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Sunday, 10 April 2016

Is There A Collective Noun For Fat Ladies?

If only we'd been similarly "on our toes" for the entire 90 mins!
Hi Folks, 

I filed the following missive to the Irish Examiner prior to today's games but much to my chagrin the results barely merited making any changes.

You'll have to forgive me for failing to post last week's piece, but it was as much as I could manage just to make it to the Watford game, let alone bash out 800 words on Sunday and I certainly wasn't up to doing any more. If anyone is still interested, you can find the Examiner's edited version here:

The significant impact of our failure to beat the Irons was evident when I tuned into Sunderland v Leicester on the box this afternoon, as this was the first time that I'd found myself watching the Foxes in absolutely no doubt about about who I was up for. With all hope of a miraculous comeback for the title now out of the window, my only interest was for Leicester to continue their unbelievably impressive march to their first ever Premiership trophy, so as to ensure that there's no hope of this season getting any worse, with Spurs adding the unthinkable insult of removing "Have you ever seen Tottenham win the league..." from our already limited terrace repertoire, to the agonising injury of finishing above us for the first time in twenty years!

I also have to admit that with our neighbours achieving a six point cushion over us, with their first victory over Man U in many a moon (which in reality might as well be seven points, when you take their far superior goal difference into account), even my conviction about them being guaranteed to bottle it is fast beginning to wane, as with the finishing line looming ever larger, our prospects of overhauling the enemy are looking increasingly unlikely.

It's all well and good piling pressure upon our competitors by playing first at the weekend and winning but it's not nearly so pleasurable dropping points and then being forced to watch everyone else gain ground. The truth of the matter is that if a team travels away from home and manages to score three goals, there's simply no excuse for failing to bring home the three point bacon.

Let's face it, it certainly caught us with our pants down, but it hardly took a stroke of tactical genius for Slaven Bilic to decide to throw Carroll into the Irons' starting XI because if we were going to match our hosts with the ball on the deck, on his day, there's no beating the lanky Geordie in the air.

As it turned out, despite the seemingly insane decision to leave Cech on the bench, aside from Ospina's punched clearance that lead to our hosts' third goal, our Columbian goal minder didn't do a lot wrong. Far worse perhaps is that le Prof is the sort of manager who's renowned for trusting his players to get on and do their jobs. 

Yet watching the likes of Payet and Lanzini proffered the freedom of Upton Park to play cross after cross into the box, almost totally unopposed and putting balls on a plate for Carroll, it seemed obvious to me that what was really needed on Saturday was the sort of old-fashioned, sheepskin coated, loudmouthed manager who would've been bellowing at our boys, from the moment he saw Carroll's name on the team-sheet, right up until kick-off, to remind them of the crucial need to bust their balls to stop the supply to the big lad, at source. Come back Terry Venables, all is forgiven :-)

Meanwhile, what hope have we of maintaining the pressure on our sworn enemy, when we're so busy arguing amongst ourselves. If I wasn't such a coward, I might be tempted to take a flame to the latest "Au Revoir Arsène" banner, if it makes another appearance at Sunderland because the ability of a couple of fans to make themselves the centre of attention is really beginning to grate. We witnessed a wonderful game of football at West Ham on Saturday, but these selfish idiots deprived us all of our ability to show our appreciation because it was obvious the players were uncomfortable about coming over and applauding in front of a banner that's an affront to their leader.

At such a critical time, when we should be loyally doing all in our power on the terraces to inspire the troops to play for the shirt, these so called "supporters" are a complete contradiction in terms.

Keep the faith

Is There A Collective Noun For Fat Ladies?

Once more, but with not nearly enough feeling!

With Saturday’s encounter being our last ever London derby at the Boleyn, there was absolutely no way I was going to do the sensible thing and stop indoors to watch the game on the box, despite having been struck down by a debilitating lurgy last week. I’ve been making the annual pilgrimage to Upton Park for so many years that I’d have needed to be literally on my death-bed, to miss out on this eagerly anticipated opportunity to bid the Hammers’ dilapidated football temple a fond farewell.

