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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Five Gold Signings, Three Centre-Halves, Two Midfield Behemoths And A Partridge In A Pear Tree

Merry Crimbo and wishing one and all a happy & healthy New Year

I'm sure I'm not alone in struggling to know what day it is, with so much footie coming thick and fast (hopefully unlike any more snow!) but I thought I had better get Friday's Irish Examiner missive posted out before it become entirely defunct.

Even I am not so cynical as to believe there could've been anything contrived about Olivier Giroud's momentary loss of self-control, despite having only referred to the likelihood of some professional mercenaries conveniently earning themselves an enforced Xmas break in my last post.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen quite how significant our French striker's suspension will prove to be in our encounter with the Irons this afternoon and the Saints on New Year's Day. In Olivier's absence and without the minor miracle of Danny Welbeck suddenly finding some goalscoring form, it would appear that yet again, the responsibility for winning both these games is likely to fall squarely on Alexis' shoulders.

Moreover, I fancy that Allardyce and Koeman are both wily enough campaigners and unlike our own manager, I won't be at all surprised if they make tactical changes designed to try and nullify (man mark?) the Gunners single most potent threat. We can but hope that while half the opposition are chasing Alexis all over the park, some one else is going to step up and impose themselves this afternoon.


Et Voila...Deux Semaines En Vacances!
A St. Steven’s Day derby on an arctic winter’s evening was just what the doctor ordered to walk off some of the Xmas Day calories and to blow off the cobwebs of cosy domestic bliss. Especially against a QPR side that are so accustomed to being trounced on the road that they turned out at our place as understandably timid fodder, for the Gunners urgent need to recover the ground we’d lost in all the day’s earlier results.

Yet in this Jekyll and Hyde campaign, you never know which incarnation of the Arsenal the opposition are going to encounter. Mercifully the horrifically lackluster creature that we’d witnessed at Anfield last weekend had been replaced by the high-tempo entertainers that I’d been hoping for, when I headed out the door, combatting the cold wearing my decidedly timely gifts of snug new thermal long johns and vest

It all looked like it was going to script and we were to be blessed with a stress-free, enjoyable game, when Traore made the mistake of going to ground in the area in the opening minutes. But I should’ve known better and when Alexis fluffed his lines with his resulting powder-puff penalty, I feared we might be in for one of those matches, where Rangers five-man backline were somehow going to rebuff our incessant pressure.

Thankfully Alexis made amends before the break, aided by Rosicky’s energy in the middle of the park and everything was hunky-dory, until Giroud lost the plot. The red-mist came down in a devastatingly momentary loss of self-control, as even if our ten men had more than enough to overcome the hapless Hoops, the absence of our French striker’s height and presence in the penalty area could well prove costly, with Giroud now suspended for crucial trips to Upton Park and St. Mary’s!

With Redknapp going “all in” with his substitutions, suddenly sensing that there might be something to be gained with their extra-man advantage, from what was previously a forlorn effort, Rosicky’s goal was extremely timely. With Alexis influential, as ever, in the build-up, there was a massive wave of relief when Tomas popped up in the space that Traore had vacated a couple of minutes earlier.

Yet if we were thinking a two-goal cushion might afford us an opportunity to conserve some much needed energy for our outing to East London in forty-eight hours, we couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d been hoping for the clean sheet that might instill a little more composure in our defence, but with Charlie Austin in such impressive form, I knew he wasn’t about to look the gift-horse of his spot-kick in the face.

The Gunners recent track record of throwing points away, with our woeful inability to see out a game in a poised and unflappable fashion, ensured we were on the edge of our seats for a nail-biting last ten minutes. Largely thanks to our guests incompetence, for once we managed to achieve this objective. But it remains to be seen on Sunday quite how much this effort took out of us and whether we can go again at Upton Park, with the sort of vitality that will surely be required, if we’re to overcome a Hammers’ side giddy with the rarified air at the top of the table and determined to bounce back after being demolished at the Bridge.

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