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Monday 30 September 2013

All Smiles At The Return Of The Colgate Ring Of Confidence

When my sister informed me that she’d booked a table at our family's favourite restaurant on the night of my Ma’s 80th birthday at the end of the month, I did warn her that fate and the laws of Sod & Murphy would undoubtedly dictate that we would defeat West Brom and draw Spurs in the next round of the League Cup on that very same Wednesday night. Well I was close, but mercifully no cigar! 

As details of the draw were announced on the radio, during extra-time at the Hawthorns in midweek and the terrace tom-toms soon transmitted the news of the peach of a home game against Chelsea that was awaiting the victors, it was the thought of the ensuing familial flashpoint that immediately weighed most heavy on my mind.

In truth, when extra-time had elapsed and we discovered that the spot-kicks were taking place at the wrong end of the pitch (supposedly for safety reasons – since when did the good old-fashioned coin toss go out the window?) and that the frayed nerves of Young Guns such as Gnabry, Olsson & Akpom were to be denied the gargantuan support of the 5,500 Gooners at our end of the ground, I really didn’t fancy our chances.

Still there’s no shame in crapping out in the lottery of spot-kicks. Moreover, I have to admit to thinking that if we’d bottled it, the bitter disappointment of a miserable drive back from the Black Country, would be tempered by the knowledge of having dodged a potentially nuclear bullet, in the ire of all those kith & kin who couldn’t possibly comprehend my loyalty to the Arsenal taking precedence over such a major obligation to my dear old Mum.

I’ve heard Gooners grumbling that we could now be five points clear at the top, if it wasn’t for our curtain-raiser cock-up against Villa. Yet it could be argued that our opening day defeat and the resulting churlish “sky is falling in” hubbub from all the media Chicken Lickens, was the essential catalyst required for the resulting tenacious doggedness that's been responsible for the unstinting run of success that’s transpired ever since.

It seems as if it’s been so long since we’ve enjoyed the glow of a titanium ring of confidence that encircles the entire club with an impenetrable aura of invincibility, once a team has attained that genuine “winning feeling”, that I’d entirely forgotten the pure unadulterated hedonism of its associated snowball momentum.

Serge Gnabry looks far more robust than Theo and must be brim full of self-confidence following the opening goal on Saturday (which returned a speculative 60/1 payday for one fortunate member of our party and left my mate Raj gloating all the way back down the M4!). Serge's spot-kick in midweek might’ve been saved by the keeper, but at least the German teenager demonstrated the “cojones” to step up and take it. And while I had my head in my hands, expecting each of our penalties to end up high, wide & not so handsome, all five second string Gunners displayed a “what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander” determination, as they stepped up with the same god-given braggadocio that’s increasingly evident, with each successive triumph of their first-team colleagues.

With our spirits already lifted by the news of both Spurs & Chelsea dropping points in the draw at White Hart Lane, as we barreled along the motorway to Wales on Saturday, we couldn’t believe our ears as we bowled up to the turnstiles at the Liberty, upon discovering that City and Utd had also blown 3-point bankers. However, we all sensed that capitalizing on such an unexpected opportunity was likely to prove far easier said, than done.

Who knows if the Gunners had one eye on Tuesday night’s encounter with the fat Spanish waiter’s high-flying Neapolitans, but truth be told, there was a frustrating lack of focus in the tentative, first-half chess match with Laudrup’s Swans.

It was only thanks to a more energetic and inventive spell immediately after the break that the Gunners managed to slice & dice a home defence, which wasn’t quite so stalwart without Ashley Williams at its heart. We could and really should have put this match to bed while our gander was up. Yet despite finding ourselves on the back foot, with the introduction of the handful that is Wilfred Bony, instead of the unbearably neurotic rearguard action that we’ve grown accustomed to watching, when the Gunners have attempted to close out matches in the recent past, while we continued to sweat it out on the terraces at the Liberty, on the pitch there was a pleasingly composed air to the way in which nailed down our two point breathing space at the top.