Mind you, compared to the end-to-end intensity of the utterly thrilling spectacle on the pitch, with it being yet another abhorrent, early kick-off, unfortunately the atmosphere on the day didn’t quite live up to my expectations. But then as I keep trying to forewarn my West Ham pals, sadly they won’t fully appreciate the extent to which the Hammers’ world is about to evolve, until they’re ensconced in their far more glamorous, but lamentably sterile new home in Stratford and like the Gunners, they suddenly discover that the soul of their club has been ripped out and replaced by a corporate cash register.

Call me a sentimental old fool, but as Upton Park goes the way of the spiritual homes of Highbury, Maine Road, Roker Park and all the other traditional bastions of the beautiful game being swept away by the irresistible tide of commercial progress, I become increasingly emotional, knowing there will soon come a time when the modern day product that is the EPL is exclusively confined to suitably profitable, but tragically anonymous and antiseptic arenas.

Sure clubs like ours continue to organize choreographed displays of red and white plastic bags, to con the TV audience into believing that the big match atmosphere prevails. Yet when one contrasts this with the sort of genuinely moving rendition of YNWA witnessed at the Scousers’ game in Dortmund in midweek, the Arsenal’s contrived efforts are so obviously counterfeit by comparison, as to leave me enviously coveting the matchday atmosphere of yesteryear.

Mercifully the entertainment on offer on Saturday was so engrossing that there were no frills necessary to fan the flames of this fervent contest. Although I can appreciate Wenger wanting to keep faith in a winning formula, all talk prior to kick-off focused on his confounding decision to leave a fit Petr Cech on the bench, especially when Bilic had cleverly opted for including the Premiership’s most accomplished aerial presence in his starting XI. Not that Andy Carroll exactly needs any more spring in his step but I’m certain Carroll must’ve been enthused at the sight of Ospina on our teamsheet, instead of the more imposing physical presence of Cech.

With Ospina having already picked the ball out of his net twice before the Gunners began to find their mojo, only for the Hammers fans to be rightly incensed to have both goals ruled out by customarily incompetent officiating, we knew that we were extremely fortunate to find ourselves two-nil up and cruising, only a couple of minutes away from the break. But it was the Arsenal’s stuttering season in microcosm that we couldn’t hang on to this lead until half-time.

For all the tactical nuances of top flight footie there are certain simple truisms, such as the essential need to deny the supply to the big lad in the box that remain constant at every level. Albeit we all assumed Arsène had lost the plot, when his answer to this problem was to leave us chasing the points in the last 20 mins with no one, other than Ramsey to defend in the middle of the park, having removed both Coquelin and Elneny.

I'll get my flame thrower!
Ultimately a draw was probably a fair result but the single point does neither side any favours. Sadly, yet again, instead of being able to celebrate a cracking game of football, a couple of publicity-seeking individuals poisoned the post-match mood, by inciting more disunity with their new anti-Arsène banner. There’s nothing wrong with slating our absentee owner, with their other “Love Arsenal, Hate Kroenke” escutcheon, but lambasting our leader in front of his troops certainly doesn’t count as showing loyalty to the Gunners’ cause.

Up until now, the only essential objective has been to overhaul Spurs but suddenly we’re forced to contemplate the encroaching Mancunian threat. Playing first at the weekend is advantageous when one wins, but only offers succour to the competition when one fails to maintain the pressure. However the lifebelt of Champions League football is unlikely to save us from drowning in the face of the tsunami of finishing below Tottenham.
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Anonymous said...

As much as I respect your views and incredible support for Arsenal, you are wrong about the banner.

Wenger needs to go, he needed to go a long time ago and the banner is one of the few ways that supporters can be heard. We need more of these banners - and plenty of them at home as well to force Wenger out. He is to arrogant to quit and Kroenke won't fire him so its up to the fans to make as much noise as possible and rid us of Wenger.

Jack said...

Yes but who appointed these wankers as the 'voice of the supporters'? They did - and think it's OK to undermine the club at away fixtures,