It’s been a whirl-wind like few weeks vacillating between finding myself plastered in Pondicherry to attending training sessions on Corporate Finance in plush hotels to crouching over toilet seat wondering if my innards were all going to waltz out the back door. This keyboard warrior just couldn’t find the time to hammer out a few words about his beloved…..
It’s been one hell of a week for the Gunners who have finally decided to wake up from their slumber to swat the scousers, the Spuds and the Milanese visitors in an absolutely vantastic display of football, many of my..erm…numerous fans have labeled my silence on the trouncing of Spurs and the Italians a blasphemy and a sacrilege to the gods of Arsenal, for which I plan to atone by sacrificing a well fed united supporter at the shrine of Bergkamp to appease his holiness.
But morbid humor apart, the resurgence of the gunners has left me ecstatic, with a grin on my mug and a hop in my step. But do forgive me if you find me slouching near the gentlemen’s room instead of doing a victory jig, yeah, food poisoning is a bitch. I’m a bit late to talk about the games and the goals but it’s heartening to watch the gunners grind out results. There was a real show of guts in the fight back against the spuds, the Arsenal of the yesterseason would have just crumbled like a pack of cards, but lo and behold, our trusty right-back lead the fight with a neat, no-nonsense header, and the rest as they is history….. the lads dug deep, looks of resolution and determination were apparent instead of the much expected drooped shoulders and dismayed looks. Tomas Rosicky in particular has had a marvelous few games, with his returning confidence and incisive runs into enemy territory. Tomas resurrection has been in the works for a while now, his return to fitness and string of appearances was heartening to watch but he seemed to have lost the ability to make the crucial final pass; the first half of his return was filled with marauding runs which ultimately culminated in a misplaced pass directed at the feet of relieved opposition defender. To be honest I had all but written him off as yet another annoying has-been (or a never-was whichever way you look at it) but boy, am I glad he proved me wrong. Evidently the little Mortzart had decided to pick the game against Arsenal’s traditional nemesis to make me look like a complete clown for groaning after I noticed his name on screen and he did it with panache and style that hasn’t been seen in years.
While the Spuds were dominated and force-fed a generous serving of humble pie at the Grove, the game against the kopites was a radically different, Liverpool were on our necks from the word go, hassling our seemingly frail midfield and disrupting our build up play. The Pole at the goal rose to the occasion to keep out the scousers more than a few times including a dubious penalty won by the South-American sociopath. Even with their atrocious wingers, the pool boys seemed to have a firmer hold over the game than the floundering Arsenal midfield and inevitably a goal was conceded by the usually excellent Kos who has been our stand-out defender even on his worst of nights. Coming to the goal, a season ago, if Sagna were crouched over the ball looking to cross, I’d take it as my opportunity to take a sip of cold beverage or stuff my face with snacks confident that continuity would be lost and that the ball-boys would be put to work. But over the latter half of last season and over the current one, Bacary has steadily refined his crossing ability and the one that enabled van Persie to draw the scores was truly a thing of beauty. The ball seemed to sail perfectly to the Dutchman who did the rest, the perseverance & training that lead to this cross itself is a testament to Sagna’s quest to become the premier leagues ultimate right back. This hunger and need to hone one’s abilities to the point of perfection is exactly what each and every gunner should be looking to learn from, stagnation is for rain-water, it has no place in the hyper-competitive world of modern football. Neither is capitulation, even under unrelenting pressure in the mid-field Arsenal did their best to hold on. Even after one of the oafs took out Arteta who was struggling with injury, Arsenal refused to wilt and continued to try and create chances on the break, the faith paid off in the form of Alex Song lofting a ball towards the captain who created a replica of the goal against Everton. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: HOLY SHIT that Dutchman is crazy!!!!!!!!!
But I’m going to take this chance to talk a little more about Bacary Sagna; he has been the picture of consistency so much so that we take him for granted and often forget that his is probably one of the first names that the manager looks to put down on the starting list, right up there with van Persie. If we were to look back to our loss at White hart lane and our previous game against Spurs, one would notice Bale trouncing Sagna mercilessly with both his pace and physical strength and I was terrified that the same would occur on the return fixture at home but I was pleasantly surprised. Bale hardly had a whiff of the ball on our right flank and was forced to shift flanks to try and punch a hole through Gibbs & Co. Over the last two games against the Spuds; Sagna realized that it would be near impossible to match the Irishman for pace or physical presence; instead Sagna chose to strike preemptively and ensure that the winger was never in a favorable position to receive the ball or cause a viable threat down the middle either with his marauding runs. Intercepting anything from the midfield to the right flank and playing a high defensive line drastically reduced the effectiveness of the winger. This combined with their mid-field being rendered impotent by the castrator-in-chief: Rosicky were the two crucial facets that forged our victory. I’m not privy to the training grounds or the locker room and hence am quite uncertain who or what devised Sagna’s inspirational destruction of Bale, whether it was gaffer or the Pat Rice or the player himself remains unknown, but it was a masterstroke nonetheless.
Arsene Wenger’s unflinching belief in his players and methods has more often than not invited heaps of criticism both verbal and literary vitriol in the recent past and sometimes his rigidity can be his downfall but if the last few matches are anything to go by, he was right about retaining the services of Rosicky even when most (myself included) were calling for his head. Lets just hope that Tomas doesn’t fall prey to more injuries and keeps delivering the goods, and that Wenger’s stubbornness starts paying higher dividends.
Our match against Milan was something, wasn’t it? The result has been romanticized and gushed about in numerous articles and the interviews but people are failing to see it for what it really is….. A dead rubber victory in the face of getting eliminated from the Champions league. Yes, It was a stellar first half and Arsenal were out with all guns blazing but in the end, Milan still progress and we languish at home watching the other clubs tough it out on the big stage. People have gone on to compare it with beating Barcelona last time over and that, to me, is absolute horse feathers. AC Milan barely turned up and played throughout expecting a defeat or a draw, confident in the fact that Arsenal could never overturn a four goal deficit and were complacent to the point of ruining themselves whereas Barca came in with only victory on their minds, and that makes all the difference.
We came agonizingly close to making the Milanese wet themselves and van Persie and his team proved that the gunners are a force to reckoned with even when the chips are down but ultimately our key take away from this episode of “Flirt with Europe” should be that consistency is all important and that holding on to every game irrespective of the opposition is all important. In light of this, the game against Liverpool seems all the more impressive.
Well, girls and boys, I’m done for the day….. Hope the blog was worth at least a few tickles.