On the radio on route back to civilization, they were debating whether the return of Flamini could prove equally significant as the addition of Mezut Özil. On Saturday the graceful German midfielder contributed at least a couple of sublime moments of skill, of the sort that’s guaranteed to put bums on seats (and get folks up & out of them, applauding in awe).

By contrast, Flamini’s input might be more industrial in nature (agricultural even, in occasional rash instances!), but the Frenchman offers such a self-assured screen in front of our defence that his arrival appears to have breathed a long-awaited aura of unflappable poise, into our previously panic-stricken and much maligned frantic back four. Sczczny is always likely to be guilty of the sort of mad-hatter aberration that is the calling card of every bonkers keeper, but even he’s begun plucking balls out of the air, dominating his six-yard domain like a genuine class act.

Although I continue to retain disconcerting misgivings that this first flush of invincibility might all be a bit of an illusion, there’s no denying the optimistic thrill as we savour the self-perpetuating nature of this burgeoning winning spirit. Meanwhile, to my massive relief, the cup game against Chelsea has been fixed for Tuesday night (even though the Blues meet Man City on the Sunday prior!). Having been mercifully let off this particular hook, I can now truly enjoy the moment, without enduring a month’s worth of guilt, should I have been forced to face the dilemma of whether to put my adoration of the Arsenal, before a lifetime of mother love.

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Sunday 22 September 2013

Mezut - Here's Hoping He's The Main Man Catalyst To Convert Leaden 4th Place Losers Into Silver Encumbered Superstars, Rather Than A Seriously Overpriced Passenger

Le Vélodrome - Will be nice when it's finished

With all three assists against Stoke and with the Gunners currently top of the pops, on paper it would appear as if we're already receiving a lucrative return on our £42 million investment for Mezut Özil. Yet after raving about the Umlaut’s economy of movement, following his debut on Wearside, there were plenty of murmurings in our corner of le Vélodrome in Marseille in midweek, about our new superstar’s lack of earnest endeavour.

I don’t intend to rush to judgement, by suggesting we’ve blown the bank on a “luxury player”, since it might well take Özil time to attain the sort of match fitness required, amidst the frenetic environs of the Premiership. Nevertheless, it was most amusing to savour the poetic justice of Aaron Ramsey stabbing home the rebound from Özil’s free-kick in the opening minutes on Sunday and then subsequently serving Stoke up a long overdue taste of their own medicine, with two headed goals from Mezut’s corners.

You can see why Özil was relegated to taking corners and Ronaldo had dominion over the free-kicks at Real Madrid, as our new No. 11 doesn’t appear to strike a dead ball with anything like the ferocity of a Leighton Baines (who does?).  As was the case in his first two appearances, aside from trotting over to take control of all our set-pieces, our German superstar barely broke sweat again in Sunday’s game. Having been all too often robbed of possession, on those instances when he might’ve had an opportunity to pick the lock of the Potters defence, Özil was largely anonymous in open play.

However he was far from alone in his failure to light the Red & White touch-paper in his home debut. Thankfully, unlike most early KO’s, where we’re in the habit of not turning up until the second-half, we laid into Stoke with a vengeance. But having taken the lead so early on, the Gunners were patently guilty of taking our foot off the gas. Much as in our laboured Champions League triumph in the South of France and the majority of our matches thus far, we achieved the most satisfying trick of securing all three points, with the sort of mundane display that would’ve otherwise resulted in uproarious disgust on the terraces, if it wasn’t for the small matter of an unbroken winning streak, ever since the anomaly of our opening defeat against Villa.

Gay Gooners On Tour

Mind you, I barely had time to draw breath after the long drive back from the North-East last weekend, before heading off to warmer climes for Wednesday’s encounter. Indulging in some late-night liquid celebrations in Marseille’s enchanting le Vieux Porte probably didn’t help my cause, but I was cream-crackered by the time I returned from my Provencal jolly and with our injury-ravaged squad denying Wenger the option of much rotation right now, it’s perhaps not surprising that some of our players appeared equally jaded, the longer Sunday’s game wore on.

