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By Tony Attwood
These are difficult times for the anti-Arsenal alliance of mobsters whose single aim is to bring down the Lord Wenger and the club he built from the mould ridden ruins of the of the Bruce Rioch year.
According to the anti-Arsenal we are nothing but a mid-table failure, populated by a bunch of dilettante cast offs and kids who will never make it.
Yet we find on the pitch a team that on finding that there can be no protection from English referees now metaphorically states to the opposition, kick us and we’ll kick you back – while scoring goals at the same time. A team that has dug deep in its astounding mental and physical resources. A club that can put out more or less its reserve XI and hold its own in the group section of the Champions League with a side that will undoubtedly qualify for the knock out stages.
If we study the league table we find not only that we are second, but the simple difference between us and faltering Chelsea is that there was one match that we drew, that they won. Otherwise our win-draw-loss tally is the same as theirs. Chelsea – the team so far ahead of the rest that they had already won the league by September, according to all those highly knowledgeable, well paid fellows on radio and TV and their stuporised mates down the pub who scribble for the daily rags.
Indeed today (monday) on the BBC’s sport and soap channel, Radio 5, they did a piece about the league, and the commentator managed to say, “well as we have been saying all season, Chelsea have a very slim squad”.
No mate, you haven’t been saying it all season. Untold Arsenal has been saying it, starting from the moment that the “25” list came out and we pointed out that Chelsea had the smallest squad of all. (We also pointed out that Man U has an ageing squad, that Liverpool were on the edge of utter collapse, and that Man C would find it hard to integrate everyone quickly).
With Arsenal you can take out our two central defenders and much of the midfield we still put up a show. With Chelsea there simply isn’t the back up – for the very simple reason that they are desperate to get into the Champs League financial zone and so they are cutting the wage bill and not buying in any more.
(And incidentally for those anti-Arsenal gangs that claim that the financial doping regs will mean nothing and that the clubs will find a way around it – if that is so why do you think Chelsea have got such a thin squad when they can draw on the oil resources of half the world?)
But Arsenal, poor Arsenal. Always passing, so light-weight, always getting knocked off the ball. Poor Arsenal, so downgraded that the only thing we could do in the summer was to bring in a free-transfer centre forward. Still playing that Song who is not fit to wear the shirt. And as for our goalkeepers. Well!
As I reported from Wolverhampton, the general consensus there was that Fabianksi was man of the match, and that sort of feeling has been growing for some time among those actually on site. As that has happened attention was drawn to Szczesny with negative commentaries about the fact that he was brilliant and wasn’t going to sign because the usual inept mismanagement for which Arsenal is infamous.
Remember Hleb? Remember Flamini? Remember Henry? Remember Vieira? Add to the list Szczesny who had broken off discussions because he was so frustrated with the club. Add him to the list of all these players who just walk away because the club is so stupid, so rigid in its pay policy, under a manager so obdurate that he won’t change any policy any time no matter what. A manager who won’t play JET despite his wonder goal.
Except Szczesny quite happily signed a couple of weeks after these stories circulated. Except that Hleb is a deadbeat playing for Birmingham, who was raised to a new stunning level by Wenger – a level never achieved before or since. Except that Flamini turned out to be a bit player with WC Milan who had one, and only one, brilliant season. Except that Henry made us a huge profit, and never really hacked it for Barca. Except Vieira, wonderful, wonderful, player that he was, had reached the end when he started his meanderings around Europe.
It is, in my opinion, worth revisiting some of the mindless gibberish the anti-Arsenal alliance put out day after day, week after week. From their perspective any player that is not getting 9 out of 10 each game should be given away and replaced by a multi-billion pound purchase. Arsenal should wait for no man, and players who fail to deliver at the highest standards for a game or two should be out, no messing.
Never was there a more perfect example of this than Denilson. If you manage to watch Denilson in the flesh, and watch his movement off the ball (and this was demonstrated perfectly in the latter stages of the Wolverhampton match, and in the second half of the Everton game), you will see that he has this amazing ability to know where the ball will be after the next touch, get there, and break up the play. Gilberto had it too – and the anti-Arsenal morons booed him over and over until I was afraid that the guy would just say he had had enough and move on.
What actually happened was that Gilberto got a year long injury, and we really missed him. The roar upon his eventual return showed that inside the stadia at least, we had ousted the idiots and were back on track with a real understanding of the game.
Of course, a week ago it was depressing. The WBA defeat was bad enough, but to lose at home to Newcastle – it is really tough to live with that – especially when Chelsea had won the league back in September. Except, it suddenly turns out, they hadn’t.
This past week the Guardian said, “The trouble for Arsenal, though, is that no one will hold them up as champions-in-waiting until they actually win anything.” But what the media don’t realise at all is that this is not our problem – it is our strength. The Radio 5 piece I mentioned above with its commentary on Chelsea and how they had been saying all season that the squad was thin, then went on to marvel at the strength of Manchester United being able to come back from 2-0 down (“it is that sort of never-say-die mentality that can win you the league”) and the difficulties faced by Manchester City (“but you can never write them off”) before meandering off into the cold distance with some chit-chat about Liverpool finding it tough away from home. Not a word about Arsenal.
And that’s the way I like it. No mention of Arsenal except focus on a few tackles that are of the “you do that to me and you’ll get it back” variety. Without of course the commentary noting that it was done to us first. We’ll just stay there, with this extraordinary squad that allows us to win without even disturbing the likes of Bendtner, Van Persie and Walcott, with the central defence missing, with full-backs that all the knowledgeable blog commentators claim are utterly useless, and with a captain who is still finding his way back to his old form, with goalkeepers who wouldn’t even get a place in the Conference, with one centre forward who is so injury prone we never see him and another who is clearly no good because we got him on a free….
Oh I could go on and on, but the fact is, this is a great team, that will make a significant challenge in all competitions. Yes we suffer deep heartache when beaten, but that’s how it goes. It doesn’t change the fact that as matters stand just at this moment the only difference between ourselves and the side that won the league in September is that they won one match we drew.
This team can do it. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
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