I am a cautious fan. I avoid assumption, I shun prediction. Too often has the finger of astonishment been bitten by the teeth of regret.
Nevertheless I was sure. I was certain. Along with the vast majority of the congregation gathered, including the long suffering Fulham chapter, I would see an easy home victory illuminated by scintillating football, peppered with frequent and spectacular goals to add to our season’s tally. We had not served a spanking out for a long while, defined as a real 5-6-7 goals scored at home. And after all a team that can concede 4 to SunLun and 6 to the Tigers with just 1 in reply must be easy meat for our brave lads. Today is the day I crowed, inwardly at least.
And so, as has happened many times, the gods of football saw my pride and my confidence and smote me down ( is smote a word ? it should be ).
As I suspect every person who watched the game will have seen it really did not go like that at all. After ten minutes of possession and one good chance we shrank back. Slow, one dimensional, no incisive passes and quite a few stray taps that the opposition snuffed out. Even Fulham seemed surprised as to where the home side had disappeared to. Fulham even, whisper it very quiet, looked like they might score a ‘goal’.
I would never name names, and I absolve the back five from any criticism. It was the blokes in front of them, the truth is I would struggle to identify a player who was poor, it just did not click, no it was just …………………………. Who knows?
And the crowd, ah the crowd, the barometer of all things. The tutting started after 15 minutes, the shuffling of feet and the muttering, the loud and insistent silence. Some expressed bewilderment, one poor chap said ‘I am at my wit’s end’. No don’t laugh, seriously, he did.
And thankfully and magically it was eventually over, Swarbrick blew his silver whistle. He lads trooped off for the ceremonial orange. Heads were shaken, scalps scratched, bladders relieved, the ‘highlights’ (ahem) on the big screen ignored, Fat Sam’s imminent P45 chortled over.
And having cast me down from the heights the gods took pity on my wretched state.
In answer to the question ‘Who knows’ Arsene spoke words of gold to the players during the interval. He must have. For we were transformed.
Santi, Mesut and Jack emerged onto the arena like lions after half time and tore into Fulham at speed and with precision. The early afternoon torpor was replaced with zing ( another much under used word) . And as I would expect when the gears are engaged and vehicle surges forward at speed Fulham were blown away. The previously comfortable Fulham defence was twisted and pulled about until eventually it snapped open, twice. The first goal pure Arsenal technical quality (PATQ) , the second a bit of PATQ and, from my viewpoint, a bit of dodgy keeping from Steklenburg. Three points safely in the bank.
And after that 15 minute burst ?
Well we were comfortable without ever really pushing hard. Fulham seemed a bit relieved it was all over and never really tried to get back in the game although we nearly gifted them a consolation in time added on. The chairs were on the tables, the glasses washed, a hoover humming in the background. Chef had gone home.
Poldi ran around like a man possessed in stark contrast to most of his team mates and most of the opposition. Had no one told him the contest was over ? If he does not start against Coventry I shall phone Arsene to ask why. Another clean sheet and other than the last minute scare never a real threat on our goal.
Lesson of the day ? Be cautious, expect nothing.
Today’s post was by @anicoll5