It's likely to be a regular theme from now on, as I delay sending out my weekly missive after writing it on a Monday, due to the unavoidable feeling that I left far more out of my meagre 650 word offering to the Irish Examiner than I've been able to include (when one takes into account my overly loquacious tendencies!). However, as ever, procrastination remains the thief of time and since it's already Thursday and I've not got around to tapping out a long-winded preamble, I'm betting that the fact that I attain the grand old age of 50 on Friday, just about guarantees that if I don't post this out now, it's never going to see the light of day.
Hard as I tried, Róna refused to allow my half-century to slide by unceremoniously and it's only just dawned on me that I'm going to have to be showing all due enthusiasm for a family outing on Friday evening, instead of watching Estonia v Ireland. At least the game is live on Sky, so I can record it and mercifully, it's unlikely that they'll be hordes of green-shirted fans, whooping and hollering, to give away the result in the streets of St John's Wood, where we're going for our grub. So there's a good chance that I'll be able to make it back home without knowing the result.
What's more, it could be a whole lot worse and I guess I should be counting my blessings that my birthday didn't clash with a Gunners' match. But then after all these years, my missus would know far better than to book a seat anywhere else but at the Arsenal, when Van Persie & co. are appearing. At least not without expecting me to absent myself from my own party! After all, one has got to get one's priorities right.
And if you're wondering what to get me as the perfect present, I'll take three points at Carrow Road next weekend, thank you
Is The Sun About To Shine Out Of Our Annus Horribilis?
I suppose it’s some reflection that normal service has been resumed in London N5, now that I’m back to feeling seriously pissed off about another needless interruption this weekend. When only a few weeks back, perhaps for the first time ever, the previous break for Internationals, following our Derby Day defeat at the beginning of October, came as some welcome relief from our woeful start to the season.
However the Arsenal have barely put a foot wrong since this much needed respite and as a result, we really could’ve done without the threat of a flurry of International friendlies, putting a spoke in the wheel of our recent fine run of form. We may already be a quarter of the way through this campaign, but in some respects, with the trees shedding all their leaves and the first hint of winter drawing nigh (albeit no excuse for all those nancy-boy footballers who’ve already taken to protecting their pinkies in wooly gloves), it feels as if the Gunners are only just getting warmed up.
Well we’ve at least achieved the minor feat of a positive goal-difference for the first time, after our perfunctory disposal of West Brom on Saturday. If I’d been amongst the couple of thousand fans who travelled down from Birmingham, I’d have been particularly perturbed, as Roy Hodgson’s side were thoroughly unrecognizable as the same Baggies outfit who put us under the cosh on their previous outing at the Emirates and who produced a shock result by outplaying us on our own pitch.
The only surprise on Saturday was the complete absence of the all too familiar air of anxiety, in an Arsenal win which was never in doubt from the get go. The up side to a season of such unpredictability and a schizophrenic Gunners squad, where Dr Jekyll is doing his utmost to contain Mr Hyde’s lunatic tendencies, is that we now go to games never truly knowing what to expect. Least of all the prospect of being able to sit back and savour a comfortable triumph, totally devoid of the customary, edge of the seat spills & thrills that we’ve come to associate with the Arsenal’s kamikaze football.
But then on the basis that it took Hodgson’s hamstrung Baggies until the 87th minute to force a save from Sczczny, I suppose it would be a mistake to use such lame opposition as any sort of litmus test of the remedial work to shore up the Gunners leaky ship. Nevertheless, considering our defence has been the target for so much derision in recent months, it’s ironic that the biggest bone of contention now concerns the pleasing selection quandary at centre-back. You simply can’t leave a player with Vermaelen’s presence on the sidelines, but on current form, neither Koscielny or Mertesacher deserve to be dropped.
Evidence of the Gunners’ progress is reflected in a more relaxed mood on the terraces (or at least those which remain populated!). We’d have been threatening blue murder for our Brazilian full-back’s tendency to desert his defensive duties earlier in the season. But recent signs of some long-awaited durability and a renewed resolve have resulted in us being able to laugh off Koko the clown’s antics on our left flank, so long as Santos continues to compensate for his unorthodox impression of a full-back, with his attacking prowess.
Perhaps Kieran Gibbs’ glass-like frame will have been strengthened sufficiently in a fortnight’s time and needless to say, (based on past experience) all such defensive dilemmas will have been resolved in the meantime, due to those who will doubtless end up crocked whilst playing for their respective countries. But while we Gooners spend the days ahead on our knees, praying for Van Persie to be kept out of harm’s way, whilst channel hopping as we endeavour to keep tabs on the fate of the remainder of our multi-cultural hotchpotch, in truth there’s only one encounter of any real import. Come on you Boys in Green!
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