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Monday 4 November 2013

Trick Or Treat

With my Mum's wonderful 80th birthday party yesterday and a speech to write (the writing of which was no bother, but I only wish I could say the same for the painfully embarrassing public experience of having to deliver it!), the following  missive needed to be written and sent early Sunday morning, without knowing whether we'd still be five points clear by the end of the weekend.

Thankfully the Toffees subsequently ensured the maintenance of this status quo by taking points off our neighbours at Goodison and I've not been able to wipe the smile off my face since. Yet I thought I'd better get this week's diary piece out there, before events in Dortmund on Wednesday make it obsolete.

Come on you Reds


Long may the media pundits continue pooh-poohing the Gunners title pretensions, as with each successive victory I find myself anticipating, ever more eagerly, the enthralling prospect of these so-called experts being left having to eat their words. It remains to be seen whether our sumptuous triumph over the Scousers will prove to be a significant indicator of the Arsenal’s entitlement to an invite for the end of season title shake-up. Yet no matter what the eventual outcome, there will be few complaints along the way, so long as the tortuous Premiership marathon continues to be quite so captivating as Saturday’s euphoric pit-stop.

What I do know is that this was a badly needed tonic for both fans and team alike, after Tuesday’s night’s Cup capitulation against Chelsea, especially combined with the psychological impact of keeping a clean sheet in the face of Liverpool’s formidable firepower. A bad result on Saturday would’ve left us facing a big week, wondering if there’s any merit to some of the “flat-track bullies” suggestions that have been mooted by many to date. By contrast, we now travel to Germany on Wednesday and to Old Trafford next weekend, brimming with renewed confidence, knowing that at our best, we’re a match for absolutely anyone.

Dortmund might test such conviction but I fancy we will fare far better against the Bundesliga outfit than we did at our place, when all the pressure is on the home side to perform. And having put a dampener on the Scousers in-form dynamic duo, by shutting out Suarez & Sturridge, there’s no reason why we can’t do likewise against messrs Rooney & Van Persie. In fact, having seen the likes of West Brom and Southampton take advantage of Man Utd’s recent insecurity by taking the game to them at Old Trafford, compared to the agony of some of our recent humblings on their turf, we’ll be travelling to the North-West with more expectation than we’ve experienced in many a moon.

Myself I’ve yet to make any travel arrangements, as I’ve not been in great form. If I was sensible, I should’ve stopped indoors on Saturday and watched the game on the box, in the warm. But sadly there’s no substitute for sharing such rapturous thrills with 60,000 Gooner mates and I’d have to be a death’s door to willingly miss a match, so long as the “craic`’ meter continues well beyond the ninety mark.

As is so often the case when a team is on song, even the fates seemed on side on Saturday, as evidenced by ref Atkinson’s failure to allow the quick free-kick that might well have resulted in a first-half equalizer and Sturridge looking Sczczny’s gift-horse in the mouth, when presented with an opportunity to pull a goal back late on.

Admittedly we could’ve well done without Kieran Gibbs adding to our seemingly eternal injury woes, in what was one of his most impressive displays thus far. Not that Monreal isn’t more than adequate defensive cover, but in the absence of Walcott and Chamberlain, we are already shorn of so much pace that this is the only possible justification I can think of for Arsène’s inclusion of the painfully lightweight Myaichi against Mourinho’s more manful outfit. On the evidence of the Blues defeat at St. James Park, perhaps their manager would be feeling more special, if he availed himself of his second string more often!

And judging by the constant ear-bashing Kolo Toure was getting from Gerrard and Suarez’s demonstrative frustration for the want of more support on Saturday, obviously losing wasn’t helping Liverpool’s happy-camper cause, but I’m uncertain that the Scousers can count on team-spirit to keep them in the frame. To my mind it’s Coutinho who really makes Rodger’s side tick and I was most relieved to see him on the bench and then only brought on out on the flank after the break, where he had less opportunity to influence proceedings.

But then amongst the weekend’s expected headline grabbers, such as Cazorla & Ramsey, much kudos to Mikel Arteta for putting a leg-weary looking Gerrard to shame, with a genuine captain’s performance. The Spaniard was so masterful in midfield that he made of mockery of my fears for Flamini’s enforced absence.

Never mind my unbearably smug glee over the relatively meaningless feat of starting another week sitting atop the Premiership pack, far more enthralling is the thought that we’re only a quarter of the way through and that we are to be blessed with another seven months of such supremely satisfying football!
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