In the past the Arsenal might well have succumbed in the face of the Potters blatant physicality. Admittedly Mark Hughes has begun to oversee Stoke’s evolution from Pullis’ Neanderthal incarnation of ball hoofers (their former manager would’ve blown a gasket if his charges had been guilty of so much passing!) but more importantly, the Gunners appear to be discovering the crucial knack of winning games, despite performing well below par.

In listing the various deficiencies of the main contenders' squads in a piece in the Guardian, Barney Ronay wrote “….Arsenal’s inability to stop winning right now is clearly an affront against nature, considering their basic lack of pretty much everything”. Although Ronay’s obviously neglected to consider our glut of midfield options (even the hapless Myaichi got another look-in on Sunday, while his mysterious Asian mate, Park Chu-Young remains on the missing list!), with Bendtner and his oversized ego, our solitary other striking option on the bench, there’s no disguising our insecurity, so long as North London’s rapidly expanding feelgood bubble remains only one nasty foul away from being burst.

On a more optimistic note, if the Gunners can continue to build momentum, by maintaining our winning groove, heaven help the opposition when our best XI truly begins to click!

Pre-Match Meal Watching the Marseille Sunset Show Off Norman Foster's
Contribution To The 2013 City Of Culture, In All It's Excessive Glory

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Monday 16 September 2013

Mezut "the Umlaut" Özil Simply Oozes Class

With barely a chance to catch our breath, after the long trek back from Sunderland, before heading off, hopefully to the warmer climes of the Côte d'Azur, I thought I'd better get Sunday's missive posted out ASAP.

Here's hoping we Gooners get as genial a welcome in the "vieux port" of Marseille, as we did from the Mackems on Saturday. Although sadly, unlike the North East, I very doubt one can get away with buying a round in the South of France for under a tenner.

Come on you Reds


Having intuitively set up Olivier Giroud with one of his first few touches, after only the briefest of introductions to his new team mates upon his return from International duty and then playing such a considerable role, in what could and really should’ve been a first half hat-trick from Walcott, without barely breaking sweat, our £42 million Umlaut must’ve been thinking that this Premiership malarkey is an absolute doddle as he strolled off at the break on Saturday.

Yet we were laughing as we exited the Stadium of Light, about the eye-opener Mezut Özil must’ve received in the second-half, as he found himself being kicked up in the air, with the Gunners seriously under the cosh after Sunderland came out like a different side, determined to impose themselves on this match, having largely been spectators of our passing masterclass in the first 45.

Never mind that, from our perfect point of view, high up in the gods behind that goal, the Black Cats equalizer resulted from what looked like a blatant dive. Kos should’ve never gifted Johnson with an opportunity to finagle a spot-kick. The Mackems' winger was going away from goal when Laurent impetuously went to ground and presented an outstretched leg for Johnson to dive over.

But the Gunners afforded Sunderland more than enough chances to pepper our goal second-half, including ref Atkinson’s subsequent incompetent failure to play the advantage, that if it wasn’t for a combination of good fortune and the home side’s profligate finishing (with a little help from Ramsey’s two sublime goals), the Wearsiders might well have come away with something from this encounter.

Walcott must’ve been mightily relieved, as it would’ve felt like an absolute travesty, if we’d ended up dropping points because this match should’ve been done & dusted by the break, if only Theo hadn’t failed so miserably to put Sunderland to the sword. Mercifully the Gunners two moments of genuine second-half class ensured that with Ramsey’s aid, the German's debut turned out triumphant.

A round trip of 560 miles, our furthest Premiership outing has never previously proved a favourite and I could’ve found plenty of cause not to make this long schlep on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. There were times during the second-half when I envisaged my sister’s voice ringing in my ears on a miserable journey home, with her suggesting that my old man must’ve had a word in the Almighty’s shell-like up above, to ensure my sacrilegious behavior was duly punished.

