Obviously feeling more than a little disconsolate as I queued up for a bus back to Picadilly Station after Sunday’s defeat, I took some comfort from ear-wigging the conversations of those City fans who suggested this was the most entertaining match they’d witnessed thus far at the Middle-Eastern.
Indeed, as least going 1-0 down to the goal from City’s silky, Rolls Royce of a midfielder forced the Gunners out of our shell and in taking the game to our hosts, the entire stadium spent most of the second half on the edge of our seats, witnessing a breathtaking, end-to-end contest.
Yet by doing so, Mancini has amassed such a surfeit of scintillating quality, that we were guaranteed to leave ourselves at risk of being exposed at the back, by the sort of incisive football, which (despite the fiscal doping!) simply has to be admired by any genuine footballing aficionado, even those of us on the wrong end of it!
Nevertheless, considering to what extent some of our own star turns (such as Walcott) failed miserably, or perhaps were denied the opportunity to have an impact on this match and how it was left to the obdurate resolve of the likes of Vermaelen, to try in vain to impose themselves at the death, if I’m entirely honest, no matter how irate I was at allowing our own increasingly noisy neighbours to extend their advantage by an additional 3 points, I couldn’t help but be left feeling somewhat impressed that our injury ravaged outfit had competed all the way to the final whistle, against the potential champions in waiting.
That we weren’t too downhearted was perfectly understandable, as much of the Gooner chatter on the journey back to London focused on the pride of having given it a real go and the stark contrast with the humiliation we’d all experienced, returning from our last outing to Manchester, in those cataclysmic opening weeks of the campaign.
Frankly, I was pessimistic that we’d succeed against City. Without any full-backs with the instinct to forage forward down the flanks, I always feared this would allow Richards and Zabaleta too much freedom to roam and might invite pressure, with too much of the game being played in our half of the pitch. Still, even if it was left to Sczczny to ensure we didn’t succumb, there’s solace aplenty that the Arsenal of soft-centered renown of recent times, has acquired some much-needed armour-plating, by way of the resolve of those prepared to stand and be counted.
Personally I find no end of amusement in the fact that we still have the auld enemy in our sights, after Spurs best start to a season since ’61 and our worst in 58 years. If the more stalwart components of our squad can continue to keep us in the frame, until such time as we begin to return to full-strength and if Le Prof can pull a player out of his hat in the transfer window that leaves us just a little less dependent on Van Persie, this season’s story might still have a happy ending.
Besides which, as bleak as the weather might be, with a trip to the San Siro in February, the future certainly isn’t. Dreading the cost of travelling to either of the two Russian clubs, I was delighted with the draw, as all my online research came to fruition, confirming cheap flights the instant the dates were announced, which had tripled in price before the day was out! More importantly, playing AC Milan should provide a sufficiently glamorous stage to inspire the troops, but with Italian footie in the doldrums, unless they’re planning on digging up the ghost of Franco Baresi, we’ve little to fear other than the Milanese giants reputation.
Meanwhile, Messrs Dunn & Collins might’ve been shipping goals in a manner which hardly befits their manager’s obdurate image of the game, but I’ll leave the chicken-counting to Venky, since for some strange reason this centre-back duo invariably seem to save their very best for the Gunners - but then hopefully such kidology will guarantee Villa yet another off night?--
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