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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Preaching To The Converted

Apparently Dennis Bergkamp's media blitz to promote his new book includes Garry Richardson's Sportsweek on BBC Radio 5 at 9am this morning and in light of yesterday's amazing goals, you can't help but feel that there's a certain Kismet to the timing,

I'm sure I could wax lyrical with several hundred more words about yesterday's breathtaking efforts, but (some might think fortunately!) I'm limited by the Irish Examiner's requirements, which left me struggling to squeeze in as much as possible, on a day when contrary to popular opinion, after taking the lead, we took our foot off the gas, when we really should've put Norwich to the sword, without giving them the opportunity to drag themselves back into the match.

A word for the incredibly unfortunate Abou Diaby, as while I refer below to our squad's gradual return to full-strength, it transpires that poor Abou's has suffered a cruciate injury that's condemned him to continuing to be our "Invisible Man" until at least next March! Can there have been a more unlucky Arsenal player (taking into consideration Diaby's failure to fulfil his potential)?

Meanwhile, I'm still revelling in yesterday's sumptuous goals and here's hoping we've more of the same to celebrate come Tuesday night


With each passing week that the Arsenal remain unbeaten, it’s becoming ever more of a struggle for us Gooners to keep our feet on the ground. I’m constantly repeating the mantra “let’s see where we are in a month or two”, before daring to risk the potential custard pie of gloating prematurely that “the Gunners are back”, or presumptuously predicting any impending relief from eight barren seasons of this wearisome silverware-starved era.

Nevertheless, you don’t need to be a footie pundit to appreciate the impact of the Gunners blossoming confidence since the arrival of Mezut Özil. The inexorable rash of last-minute spare tickets that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing offered in recent times, has fast begun to evaporate, in inverse proportion to the number of begging requests from returning glory-hunters.

Moreover, it seems I can’t walk into any of my regular local emporiums, without getting a thumbs up from behind the counter, with every storekeeper seemingly intent on engaging me on the subject of whether this might be our season. Even my local newsagent has started questioning the Arsenal’s title pretensions. Although I suspect that he might be less interested in Aaron Ramsey’s ascension to Shiva-like, destroyer deity status, than whether the buoyant mood on Blackstock Road might inspire the quaffing of sufficient tinnies to pay for a family reunion in Amritsar this summer!

Yet after securing our pitch astride the Premiership summit for yet another week, by beating Norwich on Saturday, courtesy of some of the most breathtaking goals that we’ve witnessed since the days of Dennis Bergkamp, I must admit that I’m beginning to lose my own argument for keeping our powder dry. Even if this should eventually prove to be another false dawn, we’ve not savoured such a blindingly brilliant sunrise, since those heady days of a decade or so back and there’s no mistaking the puff-chested swagger of all those in North London who can’t help themselves from preening with this renaissance of Gooner pride.

Who knows whether the Gunners were flagging somewhat on Saturday, after schlepping all around the globe during the past fortnight of an interminable Interlull. Or if, after having scored one of the team goals of the season, the somewhat “hand-brakish” display that followed, was due to the fatal error of complacently casting an eye on Tuesday night’s testing European encounterHowever, even if the sum total of Saturday’s performance proves eminently forgettable, all four goals were testament to the sort of scintillating quality that will guarantee this game lives long in Gooner memories.

It felt like more than just a coincidence that Bergkamp was all over the British media this weekend, promoting his new book. Dennis and some of his most awe-inspiring strikes, were shown on the box just prior to Saturdays game, as the Dutch master revealed to Martin Keown his ambition to return to his Arsenal “home” in a coaching role.Before Wilshere found the back of the net (with his weaker foot), the combination of one-touch football in the build up to such a wondrous opening goal was so exquisite and left me feeling so privileged that I could’ve sworn it involved the participation of the ghost of Bergkamp-past.

After witnessing Mezut Özil’s lung-bursting break from the back, to casually creep into the box with perfect timing to head home our second, I feel more than a little sheepish about having dared to question the former Real midfielder’s willingness to roll his sleeves up. While Ramsey left virtually the entire Canaries defence laying eggs on the floor of their penalty area, dare I say, with almost Best-like “chutzpah”, as Aaron nailed all three 3 points with our third.

It would be hard to pick a better fixture than Norwich at home, for the potential banana-skin of our return after such a hectic International break. Still our guests gave as good as Houghton’s plucky side have got. Contrary to what some absent pundits perceived, believe me, at 2-1, with the Canaries’ choler up, after Howson bagged a stunning goal and with us urging more effort from the leadenfooted-looking Gunners, this game really could’ve gone either way.

But then the Weetabix of winning when performing below par is the breakfast of champions. What’s more, after bemoaning the lack of strength in depth on our bench for so long, with the recuperation of the likes of Cazorla et al, suddenly our opponents might be afraid of knobbling any of our star-turns, for fear of inviting an even stiffer test.

I adore Flamini’s commitment but was hardly disappointed when Ramsey replaced the dazed Frenchman and after Cazorla was afforded a much-needed hour of game time, Rosicky’s introduction lent us some much needed forward thrust. Additionally, although Giroud continues to convert a legion of Gooner non-believers, suddenly even the inscrutably blasé Bendtner is being viewed as a slightly more credible stand-in.

As evidenced by the wonderfully entertaining unpredictability of the competition thus far, if the Arsenal are to take one lesson from Saturday’s triumph, it’s that it doesn’t matter if you are currently the best in the land, you’re likely to be punished by the commitment of lesser Premiership mortals, should you fail to treat every opponent with maximum respect.

Hopefully the Arsenal’s rapidly burgeoning team spirit will ensure that we don’t suffer from such altitude sickness and combined with the beautiful game performed at its gobsmacking best, the view from up here is pretty close to perfect.

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Anonymous said...

What do you mean "one of the goals of the season?" By God, you're expecting a lot from UK football this season!