But the beautiful game is my only religion nowadays and with the prospect of Özil’s first appearance in an Arsenal shirt suddenly making this match such a hot ticket, there was absolutely way I was going to miss this potentially marvelous reaffirmation of my Gooner faith. Not since Bergkamp’s debut can I recall looking forward to a match in such eager anticipation. In contrast to the likes of Rooney, our German superstar might not hare about the pitch like a bulldog on heat, but much like the Dutch master, Özil positively oozes class with his economy of movement and the seemingly nonchalant ease with which he’s capable of producing the killer pass.

With the Mackems seemingly little more familiar than we were with so many participants in a virtually entire new first XI, we shared a mutual air of stepping into the unknown with our genial hosts, as we headed out of the boozer before the game.  But with Chelsea providing the cherry on top, by dropping points at Goodison while we journeyed back down South, it was an amusing coincidence to find ourselves breathing the rarefied air astride the Premiership summit, in a week when we’ve begun to hear media whispers, from those questioning whether Özil could provide a sufficiently significant contribution, to restore the Gunners to our rightful place amongst the title contenders.

Nevertheless, as I’m constantly reminding my Spurs mates, it’s where you end up in May that counts and while I savoured our all too rare rendition of  the “top of the league” chant as loudly as the next Gooner, I know full well that our tenuous position atop the pile only comes courtesy of the decidedly tepid form of the other three teams to date.

You could hear a pin drop, as a couple of thousand Gooners collectively held our breath, when Giroud hit the deck holding his knee late on. With Cazorla joining the ever more worrying ranks of our first team’s walking wounded for an estimated 4 weeks (but where the Arsenal medical team’s habitual ineptitude means we’ll probably get Santi back just in time for the January transfer window, with Arsène able to contend that the Spaniard’s return is the equivalent of a new signing!), the media won’t let us forget our lack of squad depth. Unless le Prof has a revolutionary 1-8-1 fallback formation, every incident on the pitch is stressful, knowing that all of our new-found optimism could be snuffed out in the blink of an eye, by injuries or suspensions in positions where we are devoid of viable cover.

So I’m not about to tempt fate, by prematurely announcing “we’ve got our Arsenal are back” but as we head for warmer climes on the Côte d’Azur this week, considering it’s been a while, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for a momentary quiver of “just maybe” excitement.

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Sunday 8 September 2013

Özil to the Arsenal

The Interlull couldn't have been worse (or better!) timed, both to build on the momentum of our Derby Day dumbing of our own noisy neighbours and to heighten the massive sense of anticipation over our first opportunity to witness Mesut Özil's debut appearance in red & white. But with no domestic games this weekend, I must admit to being grateful to a weekend without the stress of a Sunday deadline for the Irish Examiner and so you'll have to settle for my humble contribution in the Sunday Observer:

                Well we waited and we waited but Arsène came good in the end, pulling a particularly spellbinding rabbit out of his magic hat. Many will contend that our squad remains wafer thin, both in defence and up front and that the last thing on our shopping list was another midfield crackerjack. But mercifully Özil might prove to be just the sort of marquee signing who is capable of silencing the not-so faithful and I for one, can’t recall being quite so thrilled at the prospect of a footballer’s appearance in red & white, since the arrival of Dennis Bergkamp. Now if only Mesut Özil can repeat the same feat, as the catalyst for a renaissance of a trophy-laden new era?

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Monday 2 September 2013

A Footballing Brain

Theo Walcott's all too fallible decision making has often left me bemoaning the possibility that our turbo-charged winger is found wanting when it comes to the one trait that no amount of training can teach a footballer.

Meanwhile, although it's very hard to fathom how come an Arsenal side packed with so many talented ball players, is seemingly so short on candidates who are capable, or more's the point willing to step up and take a set piece, I'm certainly not moaning about the hunger and enthusiasm that's resulted in Walcott's recent willingness to assume such responsibility.

