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Sunday 30 November 2014

All I Want For Xmas.......

            The utterly remorseless footballing diet that feeds the insatiable appetite of the sporting media beast and it's ever more bloated online belly has created this farcically fluid environment, where any absence of consistency has clubs constantly portrayed as lurching between absolute boom and bust. 

            For all the media's effort to throw kindling on the smouldering fire of discontent at the Arsenal, the two wins this past week that have put us through to the knockout stages of the Champions League (for the 15th successive season!) and restored us to the upper-echelons of the Premiership, have inevitably taken the pressure off our pugnacious manager. To the point where the unfurling of the "thanks for the memories" banner behind the goal at the Hawthorns, after beating the Baggies on Saturday, seemed more than a little churlish.

            After having gone to all the bother, it felt as if le Gaffer’s hard-core detractors were going to broadcast their anti-Arsène bulletin, no matter what had transpired on the pitch. Although their message might've been loud and clear, the sentiments expressed were far from unanimous, judging by the unrest it's appearance caused as the majority of us were communing with our match-winning heroes after the final whistle.

            Truth be told, no matter what side of the great Gooner divide one sits on, the vast majority are not the least bit interested in throwing our toys out of the pram, so long as our beloved team are doing the business; even after witnessing our title prospects sink faster than the Belgrano, in our worst start to a campaign since the Falklands War.

            And if any assistance was required to put events into proper perspective, it came in the form of the chilling reminder of the tragedy in the Antipodes, upon seeing "Hughes 63" etched on the homemade cardboard tribute in the hands of one of the travelling faithful exiting the Travel Club charabanc as we strolled towards Saturday's unacceptably early sporting spectacle.

          Shorn of their early season ebullience with them languishing at the bottom of the Bundesliga, Klopp’s cohorts were unrecognizable in midweek as the same daunting side that bulldozed us in Dortmund early doors. And on discovering the recently unveiled, gravity-defying bronze statue of Tony “Bomber” Brown outside the Hawthorns, doubtless this Baggies hero of yesteryear won’t have been impressed by the home side’s impotent efforts at the weekend, where despite a hearty chorus of “you don’t know what you are doing” disgust, it wasn’t until after Irvine replaced Sessegnon with Samaras on 76 mins that they finally managed an effort on goal.

            Whether it’s down to biorhythms or their maladjusted bodyclocks, with the early KO, inevitably we failed to produce the sort of zestful blitzkrieg we witnessed against Man Utd & Dortmund. But with Giroud and Koscielny restored to our ranks, the Gunners are instantly transformed into a far more physically imposing outfit, by contrast to psychologically disadvantaged team of nine-stone weaklings that we’ve grown accustomed to watching in previous weeks.

            The nerve-wracking responsibility of amalgamating our decimated defence has taken its toll on Mertesacker and it might take time for Per to rediscover his Teutonic efficiency. But having his regular partner back playing alongside made an immediate difference as that crucial aura of calm and composure that we’ve so sorely missed was patently apparent on Saturday.

            At least it was, up until the last ten minutes, as the tension mounted and the Gunners appeared no less haunted than those of us on the terraces, by all those costly gaffes that we’ve endured in recent games. So it was important for us to prove ourselves capable of reaching the finishing line, with our clean sheet intact.

            Obviously Southampton are likely to offer a far more testing examination of our credentials on Wednesday. But with Welbeck and Giroud demonstrating that they can play together and Cazorla having his most influential game to date, at last there appears to be some light at the end of our inconsistent tunnel.

            With matches coming thick and fast as the festive season approaches, I worry that Alexis might eventually burn out. Especially while others in midfield appear to be taking advantage of his astonishing work-rate. On occasion Ramsey doesn’t bother closing the opposition down, knowing he can rely on our Chilean terrier to all the donkeywork. Now if only Aaron could add his compliments to the Xmas season, things might start to get truly festive.

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