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Monday, 22 September 2014

£200m And They Still Don't Win

As it turned out, Saturday’s outing to Villa Park couldn’t have possibly proved a more timely antidote to our abysmal midweek performance in Dortmund. This was just what the doctor ordered, both to erase the utterly indefensible memory of the referee tracking back faster than our emasculated midfield, as Immobile set the tone for a somewhat humiliating victory for the German side and to serve as a much needed confidence boost, inspiring a far more optimistic mood in advance of difficult derbies against Spurs and Chelsea.

My mates were intent on arriving in the Midlands in plenty of time to sink a pre-match pint or two. But at a poignant moment to be spouting bon mots from Scotland’s favourite son, best laid schemes “aft gang agley” and Saturday’s fairly typical stramash on the roads turned a relatively short trip, into a tortuous four-hour schlep. Motorway gridlock soon silenced my complaints about being forced to forsake the comforts of my pit prematurely and our early start proved fortuitous, as doubtless if left to my own devices I’d have struggled to reach Birmingham before the second-half.

The delays left us with more time in the motor than any of us wanted, to mull over our anti-climactic Champions League opener. You didn’t need to be Einstein to know that le Gaffer should’ve set out a more conservative stall in midweek. The four of us were all fuming over the apparent arrogance of Arsène’s blatant failure to pay heed to the opposition’s customary high-octane approach.

Based on the famous German physicist’s definition of lunacy as someone who repeats the same thing over and over again and expects a different outcome, Arsène should've substituted a straightjacket for his default duvet coat by now. But aside from fearing that a changing of the Gunners’ guard might result in the same sort of period of instability that’s been evident elsewhere, my habitual retort to the AMG (Arsène Must Go) mob has always been who would I want in Wenger’s stead

On Tuesday night, perhaps for the first time, I found myself casting covetous glances in the direction of Jurgen Klopp, upon witnessing the stark contrast in the two sides respective motivation. This was epitomized by the hearty hug given to the Dortmund manager by his half-time sub, as compared with Podolski’s apparent urgency to impact upon the game, when he wasted the best part of ten minutes, phaffing around on the bench searching for some shin-pads.

Oh for the building of some of the “unbelievable belief” articulated so eloquently in Paul Merson’s eulogies of yesteryear. If David Dein was still on the scene, I wonder whether the Arsenal’s former Machievallian fixer would’ve long since recognized the writing on this particular wall and already engineered the accession of the likes of an energized Klopp to the N5 throne?

Yet such is the fickle nature of the beautiful game that all such negative deliberations disappeared, during a scintillating three-minute spell of football against Villa. It was perhaps fortunate that Mezut found himself up against the hapless Senderos, as even I would appear quick compared to the oil-tanker like pace of the well travelled Swiss defender.

With Welbeck setting up Özil for the first and then Mezut returning the compliment for the second, it was marvelous to see a rare smile spread across the face of our midfield playmaker, as his boots concocted the perfect response to all those non-believers complaining about his failure to produce an away goal to date. While in contrast to disparaging Mancunian mocking, as the travelling Gooner faithful exhorted our new striker, Welbeck seemed to grow in stature right before our eyes.

One had to feel some sympathy for the home fans, as the confidence borne of early season success ensured that our hosts were on top for the opening twenty minutes and if Shez hadn’t stuck out a goal saving paw, moments before our brief onslaught, it might’ve been an entirely different story.

Yet it was Cissokho’s own goal for our third, which seemed to knock any remaining stuffing out of Lambert’s side, leaving the Villa fans dumbstruck, wondering what had just hit them. While we were in seventh-heaven, savouring a stress-free, thoroughly dominant second half, where those in Claret and Blue couldn’t even muster a response.

Despite our criminal defensive negligence, in repeatedly leaving the opposition unmarked at the far post, Villa proved sufficiently impotent for us to come away with our first clean sheet. Hopefully we can build on this, so that we don’t look quite so fragile at the back by the time we head to the Bridge,

Before our date with the Blues and next weekend’s North London derby, we've Tuesday's Carling Cup encounter against Koeman’s in-form outfit. I'm eagerly looking forward to an opportunity to gauge the progress of the likes of Akpom and the impressive talents of Dan Crowley, the latest prodigy from the Gunners’ teenage production line.

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