Sincere apologies as I didn't get around to posting out last week's missive. Limiting myself to 650 words for the Irish Examiner is an impossible target, since they've reduced the size of our columns this season; especially when you consider that I've been struggling for a decade or more to confine myself to less than a 1000 words. As a result, I invariably end up feeling that I've left out more than I've included and so I delay from posting my piece online, thinking that I will expand on my thoughts, in a typically long-winded preamble. However, as happened last week, I don't get around to doing this and then another game comes along and leaves my missive looking decidedly out-dated, as you will see below, with Ju Young Park making me eat my words, with his composed finish against Bolton on Tuesday night.
Still I've written it, so I might as well send it out, so I can get on and add all the comments that I've been forced to leave out of this week's missive. After all, it's not exactly every day you beat Chelsea 3-5 at the Bridge and to find myself restricted from spouting forth on such an auspicious occasion is positively criminal :-)
Feel free to read or ignore last week's ravings as you so choose and hopefully, in somewhat atypical fashion, my impressions of yesterday's events won't be quite so tardy.
With three home games in such quick succession, I have to admit to suffering some withdrawals yesterday, deprived of a trip to Piebury Corner. You are probably thinking I've got shares in the place by now, but I'd be a liar if I didn't admit to looking forward to tomorrow night's match, if only for my stomach's sake.
One thing is for certain, if I continue gorging on pre and post match pies with such regularity, no matter where the Gunners end up this season, I'll definitely have something to show for my efforts. But then when it comes to trophies, I'm not sure a pot-belly counts!
Arsène’s desire to protect Van Persie is perfectly understandable. But ironically, in attempting to overcome Pullis’ uncompromising Potters with our Robin reliant parked on the bench, le Prof only managed to prove quite how impotent we are without him.
In fact the Gunners’ attack appears so lamentably goal-shy with Chamakh standing in for our captain, that after RVP had come on halfway through the second half for his crucial two-goal cameo performance, in Wenger’s shoes I’d have been tempted to take him straight off again; to be able to wrap Robin up in cotton wool, rather than to risk him for a second longer than absolutely necessary, in the sort of roughhouse environment that is de rigueur in the presence of Shawcross and co. (just how crap can our Korean striker be, if our Morrocan misfit continues to keep him out of the team?).
After enduring more than our fill of all that “8-2 be an Arsenal fan” mirth, we also enjoyed the mouthwatering ‘what goes around, comes around’ irony of Man Utd’s simultaneous humiliation against City on Sunday. Although, I said at the time that perhaps the biggest embarrassment of our worst defeat in living memory, was that it transpired against such a mediocre Man U outfit (with the exception of an on fire Wayne Rooney). And so while I certainly don't mean to dissuade Gooners from the sweet revenge of giving their Man U mates all the stick they deserve in the days ahead, in truth it hardly reflects well upon us that we were so severely ravaged, by the same Utd outfit that rolled over against City.
Meanwhile hopefully our midweek ‘smash & grab’ in Marseille and 3 points from one of the bi-seasonal banana skins of Stoke’s kick (or chuck) & rush, spoiler football, are further small steps in the total rebuild required, following the utter decimation of both our team and our confidence during the most disastrous start to a campaign in the Wenger era.
Doubtless Arsène remains confident that we can recapture the fluidity that has seen the Gunners find global favour. Perhaps it will come in time, but I’m not convinced that the current incumbents are capable of reproducing the same stylish patterns of play for which we were formerly renowned; at least not without crucial missing ingredients.
Sure we can conjure it up in fits and starts for the odd breathtaking goal. Yet while we appeared in control for the majority of Sunday’s encounter, what was obvious from the Potters’ relentless efforts to discomfort us, was that in Wilshere’s absence, we’re devoid of the sort of rare talent who refuses to be panicked into gifting the ball back to the opposition, or who has the speed of thought to preempt such problems, by moving it on at pace.
After we’d established a 2-goal cushion and with the visitors having all but given up the ghost with only 8 minutes left on the clock, there was a brief spell when the “olés” echoed around the Emirates, as the Gunners risked a clattering with our contemptuous control of possession. Although this actually felt more like a fond remembrance of times past because the majority present were only too aware that in the heel of the hunt, sadly we are no longer capable of maintaining such composure.
Thus the Potters’ fans “we’ll play how we want” chant could also be perceived as ironic, when you consider that in France, only four days prior, the Gunners were grinding out a win, with a performance which, in effect, was no less negative than Pullis’ brand of anti-football.
Am I bovvered? The artistry of the beautiful game that we’ve enjoyed this past decade has been an absolute privilege. But right at this precise point in time, I’d willingly sacrifice the casual style, for more committed substance. If only Arsène could locate the button to release the handbrake that’s been holding us back for so long, resulting in a transformation to the sort of “win at all costs” mentality that motivates his team to work their socks off for one another, you won’t catch me moaning.
There were some anxious glances amongst the Gooners on our plane, as we waited for take-off from Marseille airport on Thursday morning, with Le Mistral gusting away outside. Apparently it’s known as a wind of change and it needs to blow away some of le Boss’ preconceptions on success, if he’s going to stem the ever decreasing number of bums on seats.
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