It was very depressing this past weekend. With all that transpired in the interim, since the stinging defeat at City and with some confidence boosting international performances for some of our squad, I managed to talk Saturday’s game up completely, believing we were going to witness a totally different assured Arsenal, as opposed to the pondering and fragile efforts we’d experienced prior. I’d convinced myself that with the boost to the squad of our new signings, we’d kick-start our campaign by blowing Boro away.
So from such a height, it was a long way to fall, sitting in our seats at half-time contemplating the same old, same old, flabbergasted to hear it said on my radio that there was a possibility of us ending the day bottom of the Premiership pile.
Apparently it’s our worse start to a league campaign in 15 years. Although in truth we should be capable of cutting Arsène some slack. Based on his fairly consistent ability to work the oracle almost every season, with both hands tied behind his back when you compare the financial resources made available to many of our competitors, then I guess he’s long overdue a bit of a dip?
I was glad to read on Sunday that he’s recognised as far as our wider pitch is concerned that “we still do no know how best to use it”. Far be it from little old me to second guess the great man, but I was actually becoming a little worried that he’d failed to address something which seemed so obvious. I mean how often do we have to bang our heads in frustration, watching them try to ballet dance past durable centre-backs, when everyone knows if you can’t go through a thing, the answer is to go around it!
The problem is that Walcott is about the only player I am aware of in this Arsenal squad who has the necessary pace and who is still young enough to learn the art of instinctive wing play. Whereas no matter how many time Freddie or Hleb lime-up in these positions, they are relatively old dogs who will tend to cut in because of their instincts to head goalwards, instead of taking the ball to the byeline and whipping in a cross. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that we possess a squad who, magnetically speaking, are polar opposites from the corner flags, until it comes to taking the ball there to wind the clock down.
If Walcott was thirty I could perhaps understand Arsène wanting to leave him out, but at Theo’s tender age, he could have played two midweek games for England U21s and still been full of running come Saturday. More’s the point, it would seem absolute madness to leave him out entirely, when as the need arose 0-1 down to Boro, he’s perhaps the only player capable of providing us with something different.
Meanwhile I am hopeful that William Gallas is going to do the business but if Arsène was going to throw him straight in, I’d rather see him play at centre-back and I tend to agree with everyone who has been touting Flamini to play as cover at left-back. To be honest, after the way Mathieu managed to do such a great job for us last season, playing in this unfamiliar role and rarely, if ever letting us down, I was surprised that Wenger didn’t start the season with him back there.
What’s more I believe we need to cut Djourrou some slack. He’s proved he’s capable of playing at the top level with his country. However the problem is that over the course of a season he’s bound to make the odd gaff. That’s what learning the game is all about. But crucially, where you can often get away with messing up elsewhere on the park, much like a goalie, at centre-back mistakes are likely to prove costly.
So while I\d hope Johann has a bright future with us, for the sake of getting some clean sheets under our belt, personally I reckon Kolo and Gallas would be the ideal combination just right now, to give our defence a more solid feel. Moreover since we seem to struggle so much whenever we go a goal down, I guess the best remedy would be for us to prevent the opposition scoring, as whenever we take the lead in a game, we are capable of destroying anyone, because instead of getting everyone behind the ball, they are forced to come at us
Meanwhile we’ve some racist Neanderthal sitting a couple of rows behind us in the East Lower who came out with a “lazy black bastard” comment a couple of weeks back. I noticed a few outraged looks of disgust on the faces of a few people around who heard him and to be honest I was annoyed at myself for not saying something straight away. I think his remark was directed at Eboué, which is ironic, as he’s about the most energetic player in the team at present. Timid coward that I am, my only response was to express my increasingly vocal support for Manny, in the vain hope this tosser might get the message.