But I'm sure I'm not alone in emitting an agonising groan, on seeing Theo float yet another feebly struck corner into the penalty area, as meat & drink for the likes of Hugo Lloris to pluck out of the air. Surely you don't need to be a footballing genius to recognise that if you can direct enough corners into the six-yard box, with the ball struck with sufficient pace & power to ensure that such missiles are guaranteed to generate the sort of panic and mayhem that leaves the keeper on the back foot, glued to security of his goalline, the law of averages must prevail with the ball eventually ricocheting into the back of the net, be this inadvertently directed off the backside of an unlucky defender, or intended as a moment of goal poaching genius.

Whatever the case, a fiercely struck corner, whipped into the box with genuine intent, does at least guarantee the excitement of the unexpected, rather than leaving me feeling decidedly unenthused at the award of a corner, as everyone in red & white lumbers up the pitch into the penalty area, with me frustrated by the fairly certain knowledge that it's not about to amount to anything more than a goal kick.

Santi Cazorla demonstrated how to strike a dead ball, as the diminutive Spaniard stoked up the atmosphere in the opening few minutes of this afternoon's encounter, with the set-piece that curled towards the top left-hand corner of the net, forcing Lloris to make a decent save. Judging by Santi's unwillingness to conduct any interviews in English thus far, I very much doubt our midfield maestro was exactly top of his class in school. However on the pitch, you couldn't wish for a more willing student and if you wanted the epitome of an example of a good footballing brain, we witnessed this with the subsequent set-piece, after Dembele had upended Walcott in the D about five minutes in.

Theo hovered over the ball for a moment, perhaps believing that it was his turn, but Santi was having none of it, as he pulled the ball back out of the D, to allow himself sufficient distance to be able to get the ball up and down, over the wall. Who knows whether this was a bluff, so that Lloris should believe he was again aiming for the top corner, or whether it was merely a case of our ingenious midfielder thinking on his feet.

But having seen the previous efforts of Spurs' sizeable wall, to leap up in unison to try and block his shot, Santi demonstrated his opportunistic ability to think on his feet, as he struck the ball along the deck, under the feet of leaping salmon in white shirts. Sadly his effort was inches away from finding the back of the net and Santi walked away shaking his head in dismay at having missed the target, knowing that this was the sort of stroke that wouldn't be worth repeating, since he'd be unlikely to catch Lloris out a second time.

Nevertheless, it was evidence of the ingenuity of a truly intelligent football player, with Santi blessed with the sort of imagination that has made his such a crowd favourite. Mind you, the Gunners didn't have exclusive rights on the inspiration front early on in this match. I had to wait for confirmation from Pat Nevin on my terrace tranny, as it occurred over on the opposite side of the pitch to me, but I have to admit to being impressed by the brazen "chutzpah" of Spurs new right winger, when Chadli left Corporal Jenks for dead, by nutmegging him with a back heel.

Thankfully, after impressing early on and looking like he was going to lead Jenkinson a merry dance all afternoon, Chadli's impact on the proceedings soon began to diminish, along with the other six frontmen in Spurs lineup, of whom only Dembele had previously experienced the hectic nature of a North London derby. With AVB's scattergun approach to transfer targets, perhaps some of his seven new signings will eventually prove to be influential Premiership players.

But with Soldado having thus far only notched from the penalty spot and with the sum total of his contribution against us being the shot that rebounded off Mertesacher (admittedly our German centre-back is a large obstacle to avoid), I've yet to see anything from the Spanish striker to suggest he's likely to prove a huge success. Perhaps he'll find his feet, once he grows accustomed to the frenetic pace of our football and that as a result, he's not going to be afforded the same amount of time on the ball as he's previously been accustomed to playing on the Continent.

