Writing below about how much I adore Koscielny's commitment, I simply couldn't post this missive without mentioning how impressive it was to see Santi staggering back to his feet, in the build-up to the third goal. Despite the man advantage, this was just the sort of drive & determination that's been so sorely lacking in recent performances and much like last season, I hope it can be the catalyst for us to kick on and make Harry Redknapp eat his MOTD words. Not to mention the boy Theo didn't do too bad. Sign da ting mate!
Come on you Reds
We were left inconsolable on Friday, following the devastatingly impossible decision to have Treacle, our faithful dog, put out of her increasingly decrepit misery by the vet. Loyal to the very last, at least Treacle left me feeling far less apprehensive than the vast majority of Gooners, as I wandered around to the ground on Saturday morning.
Compared to the emotional trauma of the passing of our beloved pet, the biannual trifle of the North London derby seemed relatively insignificant. And boy was I grateful for this poignant perspective for the first 17 mins of Saturday’s encounter. Spurs’ bold, four-pronged assault had the Gunners defence at sixes & sevens, until “Fergie’s bum boy” influenced proceedings, by sending Greedybayor for his early bath.
I despise these early KOs. A 12.45 start inevitably detracts from the grandeur of these huge derby games, by making a rushed mockery of the traditional pre-match rituals, thereby depriving us of an outbreak of hostilities, amidst the sort of well-oiled atmosphere that such occasions merit. More importantly, despite Arsène’s appliance of so much science, le Gaffer has yet to master the Gunners’ biorhythms, to get us galloping out of the traps at such an ungodly footballing hour, with sufficient focus and intensity.
It also appeared to be a particularly shrewd move on Spurs part to turn the teams around after winning the coin-toss. It was strange to see us playing towards the North Bank first-half and this could’ve had an even bigger impact after the break. We’re accustomed to benefiting from the inspiration of the more raucous end of the stadium, to be able to lay siege to the opposition’s goal late in the game. But AVB’s attention to detail could’ve been partially responsible for the control of the Arsenal choke, contributing to our engine’s spluttering cold start?
Although no matter what time of day this game had commenced, nor in which direction, we would’ve had the same concerns about the obvious frailty of the Arsenal’s left-flank, without a bona fide wing-back. Our skipper is patently out of his comfort zone playing on the left. With his defensive mindset, or perhaps his awareness of how suspect he is to coming unstuck with his lack of pace, Vermaelen appears instinctively reluctant to overlap down the flank.
Marauding wing-backs are crucial in the modern game, both as an attacking threat and to avoid inviting pressure on your own goal, by giving the opposition enough to worry about, to ensure that they are forced to stop at home. But just how significant a disadvantage it is, to have one’s club captain cast in the role of apprehensive full-back, was brought home to me on Saturday, when I actually found myself contemplating whether perhaps Santos would’ve been a better option.
Still at least with Vermaelen on the left, this allows for the inclusion of Koscielny. No matter one’s preference concerning the least hapless of the Arsenal’s centre-back pairings, we simply can’t afford to leave Laurent’s inspirational commitment languishing on the bench. Kos’ wholehearted attitude warms the cockles of my Gooner heart, as such an obvious antidote to the age-old flaw in the Wenger masterplan that’s been the much-maligned absence of the Arsenal’s “stand & deliver” attributes. The shy Frenchman might not be obvious captain material, but somehow we invariably feel like a more steadfast, far less fragile outfit, for Laurent’s lead by example willingness to put everything on the line.
I’ve got to be grateful to Howard Webb, for the spark that finally lit the Gooner touchpaper, with the dismissal of the vilified pantomime villain. It’s part of our remit on the terraces, to try and browbeat the ref into ruling in our favour. So naturally, I was amongst the thousands of Gooners bellowing “off”, baying for our old friend’s blood. Yet while the slow-motion replays off Adebayor’s dangerously high assault on Cazorla seemed to vindicate the necessity for a red card, mercifully there was no lasting damage.
Obviously I’m not about to look this game-changing, 3-point gift horse in the mouth. But if I’m entirely honest, I would much prefer if refs were able to exercise some discretion, instead of ruling to the letter of these red card laws. Surely there’s something wrong when the tail wags the dog and the officials are obliged to make decisions, without taking the circumstances into account, or their potential for ruining the spectacle for all the watching millions.
As it turned out, in this instance we benefited from the supremely entertaining results of Webb’s salvation, in a game that le Gaffer simply couldn’t afford to lose. Yet while I appreciate the desire to stamp out dangerous tackles, this encounter needn’t have turned on a single moment of madness that was entirely lacking in malice. I’m no less delighted by the outcome and hopefully the much-needed confidence boost shared between all five goalscorers.
I guess we’ll have to wait for the return at White Hart Lane, to see how the Gunners fare in a more even, 11 v 11 contest. Albeit that in swings & roundabouts fashion, doubtless it will be our turn to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, which appear to be the increasingly frequent upshot of this epidemic of automaton officiating.
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