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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Le Coq Sportif

            There’s always plenty of trepidation in the aftermath of an International break, wondering how many of our players might return from their globetrotting exploits crocked, either physically or psychologically. The Gunners were hardly in scintillating form in our victory up at St. James Park, immediately before the majority of our players disappeared off to meet up with their respective national squads.

            Moreover, with Raheem Sterling caught in the glare of the media spotlight, after the youngster’s somewhat naïve public comments and with so many memorable contests between Liverpool and the Arsenal littered with a history of sumptuous hat-tricks, I was understandably concerned that Saturday’s stage might’ve been set for Sterling to silence the cacophonous cannonade from his myopic critics.

            Especially with our lamentable track record in these lunchtime encounters, where we all too often fail to turn up until the second half and with the Gunners being in a somewhat more comfortable position than the Scousers, for whom defeat would sound the death-knell to their Champions League dreams for yet another season.

            However for once it was the Arsenal who flew out of the traps, like a team possessed, playing at such a fabulously free-flowing, high tempo right from the opening whistle that you could be forgiven for thinking that we were the team who simply couldn’t afford to lose this game.

What A Day For A Demo! My 40 Quid Certainly VFM!!
          Judging by the scant number of empty spaces on the terraces, I was far from alone in my unwillingness to want to deprive myself of the tremendous entertainment on offer in the opening period and I can’t imagine that there were too many fans who lingered outside the ground for the admirable, if somewhat ill-advised attempts at a united protest over extortionate ticket prices.

            Just making it in time for these early KOs is an arduous enough task for most supporters, let alone arriving early to support a pre-match demonstration and with us having been starved of Premiership footie for a fortnight, I’m not sure the organizers could’ve possibly picked a more inappropriate occasion to expect supporters to miss 10 minutes of this match, as we were all itching to get inside and “get it on”.

            With Mignolet thwarting most of our efforts to reap any material reward from the Gunners high-intensity, early assault on our guest’s goal, the Scousers eventually managed to draw breath and for a moment there, it looked as if our worst fears of succumbing to a solitary Liverpool counter were about to be realized, when Markovic broke free. Surely only a lack of confidence can explain the striker’s attempt to play in Sterling, instead of taking on Ospina himself?

            It’s hard to believe that back in September we were debating whether Balotelli might’ve been a better bet than Welbeck. As if to highlight this point, on reveling in the replay on Match of the Day on Saturday night, amongst the distracting facts flashing along the bottom of the screen was the revelation that with his two Premiership strikes, our young French full-back, Bellerin, has now scored more than Balotelli!

            With three spectacular goals, Bellerin, Ozil and Sanchez might’ve taken all the plaudits, in those eight magical minutes that secured our impressive triumph at the end of the first half, but for me, once again it was young Franny Coquelin who deserved most credit. Playing with a high back line and with both full-backs bombing forward, the Gunners appeared susceptible to pacy counter-attacks, if it wasn’t for the fact that time and again Coquelin snuffed out the threat at source, dominating the middle of the park.

          I’m sure the possibility of Chelsea being reliant on Remy’s goals for the remainder of the campaign must be disconcerting to Blues fans. But even in the unlikely event of us winning all of our remaining matches, no one can seriously believe we’ll witness the sort of complete implosion necessary at the Bridge to bring us into the title frame.

            Myself I will gladly settle for making Mourinho squirm, by maintaining the pressure with this sort of sparkling form. But for Coquelin to be securely anointed as our undisputed homegrown holding midfielder and perhaps save le Prof umpteen millions in the process, he needs to not merely match, but outshine the likes of Matic, as the architect of Arsène’s first ever victory over the Gobby one. The Gunners looked like the real deal on Saturday, but psychologically, not until we’ve put Mourinho’s side to the sword will I really begin to believe that we’ve truly arrived!

Oi Deschamps! Sakho Instead of Kos...You're Having A Larf!
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