First up today is Steww
I’ll let you into a secret. Not all of us regard the North London derby as the biggest game of the season. I’ll go further. None of us should regard the North London derby as the biggest game of the season. In fact only Spurs fans should regard the North London derby as the biggest game of the season. For them, beating us became the holy grail. Year after year, season after season the dream of finally winning a match against Arsène’s Arsenal had them tossing and turning at night , feverish in their hopeless dreaming. They knew they would never win anything of significance would never join us at the top table with Europe’s elite, but would live forever in our shadow hoping that one day a lucky shot would bring them a brief transitory moment of joy which they could put onto a DVD and then masturbate in front of for years to come.
Before you rush to unfollow me on Twitter just hear me out. I know that for North Londoners there is a genuine local rivalry going back years, to before Spurs were even a London club in fact, and I respect that. But even if you all decided to take an unlikely interest in the fixture list of Welton Rovers I shouldn’t expect you to suddenly hate Radstock Town or Paulton Rovers. The people of Peasedown St John may be a hissing and a byword in the leafy lanes of lovely Midsomer Norton but I don’t expect the good folk of Hartlepool or Antrim to despise them just because we higher evolved people have an ancient rivalry with the thumbless mutants from up on Bath hill. The point is that nowadays Arsenal is supported on a global level, and while we all enjoy seeing a silly side like Spurs getting stuffed they aren’t the real enemy for much of the fan-base. The truly despised team for me has historically always been Manchester United.
There are some who have moved away from Man United, preferring Chelsea as the demons du jour . There are people who tell me I despise whoever is at the top of the league simply because that is a place I regard as rightfully ours, that my feelings stem from jealousy at another’s success. You can psychoanalyse it all you like but the simple truth is that along with huge swathes of the football supporting population I have never ever liked Man United and there has been a deep seated rivalry between us and them for as long as I can recall. When I used to watch matches on television, before being forced from that medium by the appalling one eyed agenda driven drones spewing their pro United bias from the commentary box, I would record the United game. This wasn’t so that I could rewatch it over and again but so that I could fast forward through any of their possession and thereby minimise my exposure to them and their horrible players. I have always struggled to watch them and as Ferguson’s grip on the referees and the British media and football establishment in general reached its apogee it became all but impossible for me so to do.
Of course post Ferguson they have become a whole lot more entertaining to watch. Granted there is still Rooney’s presence to turn your stomach and that grey haired old man they sometimes wheel out up front is an off putting spectacle. I still wouldn’t recommend watching them whilst eating, but they have shed the indigestive collective of Evra, Vidic, and Ferdinand in recent times and that has helped lessen their toxicity enormously. It doesn’t hurt that they can go out and lose to the likes of Milton Keynes either.
The problem is that even in their wildly unpredictable current condition they seem to exert some kind of malicious hoodoo over us. Remember Old Trafford last season? We had never been better set to humble them in their own home until a mystery virus meandered through our squad on the morning of the match. The home side were effectively playing against a team shambling about in hospital gowns – those that could be dragged out of bed to actually take the field did their best but the result had a horrible predictability about it once we’d heard of the contagion in our ranks.
This time around neither side is in the best of nick, either can lose to anybody but unlike us they don’t look really capable of beating very many teams either. At our best even in this stop start season we could take them apart. Unfortunately we could also dominate possession and lose to a couple of quick counter attacks, it’s an outcome which we don’t want to consider today. A lot of people are predicting a very open game based on both sides having a loose hinged back door allied to attacking mentalities. Of course that entirely ignores the fact that Arsène will want to tighten up the defensive side of our game having seen us pegged back from winning positions in recent matches. I’m excited at the prospect of Theo’s continuing recovery and were he not suffering with his groin, he might have been expected to start in place of Sanchez who will be eating his breakfast while the rest of the squad are having their supper. Or something. I take my holidays an hour down the road at Brean so I’m not all that clear on jet lag, what it is or how it affects people. With Welbeck knackered wasting his talent playing in a pointless international, Giroud not match fit, and Sanogo just back from injury I haven’t a clue who will start up front. Sadly it is atrocious luck with injuries which once again will define our season. Not the manager. Not the tactics, the training, the referees, the opposition’s spending power but pure and simple rotten luck.
