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Sunday, 3 January 2016

Where's Your Brolly Wally?

"1-0 to the Arsenal"
I recall watching such a mediocre Man Utd earlier in the season and wondering how on earth they were managing to remain there, or thereabouts, in touch with the league leaders. Similarly, I’m sure that any neutral watching our lacklustre win over Newcastle on Saturday would’ve found it barely credible that they were witnessing the current title favourites, in the process of going two points clear at the top of the table.

The afternoon looked like turning out to be even more profitable, when it appeared as if we were destined to stretch our lead over Man City to a somewhat more significant 5 or 6 points. Having dashed back home from the Arsenal, to watch the late KO on the box and with the plucky Hornets retaining their goal advantage, right up until the 82nd minute, it seemed as if the gods were really smiling down upon us Gooners on Saturday.

Our own 3-0 win at Vicarage Road was decidedly flattering and what with Spurs snatching a somewhat undeserved winner right at the death in Watford's last outing, even when City equalized, I thought that surely they were due to at least deny City a couple of points, by holding out for a draw. Seemingly Sagna had other intentions, seeing the 32-year old full-back storming down the flank in the 84th minute. Bakary appeared intent on dishing out some rough justice to all those Gooners who’d booed him at our place a couple of weeks back, by whipping in the cross for Aguero’s winner and thereby denying us a far more comfortable cushion, over the most obvious threat to our title aspirations.

Although I can appreciate the perceived treachery felt for any player who mercenarily forsakes the red and white cause to serve another pay-master, there are those former heroes who roundly deserve being given the bird by our crowd and those who’ve spent the majority of their career providing such loyal service that I’m always left feeling particularly uncomfortable, hearing their every touch booed upon their return to the club in an opponent’s colours.

Sleeper cell, or deserved payday
& a dreadlock holiday
I certainly felt that Sagna merited a more magnanimous reception. Not only can I not begrudge him wanting one last big payday before hanging up his boots, but with him having suffered a Samson-like disaster the one and only time he attempted to rid himself of his dated Bo Derek style dreads at the Arsenal, I often wondered if a motivating factor for his move was Baks desperate desire to finally see the back of his twee looking “Barnet”.

Who knows, perhaps much like Cesc Fabregas, Arsène’s apparent sleeper cell at Stamford Bridge, Sagna is merely inveigling himself into Pellegrini’s plans as a more permanent first choice, prior to perpetrating the ultimate act of sabotage, as this campaign reaches its climax? Truth be told, we might well end up requiring such chicanery and all the external aid we can get, if the Gunners are to carry on in such a complacent looking fashion as Saturday’s lamentably leaden-footed triumph.

Ultimately I was just delighted that Koscielny eventually found a means of securing the all-important three points, which meant that my brother-out-of-law might be invited back again. Sure with Petr Cech saving our bacon yet again, there was plenty of satisfaction in seeing the Gunners being able to win quite so ugly, when this essential title winning attribute has been on the missing list for much of the past decade.

Yet with Dave over from Dublin for his first match since we departed Highbury, it was disappointing that the Gunners failed to light up such a depressingly rain-sodden afternoon, with this encounter lacking even the odd isolated moment of "worth the price of admission alone", trophy-winning type example of the beautiful game (as evidenced in City’s two game-saving strikes).

With Özil’s body language frequently demonstrating his frustration at the lack of vitality of those around him, the miserable weather seemed to reflect the Gunners’ mood, as in the majority of them looking as if they’d much rather be elsewhere! It was only when Campbell came on for the last 20 minutes and really started putting himself about that the Costa Rican’s energy truly put into focus the comparative lethargy of the likes of the Ox, Walcott and Ramsey.

Wenger was on the verge of resorting to throwing the young Reine-Adelaide into the fray to try and conjure up some inspiration. The youngster was stripped off and waiting to come on, only for us to be denied an opportunity of seeing if he can cut the mustard, as he was promptly sent back to the bench when Laurent poked home what proved to be the decisive goal. So as the stadium finally rocked with a wave of euphoric relief, my own unconfined joy was tinged with a slight hint of sadness.

Hopefully the French midfielder won’t be left waiting too long, as he’ll likely play some part in next Saturday’s FA Cup encounter with BFS’ Black Cats. Doubtless with this being timed to demonstrate that Arsène isn’t quite so desperate to splash the cash, with more resources to be discovered from within. Whether or not Wenger reinvigorates our squad, by availing himself of a bulging wallet, we’re certainly desperate for some spark to reignite our recent indifferent form, with the return of Alexis’ dynamism the most likely source.
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