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Monday 19 October 2015

Home From Home

It was brilliant to get the ball rolling again with a convincing result against Watford. Especially after I'd been casting covetous glances at the TV pictures from White Hart Lane earlier in the afternoon and the sight of Scousers being substituted and already giving their manager of only a few days quite such a surprisingly hearty hug. As was the case at Dortmund, such evidence suggests that it won't be too long before Jurgen Klopp engenders the sort of warmth and affection within the Liverpool dressing room that might soon have his players willing to die for their new manager.

So it was a relief to see the Gunners achieve the sort of result that will keep Arsène's many critics quiet (for the moment!). It's hard to imagine our somewhat more reserved manager inspiring the same overtly emotional response, but so long as we're watching some of the most entertaining football being played anywhere and can maintain the required level of consistency, we really can't complain. Klopp's zany personality might be a breathe of fresh air, but when you consider the constant turmoil resulting from the revolving-door managerial policy at some of our competitors, we surely cannot be advocating change, for change's sake.

I have to admit that the Gunners' patience paid off against Watford, with the goal coming from the first time our hosts were eventually caught without having a sufficient number of bodies behind the ball. It's true that we're capable of passing most teams to death, forcing them to chase the ball until they eventually run out of steam, but it's a risky, not to mention stressful approach, reliant on our defensive resilience, to ensure that we're not breached beforehand.

Personally I would've much preferred to see us plough into Watford right from the opening whistle, with the same sort of urgency we showed against Man Utd, thereby preventing the home side from being able to settle into the game and to grow in confidence, to the point where they began to fancy their chances of getting something out of the game. Mercifully, Alexis goal on Saturday was perfectly timed to crush the Hornets growing sense of belief and with the two more that followed in such quick succession, you could sense all the home side's early optimism evaporating in that thrilling twelve minute spell.

I can't help but feel that if we're going to achieve anything against Bayern on Tuesday night, we need to force the German side onto the backfoot, with the same high-tempo, incisive football that did for Man U. Saturday's "quick, quick, slow" approach  that provided Watford time to organise behind the ball is only likely to have the same results. Not only are Lewandovski and co.  likely to prove far less forgiving when winning the ball back and making forays forward, they're not about to succumb to our hypnotic passing, to the point where they'll be huffing and puffing like the Hornets.

I fear that if we show Bayern too much respect, it's likely to prove fatal and that we instead need to exert our dominance on our home turf. The last thing I want is for us to end up failing to triumph against one of the best sides on the planet without having done ourselves proper justice and without having given it a real go!



Home From Home

Alexis literally puts the Hornets' lights out
Although it was blooming marvelous to witness the Boys in Green bloodying the noses of the World Champs, for the remainder of the Interlull, I found myself being offered eight matches on the red button, none of which were worth the princely sum of my TV subscription. So after a seemingly pointless fortnight of tedious football, where aside from the incredible demise of the Dutch, the only object seemed to be the elimination of minnows such as Gibraltar and San Marino, my tongue was literally hanging out, salivating at the prospect of the recommencement of some proper Premiership entertainment.

Especially after last Thursday’s appetiser of the Arsenal AGM, where obviously the trouncing of Man Utd in our previous outing somewhat tempered the whiff of revolution in the air. Nevertheless, there were plenty of the unlikely-looking peasants amongst the Arsenal shareholders, who were intent on expressing their dissatisfaction with the board’s apparent reluctance to offer even the feeblest justification for the £3million, seemingly being milked by the Kroenkes from their extremely profitable plaything; or to bellow out their indignation at our disastrous Champions League defeats to Monaco, Zagreb and Olympiacos.

Meanwhile, as Arsène felt obliged to chime in, he’s won a lot more than he’s lost and ultimately the abiding respect for our manager remains such that le Prof’s presence on the dais amongst all the other stuffed-shirts, will invariably save the board from the sort of lambasting that they might otherwise endure.

With the Arsenal’s Fanshare Scheme sadly now defunct and the vast majority of supporters having eventually succumbed to the irresistible temptation to cash-in their token piece of the club, there aren’t many shares left in individual hands. In fact, it won’t be long before the shareholders are outnumbered at the AGM by the ever-expanding multitudes of the global media.

Yet for those that endure, in spite of the mounting frustration at our perennial “also ran” status, with so many clubs in an almost constant state of flux and with the exception of those with limitless resources, ultimately it’s impossible to ignore the fact that as fans, we are privileged to enjoy fabulous football, when compared with the vast majority of our competitors. However where in the past we’ve giggled at the obsequious (often sozzled) pomposity of the Hill-Woods patronage, with Sir Chips at the helm, the old duffer seems downright contemptuous of the minions who dare to question their guardianship of our beloved club.

Such utter disdain doesn’t quite fit with the oily-slick corporate spiel of our chief executive. Gazides’s annual overblown Powerpoint polemic invariably leaves me feeling drenched by his blatantly disingenuous assertions that the Arsenal are the best in all aspects of our business (sure Ivan, all but THE most important one!). While such is the reticence of the real power behind the throne to even open their gobs to pass the slightest comment on their intentions for the club that if I hadn’t seen pictures of Kroenke at Watford on Saturday, one might easily believe the club are annually wheeling out waxwork dummies of Silent Stan and his son Josh for the AGM.

It’s great to have Watford back in the Premiership because the short trip to Vicarage Road invariably feels like a home game for me. Win, lose, or draw, a pit-stop at my Mum’s on route, means that I’m at least always guaranteed a good nosh up. In fact, with Watford’s proximity, I’ve heard of several Gooners defecting to the Hornets in recent years, merely because, unlike at the Arsenal, they can go to games with their kids, without having to risk taking out a second mortgage. As a result, it makes for a refreshing change to be able to enjoy a more genial family atmosphere, amongst supporters who are primarily there for the pleasure of the ride, rather than being rabidly driven by the desire for some tangible reward when the music stops.

It’s always worrying playing last on a Saturday, when the three points are only going to maintain the pressure on the sides who’ve won earlier in the day and Alexis’ goal on the hour mark was a massive relief. I was just beginning to fret that our failure to reproduce the same urgency that we’d shown against Utd, was about to cost us dear.

Troy Deeney might not be the most naturally gifted player, but rather than having the armband awarded merely by dint of seniority, I’d love to have a captain covering every blade of grass with such uncompromising commitment. The three goal flurry that resulted from the Gunners injection of pace knocked all the stuffing out of our opponents, but I won’t be at all surprised if their tactically astute manager contrives to take points from some of our competitors.

When's it due?
Hopefully, having finally got off the mark, Aaron Ramsey will enjoy a surge in confidence that will enable him to find the net far more frequently, in contrast to some of his glaring recent misses. But disconcertingly Petr Cech is still some way short of being the decisive, dominant keeper that I was expecting and such hesitancy against the likes of Bayern will doubtless be punished.

Although there are those arguing the benefits of being able to focus on our domestic campaign, by avoiding prolonging the agony of our involvement in the Champions League, we really can’t afford to have the burgeoning sense of optimism brought to an abrupt halt by Bayern tomorrow night and instead require a display that reinforces our status amongst Europe’s elite.

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