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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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