While everyone insists on making us Gooners ever more aware of the length of time the Gunners have dallied in the silverware starved doldrums, you’d have to be a pretty damn visually challenged footie lover, not to be grateful for the privilege of watching Arsène Wenger’s lads play live every week. Myself I never forget to count my footballing blessings, every time I stand, mouth agape, dumbstruck in awe, at the sort of breathtakingly balletic ball skills that leave us in rapture on such a regular basis - and as someone who’s grafted for a ballet company for 20 years and has watched the Gunners for twice as long, I feel fairly qualified to comment.
Few of us are getting carried away with our elevated status. We know full well that we only bestride the Premiership pile by default, We’re also reminded all too often how fragile we can be, as evidenced by the repeated sense of hanging on for a heart-stopping final half hour against Fulham on Saturday. Yet as frustrated as I am with our tendency to turn into a panic struck bunch of schoolgirls, how can we possibly complain, when we get to savour the sublime pleasures of the scintillating likes of Samir Nasri, pirouetting his way around Premiership defences.
I wasn’t even that upset at the sight of Koscielny switching off, or having his lights switched off in a clash of heads with his team mate more like and then conceding a soft goal. If Laurent was less honest (or if Squillaci hadn’t knocked all seven bells out of him), he might’ve gone down in a heap and got the game stopped before Kamara struck. There was another moment, when Nasri could’ve collapsed in the opposition’s box in search of a penalty, in the more cynical tradition of the modern-day mercenary, if he wasn’t so completely focused on his objective.
But I wasn’t pinning for the loss of a potential penalty because in Nasri’s intent and Koscielny’s commitment, there is perhaps a glimmer of the sort sincerity and hunger, which might yet forge a more tightly-knit unit of worthy contenders, out of Arsène’s multi-cultural bouillabaisse. Far from suggesting we’re anywhere near looking like the finished article, on current form, most Gooners will admit to their delighted amazement, to find themselves dancing into a positively arctic December as top dogs.
And yet our table-topping moment couldn’t possibly be more interestingly timed, coinciding as it did with the postponement of an opportunity for Fergie to affirm Man Utd’s position as the bookies favourites (even if we’ve come to expect the more exuberant unexpected from Ian Holloway and his Seasiders), following last week’s shellacking of Fat Sam’s side.
Unless the Hammers’ defensive Wallies (coming to a headline near you?) ship a shedload against City next weekend, Spurs will be playing Chelsea at the Lane on Sunday, knowing that if they get anything from Ancelotti’s dysfunctional Blues, we’ll be heading to Old Trafford the following night for an encounter that’ll suddenly assume an increasing “clash of the Titans” significance. Who knows, if we could just display sufficient obduracy to stick around at the top for a week or two, perhaps we could even begin to acquire that arrogant aura of true pretenders to the Premiership throne.
Judging by the way we almost eviscerated the visitors, leaving the Cottagers chasing Red & White shadows for the first 20mins on Saturday, the Arsenal certainly didn’t appear disadvantaged by the absence of our illustrious World Cup winner. I’ve already opined on whether there might be a silver-lining to the loss of our ‘want away’ skipper and if others continue to pick up the baton of our customary conductor, perhaps Fabregas himself could benefit, should he returns to a dressing room in more buoyant mood?
Although I’m a long way from counting my chickens (or turkeys!). The only predictable aspect to this Premiership campaign is that the immediate competition have all looked equally vulnerable, at times, against the league’s lesser lights. Nevertheless, few will take Arsène’s insistence on our new-found tenacity entirely seriously, until the Gunners produce an indisputably convincing performance against one of our two nemesi.
Meanwhile we’ve the small matter of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages on Wednesday. But if we can’t beat Partizan Belgrade on our own patch, then we really don’t deserve to be there. I wonder if the sordid stench from FIFA headquarters in Switzerland might cast a malodourous whiff over UEFA’s cash cow monopoly of European football?
As far as I’m concerned International footie is merely an increasingly irritating bloodsucker that all too often slips under the bedside mosquito net of the domestic game. But I must admit that I baulked at the blatant inequity of it all, when it was revealed to me that last week’s decision means I might not see a World Cup on these shores in my lifetime (after all, aged only four, World Cup Willie is just about my only genuine memory of Bobby Moore & co.).
With so many big games coming thick and fast, perhaps my limp home from Saturday’s wonderful entertainment was psychosomatic. I’ve been offered two lucrative weeks work with the ballet after Xmas. Yet one look at a crowded fixture list leaves me fretting about what I might miss. So I’ve just about convinced myself that my increasingly decrepit joints can no longer bear up to grueling all-nighters in the theatre I guess I’ll be blaming Samir Nasri when I end up b’rassic in the New Year, but hopefully grateful to the Frenchman and his team mates for the sort of massive grin that money can’t buy!
Come on you Reds
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