And yet, based solely on the evidence of today's showing, Soldado made Olivier Giroud look like a positive bargain, with the Frenchman costing less than half the price of this particular one of Spurs three record signings and it's very hard to imagine that Soldado is capable of providing twice the return on their investment by way of goals.

I've been harsh on Giroud in the past, perhaps with me being influenced by the pre-conceptions that came with a price tag that suggested our French striker was some way short of being a top shelf acquisition. But then it wouldn't have mattered who Wenger had purchased at that time, they were bound to struggle to impress because they were stepping into the massive shoes of our best player and RVP was always likely to prove an impossible act to follow.

Sadly, no amount of settling in time and Olivier's improved understanding with his teammates and increased familiarity with his new surroundings, is going to lend our lumbering frontman that crucial acceleration necessary, to evade the attentions of an opposition defender over those vital first few yards. And like every other Gooner, I'd love to see us sign a genuine superstar striker, blessed with the required burst of natural speed.

Nevertheless, you can't help but warm to the dapper Frenchman and not just because of a run of goal scoring form - even though his single match-winning strike in today's derby has guaranteed him a permanent place in Gooner hearts. Above all, I admire the selfless honesty Giroud displays in his willingness to graft like a Trojan for the Arsenal's cause and I'm increasingly impressed by his acclimatisation to the Premiership, with his muscular efforts to do an effective job, in a largely ungratifying and unglamorous role as a traditional no. 9, shielding and holding up the ball.

Moreover, with the run to the near post that resulted in him getting his foot to the ball before Dawson and making the perfectly timed contact necessary to clip it past Lloris with the outside of his foot, Giroud demonstrated the sort of instinctive intelligence that enables him to overcome the limitations of his pace with the benefits of his experience.

Admittedly the Gunners were guilty of carelessly gifting away possession towards the latter stages this afternoon. Nevertheless, after enjoying the sight of our midfield tirelessly pressing to recover the ball and then the likes of Ramsey and Rosicky rapidly turning defence into attack with incisive runs and forward passes, contrast this with a Man Utd performance that in the absence of Wayne Rooney was positively anaemic by comparison.

In fact watching Utd's somewhat feeble efforts to achieve a first victory for David Moyes at Anfield, their incessant sideways and backwards passing reminded me of some of the Gunners more frustrating performances from our recent past. Much like in the their bore draw with Chelsea last Monday night, Van Persie barely had a sniff of the ball the entire game, aside from a brief sight of goal that the Dutchman failed to convert in the 86th minute.

If Gareth Bale is worth 100 million Euros, then surely we should've secured at least twice this figure for Van Persie's services, considering he was almost singlehandedly responsible for sending Fergie off into the sunset with another title to add to his collection. Yet it will be the ultimate irony if after only one season, the trophy hunger striker ends up playing for a Man Utd side that's unable to offer him the service necessary to win matches (I suppose Robin can always find some solace counting his wages instead of medals!).

Meanwhile with the TV cameras showing Victor Moses (supposedly arriving at Liverpool on loan from Chelsea) plotted up at Anfield alongside two other impending new arrivals (who's names were no more familiar to me than any of the myriad of foreign players linked to Premiership clubs this past summer) and with none of the three main contenders firing on all cylinders so far this season, after this afternoon's triumph I found myself struggling to contain those fatal "if only" thoughts about what might be, should Arsène secure the signatures of the two or three crucial players who might prove the catalyst, as the flour to bind some of the tasty ingredients of our existing squad into a genuine contenders cake.

In his post match interview on Sky, Wenger suggested he might surprise us all tomorrow and then when Jonathan Pearce raised the inevitable transfer question on MOTD2, le Gaffer invited his interrogator to end his interview abruptly, thereby allowing him to get on with the first order of business in the next 24 hours.

Here's hoping our chef de partie is cooking up a Michelin starred storm! Get that apron on mate
Come on you Reds

Sunday 1 September 2013

Normal Service Resumed....

