I thought I'd better get this sent out before Spurs sneak a result against Villa and start to soar to the heady heights just out of the relegation zone! I refuse to buy the News of the Screws, because I abhor their infamous "agent provocateur" efforts to create their own scandals. However it doesn't stop me glancing at the back pages when Ro occasionally comes home with a copy. There was a piece about Theo Walcott in Sunday's edition by Andy Dunn which made me chuckle, where in reference to Theo's new contract Dunn writes:
One England team-mate - well, squad-mate - would apparently urge him to think twice before signing it, if his comments of six months ago still stand.
"If he is not getting the minutes at Arsenal, Theo is going to have to look elsewhere. You want to play football and you want to make money as well," said David Bentley, now of bottom-of-the-table Tottenham.
Of course. Heaven forbid you might want to study under the most intelligent, most creative manager in the Premier League.
After all, what is the point of becoming a supremely accomplished player - and learning a style of play that thrills and inspires - when you could be making a pot of dough at a comedy club?
Peace & Love
I’m not sure if it was my imagination, but as I studied the players through my binoculars when they trotted out at Ewood Park on Saturday, I sensed a distinct difference in Theo Walcott’s demeanour. As he received the grateful applause of the Rovers fans, the somewhat diffident teenager who’d departed the pitch at our place two weeks back seemed to have been transformed into a cocksure star, with the sort of confident swagger of a player who’s suddenly realised he has the potential to put the fear of god into any opposition.
As far as I’m concerned the International breaks are an annoying interruption to Arsenal business, but I was nonetheless chuffed to bits, to see our boy wonder bag his England hat-trick and receive all the plaudits, from those same pundits (eg. Hansen) who’d only recently expressed their doubts as to whether Walcott was the real deal.
Frankly they were not alone, as Theo’s ability and his blistering pace have been evident from day one, but aside from the odd cameo role, coming on as an impact sub, his inability up until now, to live up to our massive expectations, meant that the vast majority of Gooners had begun to wonder whether there was a vital missing ingredient. Walcott’s all too frequently suspect decision-making had even caused me to question whether he possessed the necessary footballing brain.
However, where our patience might have worn thin with another player, there was never the slightest chance of us giving up on him. He might only have been at the club a couple of seasons but Theo feels like one of us. I recall seeing a kid wearing a Walcott shirt at a motorway service station a while back and my pal pointing out that the youngster was accompanied by Theo’s dad. I can’t picture the parents of too many Premiership players schlepping all over the country, supporting their progeny, along with the rest of the travelling hordes?
As ever, confidence is the key and instead of the customary groan of frustration as Theo galloped down another blind alley, there was a buzz of anticipation at Blackburn, every time he touched the ball. Two weeks back he’d have taken on one player too many, but with his jinking run only 8 minutes in, ending in a perfectly timed and weighted pass to set up Van Persie for our first, this was further evidence that events during his time in Capello’s camp had resulted in a metamorphosis, from a timid chrysalis into a bold and beautiful butterfly. Never mind caffeine saturated soft-drinks, in Walcott’s case it would appear that a hat-trick against Croatia has given him wings.
Meanwhile it was Manny Adebayor’s turn to fill his boots against Blackburn, with another 3-goal haul that went a long way towards repairing his fractured relationship with all those Gooners, who’d previously bemoaned “Greedy-bayor’s” efforts to hold the club to ransom.
Like everyone else, football players need to feel loved and prior to playing Rovers I’m sure that our ambivalent attitude towards Ade must’ve had some impact on his performances. Whereas Saturday’s chest-thumping, badge-kissing goal celebrations demonstrated quite how delighted he was to hear the entire terrace behind the goal resounding to the tune of our Togolese striker’s song.
Adebayor’s control and his first-touch continue to leave a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, for some inexplicable reason, far from hindering him, Manny’s ungainly efforts somehow seem to assist in his prolific goalscoring feats. Saturday’s hat-trick also put paid to any one season wonder apprehension and waylaid concerns that we might’ve been better off cashing in on him.
The 27 passes which concluded with Denilson’s pinpoint cross onto Manny’s head for him to head home our second, just before the half-time whistle, was vintage Wenger-ball and virtually killed Rovers off. Yet few present will disagree that the final 4-0 scoreline was just a tad flattering.
It was the Beatles who sang about the 4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire. Much to my consternation, more than a few of these were to be found at the heart of the Gunners’ defence. Observing our lack of composure in dealing with set pieces, if I have one principal grievance about Gallas as our captain, it’s that neither he (nor anyone else!) appears to take command of such situations.
In his ability to unsettle centrebacks, Santa Cruz reminded us why there was so much interest in him during the summer. But ultimately Rovers failure to take advantage of our defensive insecurity provided Le Prof with the luxury of handing Ramsey and Wilshere (the Arsenal’s youngest ever) brief league debuts, as Wenger tries to break-in more young starlets, before the relentless 2 game a week schedule begins to take its toll on our squad.
It’s a great time for these young Guns, as they’re likely to be afforded plenty more opportunities over the next 4 months, for them to prove our manager’s parsimony in the transfer market correct, so that Wenger might avoid the aberration of a cash-splashing readjustment come the January window.
One only had to consider the host of unfamiliar names lining for all the other sides on MOTD later that night, to appreciate quite what a lonely course Arsène has plotted, compared to most of his peers. Doubtless the “told you so” crew will be queuing up to crow, the moment our campaign begins to go off the rails. Yet with 3 clean sheets and 11 goals to show for our last 3 outings and with our big-spending neighbours languishing on the bottom, for the moment at least, le gaffer continues to look more genius than crackpot.
e-mail to: londonN5@gmail.com
Monday, September 15, 2008