The Boleyn might have lost much of it’s former claustrophobic fervor, since the main West Stand was rebuilt and the pitch moved. In contrast to the relative comforts of the Emirates, the decidedly decrepit lower tier of the Trevor Brooking stand is positively Dickensian by comparison. Nevertheless, I’m delighted by the Iron’s return to the Premiership fold. Aside from the fact that it’s such a short hop from N5 to E13, to West Ham’s dowdy current domain, standing behind the goal (or perching on the cramped plastic seats) at Upton Park is a rare awayday outing in the Premiership, where one can continue to enjoy that timewarp experience, as sadly, one of the few remaining stands where one can still savour the vivid “in yer face” intensity of top flight footie.
The reach out and touch ferocity, as the less than equal forces of Vito Mannone and Andy Carroll attract towards a cross and a bone-jarring clattering, which leaves thousands of us flinching us one, as the overgrown Geordie knocks seven bells out of a valiant Vito.
And having driven past the glitz and shiny, but sterile glamour of the Olympic Park on route to the game, with the likely future home of the Hammers floodlight by the setting sun, on a glorious Autumnal evening, I was reminded to squeeze every last drop of pleasure out of the gloriously uncomfortable Upton Park experience, while one still can.
The inclusion of our “big effing German” didn’t prevent the Hammers pony-tailed striker soaring three-feet “uber alles” to almost every ball and in truth Per’s return didn’t make our defence appear particularly less porous. Perhaps it’s Mertesacker’s composure, because he definitely lends something to the team dynamic, which restored the sort of vivacious “joie de vivre” to the Gunners performance against West Ham that was so obviously lacking in the games against Chelsea and Olympiakos.
It was great for the confidence of our latest French fancy, to finally get off the mark on Saturday and I swear I saw his stature grow at least a couple up inches, as he soaked up our adoring “Giroud” rendition of Hey Jude. It was equally pleasing to see the other two goals shared out between Walcott and Cazorla. The gusto shown by Theo, coming on as sub for the last half hour was in complete contrast to the enervated cameos we’ve witnessed from Walcott thus far. Could it be that his conscience has been pricked by the lyrics of “Sign Da Ting”, a grime tune bemoaning his contract saga? Or like the rest of us, has Walcott begun to sense that this Gunners squad are beginning to generate their own good vibes?
I only wish I had a pound for every time I’ve heard myself and countless other Gooners ponder the potential of Wenger’s team, if only the firepower of Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud had been added to a squad that had retained Van Persie’s goal-scoring contribution. However, while I hardly imagine that the Dutch Judas expected to be jumping ship, only to be lumbered with the exact same burden of game-saving responsibilities at Old Trafford (albeit for more lucrative reward), it is Van Persie’s departure that actually appears to have been the catalyst for the Gunners rediscovering a much appreciated “team” ethic.
I’m not such a liar as to deny that it doesn’t pain me, to watch RVP’s exquisite skills rescuing another three points for the Red Devils and not that it wouldn’t be agonising, if by some miracle Utd pip us to the title as a result of his goals. Meanwhile, I’m beginning to wonder if Wenger might’ve chanced upon an essential sacrificial lamb, necessary to spark the sort of camaraderie and sense of unity within the Arsenal camp that has encouraged a willingness to shoulder more responsibility across the board.
Obviously it helps to have the unstinting enthusiasm of a genuine Gooner like Carl Jenkinson inspiring those around him (along with Cazorla, the Corporal’s contribution has been the highlight of the first ten games). But whether it’s their willingness to put their bodies on the line in their efforts to thwart the opposition at one end, or the proliferation of those with increased appetites for banging goals in at the other, there’s a burgeoning hunger about this squad which can’t help but encourage the (naïve?) belief that they might just want it, as much as we do.
Thus far Man City appear a little too dependent on David Silva firing on all cylinders. But with Torres finally looking interested and with all the firepower available at the Bridge for their flatteringly imitative take on Wenger-ball, if their tikki-takka midfield continues to gel, we might struggle to cling to Chelsea’s coat-tails. However, suddenly a silverware-laden destination doesn’t seem nearly quite so significant, should the journey continue to offer such captivating rewards.
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