While everyone else celebrated this afternoon's triumph, I had to dash home to bash out the following missive for the Examiner, with the sound of all the carousing going on hereabouts wafting through the living room window, as Gooners quaffed heartily at their liquid reward.

I'm just grateful that unlike all those involved in the Europa Cup on Thursday nights, our fourth placed qualification for the Champions League ensures that Sunday afternoon football isn't such a regular occurrence and I can savour such victories instead of enduring the stress of Sunday evening deadlines.

What's more I hate writing under the pressure of time constraints and I'm sure I've left more of my thoughts out below than I've manage to include in my haste. Still hopefully I won't be short of more material in the next 24 hours

Come on you Reds


Back in the day when the Gunners had the distraction of being genuine title contenders and our most influential encounters of the season were against the likes of Chelsea and Man Utd, this detracted somewhat from the North London Derby Day occasion.

Yet an upside to our recent perennial also-ran status, is that our dates with our own increasingly noisy neighbours from down the wrong end of Seven Sisters Road have acquired a pivotal significance of late and perhaps none more so than Sunday’s blessed opportunity to put all Spurs bullish enthusiasm back in the box, at least for the time being.

With AVB’s wholesale summer spending, there can be no denying that we benefited from meeting this unfamiliar Spurs side, while they still remain a relative bunch of strangers. Not to mention the sort of dominant and fully focused Arsenal performance that suggested we might have profited from being forced up to full speed so early on, by our crucial Champions League qualifier.

Perhaps as the season progresses and all their new arrivals establish some proper understanding, Spurs might develop into more of a force to be reckoned with. But this was irrelevant on Sunday, where there was only one “team” on the pitch and Spurs were duly sent packing with our “what a waste of money” soundtrack ringing in their ears.

Albeit that Gooner hearts were in our mouths over the course of those frantic final few minutes, with the ball ricocheting around our penalty area. Personally I remained pessimistically convinced, right up until the final whistle that the old enemy would pickpocket the equalizer, which would ‘ve put a dramatically different slant on the afternoon, leaving us thoroughly demoralized and our decidedly uncongenial guests feeling as is they’d snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. But such is football’s fine line between suicidal failure and euphoric success.

Mercifully the Gunners held firm, as they had for most of the 90 and there was no mistaking a collective determination that wasn’t matched by a Spurs side, who perhaps have yet to appreciate the importance of this occasion. In fact there were moments when Mertesacher masterfully stuck out a timely leg to snuff out the Spurs threat, when the big German looked positively Tony Adams like in his composure. And although we might’ve lost a little forward momentum when Wilshere was forced to depart the fray just before the break, there was something very comforting about Flamini’s return to our midfield.

Make no mistake, this was a big game for the Frenchman’s reintroduction, where he’d likely be left as hero, or villain and it was brilliant to see him constantly barking away at his team mates, as if he’d never been away. In fact, he appears to have returned as a far more confident character and although he’s only 29, as an elder statesman amongst our young squad, it’s possible that Flamini might lend us some of the crucial leadership traits that we’ve been crying out for, for so long.

Nevertheless, one free signing doth not a solution to all the Gunners woes make and Thursday’s daunting Champions League draw only served to remind us quite how essential it is for Arsène to add some depth to our squad, if we’re to cope with the challenge ahead. Hopefully Wenger will have answered all his critics by 11pm Monday, with some serious transfer action (other than the somewhat superfluous Yohan Cabaye).

Although, on the face of it, surely any players bought on the last day of the transfer window can not possibly be the manager’s first choice and unless Arsène pulls off some major last-minute coup, this inevitably calls into question the deficiencies at our club that leave us shopping for everyone else’s leftovers?

However it would be wrong of me to end on a sour note, following Sunday's glorious “1-0 to the Arsenal”, in a match that was billed as the confirmation of Spurs succession to our North London throne, but where thankfully my world continued to turn on its customary axis, with me teasing my deflated Spurs mates as ever “never mind….there’s always next season”

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