However my indignant missus has doubtless been bottling her rage ever since and she assumed it must have been the same bigoted idiot on Saturday who spat out “you Irish bastard” directed at ref Mike Riley. Róna lost it completely, stood up and turned around to scream “Less of the racist remarks! What’s your seat number?” Since this was prior to Riley awarding us a penalty, I was doing my best to hunker down and pretend she wasn’t with me J
To be honest I can’t believe she stood up for the official, rather than an Arsenal player but I guess she is a Dubliner. However it was more of a cumulative annoyance, where I am sure she must’ve felt if she didn’t say something then, she might never do so and in truth I was very proud of her.
I only hope he’s got the message and if he hasn’t, hopefully I’ll have the balls to tell him to put a sock in it, as I’m certainly not prepared to endure that kind of crap at every game.
This wasn’t the only person who I was desperate to put a sock in it on Saturday. The tannoy in the West Upper at THOF was absolutely useless, as it was totally unintelligible and it used to bug the hell out of me, not being able to make out a word of anything Wenger had to say. However we’ve got the opposite extreme at the new place, where the PA is completely deafening.
I am pretty sure that there couldn’t have been a single person amongst the 60,000 present who didn’t hear the stadium announcer the first time when he explained the problems with the tube and I know he’s obliged to get the information out, but with us chasing the game with the clock ticking down, it was driving me bonkers that he kept repeating this long-winded ear-bashing every few minutes and if I found it dreadfully distracting, I am sure it wasn’t helping the players.
Several other people have also raised the issue of the half-time refreshments at the new place, or more’s the point, the fact that you can’t get any! Perhaps it will improve as the staff get used to serving folk a little quicker. But if it doesn’t, then it would appear that the club have seriously underestimated the need for these facilities.
Perhaps they are too busy taking huge amounts of money in receipts from all the corporate facilities to give a monkey’s about the fact that they are missing out on a few quid from those of us mug punters who can’t be bothered to spend the entire break queuing and possibly missing the start of the game, in order to get served. At the friendly last Sunday, I directed the Brazilian lad who took Ro’s ticket, upstairs in order to get a half-time drink. Although I am not sure the queues are any shorter in the Upper Tier than they are downstairs.
I had a mate and his son over from France for the Villa game and I went upstairs to meet up at half-time. I found them in a queue, where we stood and chatted for the entire duration of the break and when the teams appeared for the second half, they eventually just gave up and went back to their seats, rather than risk missing some of the action.
Am I correct in thinking that they’ve removed the burgers from the half-time menu since the initial opening, as it occurred to me back then that I must check out the four quid’s worth of “100 per cent pure beef” but I haven’t seen them offered anywhere since. I just wonder if they’ve reduced the items on offer in an attempt to speed matters up, as since the number of serving points is now fixed for good, the only way they can improve things is with the speed of service.
Along with everyone else, I am also amazed that the club haven’t got around to doing anything with the gloomy looking grey/green concrete fronts of the balconies of each level. Strangely enough, after all the hoo-haa last season, I’ve yet to see any evidence of the Israeli Tourist Board sponsorship which caused such an amusing sh*t storm when it was announced – mind you they’d doubtless be wasting their money trying to promote tourism over there at the moment, when instead of the obligatory straw donkey that folk bring back from Spain, the only souvenir you’d be guaranteed of coming home from the Holy Land with at present is a pile of shrapnel!
Subsequent to barney over this, I was wondering if the club’s sponsors have exerted some sort of control over any other advertising space sold in “their” (!!??) stadium, as otherwise I would’ve expected the club to have sold off the prime space on these bland concrete fascias, as they let the whole of the rest of the stadium down. If this isn’t the plan, then surely they could at least paint them, or at best, I am certain it wouldn’t cost very much to have them covered with the same sort of banners we had on the front of the North Bank at THOF, celebrating some of the Gunners most glorious title triumphs.
