ve kept up our end of our current consistent run, but you only had to watch Wenger jumping up and down on the Loftus Road touchline, like a five-year old having a temper tantrum, to appreciate quite how painfully frustrating it is to endure such ponderously impotent performances.

One of my pals described the battle for a top four finish as being akin to “three tired old nags, running out of steam in the finishing straight at Aintree”. If there’s some scant solace to this “end-of-seasonitis” that’s afflicted our agonizing struggle to scrabble over the finishing line, it’s that the Arsenal and almost every other Premiership outfit appears to be plagued by similar complacency.

I was very fortunate to secure the unexpected golddust of two face value tickets amongst us Gooners, in the School End behind the goal, for a couple who’d travelled all the way from Singapore on their annual holyers. They’d been expecting nothing more than their midweek trip to the Arsenal museum and were thus chuffed to bits, not only to be able to experience the far more vociferous and enthralling away match atmosphere amongst the travelling faithful, but to find themselves only one row from the front, amidst the tight but severely cramped confines of one of the few remaining traditional football grounds in the Premiership (for a couple more weeks at least!).

According to our obligatory “we’ll never play here again” taunts and my Asian Gooner pals customarily remote matchday experience from several thousand miles away, they were understandably blown away, by what might’ve been a last opportunity to savour live Premiership football in such close proximity to be able to smell the grass and to almost be able to reach out and touch the participants.

Mind you, I nearly ended up blaming them for missing all twenty significant seconds of this match. No matter that it’s the entirely innocent act of reimbursing a kindly soul for face value match tickets, with the ever-present paranoia of being pinched outside a ground, I’d long since taken the readies to pass on once inside the ground. As a result, I ended up sending a text as the game commenced, in my efforts to pass on the cash before my blinkered focus on the football resulted in me forgetting all about it. Mercifully I just managed to look up in time to see Arteta assist Walcott in stunning the entire stadium with the swiftest goal of the season.

Naturally the assumption was that we’d subsequently be able to relax, as the Gunners swiftly put this game to bed, by rolling over a woeful, already relegated Rangers side who struggled even to display some last vestiges of pride. We should’ve been able to avoid all the tension endured in the dramatic League 1 denouement the previous weekend and the madcap Championship mayhem prior to our late KO that’s left travelling Gooners facing an arduous trek to Hull, instead of the short hop to Watford (that’s almost like a home game for North-West London Gooners).

Yet while we spend the remaining couple of matches chewing our finger nails to the quick and the pundits endlessly prognosticate on the various permutations, sadly it would appear as if the only disinterested parties are the players themselves. On paper only Chelsea’s squad appears to possess sufficient quality to actually qualify for a return to the big stage, with any realistic hope of mounting a challenge. But as the saying goes, I fancy that “this race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong” and that somewhat undeservedly, the spoils will end up with the two least complacent of the three sides.

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Glasgow Gunner said...

Feels like some have had the holiday head on at various times throughout the season. if we manage to make 4th (I pray to the lord on an almost continuous loop that we do) it will be so much easier to spend our way out of our current conundrum in finding top top super top quality.

Lets face it.....Neymar won't be too fussed about appearing as part of the channel 5 programme schedule unless it's a g-string diva marathon or something else equally as obnoxious.

With the talk of another new season and an acknowledgment from Wenger that he's finally ready to spend. Despite telling us he always had money available when asked in the past ( should we just ignore that uncomfortable truth of lies from our leadership). If he really does finally *go for it* this summer then I for one, can't bloody wait.

Singapore Gooner said...

Thanks Bernard for securing those tickets. That really was the icing for our holidays for us.

The atmosphere was unforgettable although the performance on the pitch wasn’t…

Watching the match live (as compared to watching it on telly), you could actually see / sense the attitude of the players and it was not all good.

Here’s to our improved performances or at least we being the least complacent of the lot.