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Sunday 21 August 2016

The Bowler’s Holding The Batsman’s Willey

The home of the Champions, cudda, wudda, shudda.......!!

We shared a knowing look, sitting in the boozer before Saturday’s game in Leicester, as the Gooner tom-toms transmitted news of Burnley beating Liverpool, putting last Sunday’s opening day defeat into some proper perspective.

Personally, I was expecting the limitations of Klopp’s side to be exposed next weekend, with the Scousers getting schmeissed at White Hart Lane. Yet with them losing to the relegation favourites on Saturday, this surprising result only fuelled our frustration at having thrown these three points away.

And with Man U, City, Chelsea and Spurs all having banked a win, by the time we rocked up at the home of the current league champions (talk to us when you’ve won thirteen titles!), the pressure for the Gunners to get some points on the board had only intensified.

The happy memories of last season’s flattering 2-5 triumph ensured that Saturday’s game was a particularly hot ticket. With the Gunners “generously” gifting a further four quid discount off the flat-rate £30 price of all away match tickets this season, the demand for comparatively affordable £26 tickets has fast become far more intense, than for an astronomically priced pitch at our place.

            Mercifully the publicity-seeking “Time For A Change” banner wankers, were noticeable by their absence at Leicester. There was the odd individual displaying their own somewhat feeble, homemade A4 effort at the final whistle and the now customary cat-calls. Yet the fact remains (as evidenced by the attached video…if it is viewable?), away games are far more fun.

            Despite a minor fracas with the departing opposition fans and an embarrassing contretemps between our own opposing In/Out factions, for the most part, the fervent atmosphere in the Gooner corner of the King Power on Saturday was a gratifying contrast to the toxic undercurrent that is waiting to rain down the very instant anything goes awry at the Emirates.

Whilst setting our Arsenal world to rights, surrounded by genial Foxes’ fans in the rub-a-dub, it was a fairly constant theme to ponder on the motivation of the huge number of home fans who pay such extortionate prices, only to endure an afternoon in a state of such abject misery?

Whereas the mood of the travelling contingent improved on Saturday, with the realization that Koscielny, Santi and the Ox had been reintroduced to our starting XI. Yet this was tempered by the knowledge that our solitary recognized centre-forward had retained his watching brief, on our star-studded bench.

Ultimately, an engaging goalless game produced mixed emotions. There was a consensus that we’d enjoyed due reward for our effort, not with Mesut’s fifteen minute cameo, but with our World Cup winner’s single “tekkers” moment on the touchline in front of us late-on, which was worth at least double the cost of our reduced price admission.

It was interesting to hear Arsène once again refer to the fact that the Gunners continue to approach full-fitness. Although we immediately looked more threatening with the introduction of Özil and Wilshere, our subs' impact was compounded by the obvious evidence that it was the Foxes who were flagging. We might’ve taken more advantage, if only Wenger had sent Giroud on sooner, but then perhaps, like me, le Prof was overly fearful of the trademark Leicester sucker-punch, which might’ve left us heading back to London completely empty-handed and considerably more glum.

            With the familiar refrain of “spend some f#ckin’ money” ringing out at the final whistle, it was disconcerting to see Mesut and the irritatingly ineffective Alexis disappear straight down the tunnel, even before Clattenburg had finished blowing up. When we are all witnessing the positive impact of new arrivals amongst our competitors, I’m equally concerned about the psychological effect upon our two biggest stars of a perceived lack of ambition at the Arsenal, as I am about our prospects of competing with the current chasm in our existing roster.

Mercifully Rob Holding appeared to benefit from having the more experienced (man of the match?) Koscielny alongside him. Although on another, less charitable afternoon, Clattenburg might’ve given the home side the benefit of his doubt and awarded them the two contentious penalty claims and we might've been fortunate to finish the game with a full complement.

While the local radio commentator questioned whether Leicester were paying the price for the number of penalties they “earned” last season, in his post-match comments Arsène opined on whether the clamour for him to flash the cash would be quite so loud if he’d paid a humungous price-tag for our teenage centre-half..

Meanwhile, I suspect that as with our defeat to Liverpool, our hard-earned point at Leicester will only prove profitable should the Tinkerman prolong their home form with equally obdurate performances in the weeks to come. If the Foxes remarkable league triumph was only a flash in the pan and they begin to flounder against our competitors, this will feel like another two points lost?

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