No doubt when Spurs get to visit in December, the worst of the animals amongst the envious scum support will be looking to do as much damage as possible to our spanking new stadium, wrecking karseys and absolutely anything else they can vandalise (I will be highly surprised if the huge concrete “Arsenal” lettering doesn’t require a paint job afterwards). But on the basis that they are going to be intent on inflicting some sort of havoc, we might as well give them good cause. Thus I will be very disappointed if we haven’t got around to putting something up by then to rub their noses in a reminder of WHL 71 & 04
Hopefully by then our form will have long been back on track, as we have to continue to have faith in the fact that “Arséne Knows”. Seeing some of the comments below, it would appear that some of you don’t fully appreciate how lucky we are. I also get pissed off occasionally by the fact that Arsène isn’t a little more animate, as there are times when we could really do with a tea cup throwing display and for him to kick a few arses. However Wenger is not a Martin O’Neill type and never will be.
There have also been several occasions in the past when I’ve cursed the fact that he’s such a cold, calculating type, where he breaks down absolutely all his decisions into percentages and every player is simply the sum of his current statistics. To my mind there are time in this beautiful game of ours that you need to make a decision based on gut instinct, instead of mere mathematics. However Arsène is what he is and up to now it’s worked marvellously well for him.
My biggest fear is the five-year theory, where it’s suggested that every five years you need to change either the team, or the manager. But then his squad has evolved to the point where there are only a few remaining players who’ve been with us long enough for there to be a possibility of them having grown weary of listening to the same words each week. And while I’d give anything for a few more (or even one, at this point in time!!) British / Irish players in our first team, I am not about to start stabbing him in the back as quick as some appear to be doing.
Those who’ve been a bit quick to start knocking the boss should perhaps bear in mind that most every club and International side on this planet would break the bank to get Wenger as their manager. What’s more, if we are to believe that Le Prof has actually lost the plot, with Martin O’Neill having gone to Villa, pray tell me exactly who would you choose as a replacement, as personally I can’t think of many managers (certainly none available) who can hold a candle to Arséne?
I’d love to have a character like O’Neill in the Arsenal dugout because it’s so much easier for us to relate to someone who wears their heart on their sleeve in the same manner as us supporters and having someone screaming like a banshee up and down the technical area for the duration of the 90 is so much more inspirational than our phlegmatic gaffer. However as much as I adore Stuart Pearce’s barmy touchline antics, the former Notts Forest hardman has probably nutted one player too many and so hardly compares in the intelligence stakes.
Moreover while I am convinced about O’Neill’s abilities to encourage a relatively average side to play out of their skins, his time at Celtic certainly didn’t prove whether the Irishman has the capacity to fine tune the very cream of world class talent. Until such time as O’Neill is successful at a top club, I will continue to have some concerns about whether he has the necessary patience to cope with the incredibly whimsical nature of the sort of modern celebrity players who might be pulling in several times O’Neill’s salary.
Finally for those who aren’t aware, yesterday’s post was the weekly column that I write for the Irish Examiner and consequently my comments in the last couple of paragraphs are directed at the Chelsea supporter who contributes, along with a Man Utd and a Liverpool fan, to their Terrace Talk feature, Whether it’s the fact that she has the needle to Newcastle because she doesn’t think the Toon Army deserves their reputation as some of the best fans in the Premiership, or she’s airing her grudges about the likes of Curbishley, the Chelsea lass seems to have a chip on her shoulder which ensures that she is almost always having a pop at someone or another.
I’m able to take most of her comments with a pinch of salt. However after she had a pop at Gallas last week for his supposed failure to show proper appreciation to the club responsible for making his career and for his comments about the Arsenal having the best fans (which really seemed to upset her), following the perfectly timed remarks on Match of the Day about how silent it was at times at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, I am afraid that in this instance I simply couldn’t resist rising to such bait. Personally I would have thought that following a week when her club seems to have been taking flak from absolutely all quarters, it would have been wiser to have kept her head below the parapets, since I could have returned fire with any number of different bullets and had a direct hit with each!
Bring on the Gerries
Peace & Love
e-mail to : LondonN5@gmail.com
Tuesday, September 12, 2006