It’s hard to bear but for today’s match it is rendered almost irrelevant as the opposition have had their fair share of injuries too. Nowhere near as disruptive as ours nor over such a long period but when you look at the side they cannot field today it does look as if the playing field may be a little more level than usual. The Mirror even goes so far as to provide us all with a graphic. Funny, I can’t recall journalists making such a song and dance about the way injuries have destroyed our title challenge season after season but then, Arsenal aren’t the media darlings that United have always been.
Today I shall be watching the entire thing from the kick off and I hope that we can stick it to Mike Riley, The FA, Sky the BBC et al and take their favourites to pieces. If Giroud really is fit enough to start and can hit the ground running I believe we have more than enough to beat them even with the players we will be missing. He has been the grease in our gears since he arrived, at the heart of so many of our best moves and very best goals. A massively underrated player, who has the prefect first touch, the vision, the selfless team play and a pretty good eye for goal but above all he keeps the ball moving. So much of our attacking play has looked faltering without him. Oh, and he’s pretty handy defending corners and other set pieces which I have to admit would be no bad thing.
So chin up Positivistas, today is, for me, and many other non London based Arsenal fans, the big one. Can we win? Of course. We can win any game, the script hasn’t been written yet and this Arsenal team hasn’t shown what it is really capable of yet this season. This evening would be a perfect time to start.
And now we have Andrew @anicoll5 , (don’t tell me this blog is on the decline !)
The cyber static clears, the media can break from its incessant clatter for a moment, the blogocracy can wind its collective neck in in anticipation, and that instant of hush caused by another football contest, and one that is traditionally between the two biggest clubs in the country, and usually a highlight of the season’s fixtures for both clubs. While I rely on the figures produced elsewhere this is the 200th league game between the clubs, stretching back to a 3-3 draw between Woolwich Arsenal and Newton Heath on the 13th October 1894.
And into the silence, albeit a short silence until the noise starts up again, I come with my three ha’pence worth. Let me illuminate the scene tonight, as I see it;
It seems to me a long time since the final whistle blew in South Wales. The opportunity finally arrives to right the wrongs of the Liberty, to set our compass for the Pole and stride onwards. To open our eyes and our minds to the joy of football, and more particularly Arsenal football, again.
A wet day in London and likely to remain so to kick off and through the game. And what therefore can we expect to see as Mr Michael Leslie Dean, hops, skips and a puff of his shiny pink cheeks at 5.30 p.m. Our first meeting with the Wirral whistler this season I see, which just goes to prove you can’t keep a good man down.
I shall not stray into the statistics that attempt to measure the event and predict the future based upon the arithmetical measurement of previous events. As Rich so eloquently explained this week( I think), statistics are right about 50% of the time, and wrong 50% of the time. I will not ponder who ill be deemed fit and remain fit until 7.20 p.m. , and who will not. We all have our favourite players and hypothetical starting line up, an infinite jigsaw of flair and steel. You are a well informed bunch and know enough to make your own minds up.
Both sides come into the game below full strength but with more than enough good and experienced footballers, particularly in the attacking departments to ensure that it will not end 0-0. I do not however ser a lot of goals. The handbrakes will be on, the result of paramount importance for both sides.
Both sides have had at various times in recent weeks, against the Belgians for us, against Leicester for our visitors, a dose of the ‘yips’ that embarrassed both clubs, players, manager and fans. For me that suggests that today there will be less concentration on the high pressing game we have tried this season, Mikel will tackle more and run less, more care taken of possession and no time on the ball or for self indulgence. Again that suggests the scoreboard will not click over more than once or twice.
I sense however it will be our afternoon. We are physically stronger this year, slightly cleverer, and at home. The Ems will rock, as it always does on big game afternoons. And it will bring our first win since Sunday 1st May 2011. What will make the difference, where does he spark of confidence come from ?
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
So said the immortal Vince Lombardi. It is wisdom and a message I think that our players have grasped and can put into practice in the undeniably tight contest tonight.