I feel, even more than is usual after an international break, like something small and furry testing the warming air with twitching whiskers after a particularly inhospitable winter. That is not to say that the pointless, tedious, and above all dire international matches were any worse than usual. On the contrary they were every bit as third rate as they always are and on the few occasions I attempted to pass a little time watching one I ended up switching off long before the half time oranges were sliced. The reason this past fortnight has limped along on leaden feet has as much to do with a stinking head cold as the lack of any palliative Arsenal action, but as I sniffed and coughed and crunched paracetamol there was another thorn thrust deep into my abdominal external oblique. The moronic drone of the transfer tattle started up almost the moment the real football stopped.
I won’t dignify any of the baseless gibberish by discussing it here. Suffice to say I was appalled by the way some of my twitter contacts and fellow Positively Arsenal regulars joined in with the nonsense. Is not the ruination of every summer enough for you people? Why pollute decent conversation by stooping to this level? Why debase yourself by giving credence to the wholly mischievous, entirely invented tales of what is going to transpire once the season is ended? Even if you only join in to say I shan’t hate player x until he actually leaves, or I’ll support player y as long as he wears the shirt, that is still a step too far. Can’t you see the reasons behind the fantasy transfer speculation? Isn’t it so blatantly obvious to you? This is another attempt to distract from the real battles being fought on the pitch, to turn supporters away from the excitement of the seasons end and the team’s tilt at glory. This is another weapon in the armoury of those who despise our club which they use to divide and rule, to separate us from the players and cause us either to cast longing glances at those wearing the colours of other teams or worse to plant seeds of doubt against the loyalty of our own. I despise those who propagate this filth and despair of every one of you who enters into such a devil’s bargain with them.
Now, I trust that issue has been put to bed once and for all, so let us glance forward towards today’s fixture. Not too far forward as it happens given that we face the mixed blessing of a lunchtime kick off. I say mixed because while I know many people are superstitious of these games they do come with certain fringe benefits. For one thing, should we win we get to lay down a marker and say to the rest of the teams in the scrap there’s the bar now see if you can jump it. Better to have the result in the bag than to go into our game under pressure from an earlier scoreline. The other advantage is that we get the rest of the weekend off. A late Sunday afternoon kick off would leave us pacing up and down, distracted from Friday evening onwards, unable to concentrate, preoccupied, distant from family and friends. Once this early kick off is out of the way we can actually function like normal human beings and pay full attention to our partners on that all important trip to B&Q.
The question is, will we be whistling through the grass seed or scowling in the screwdrivers? I am shy of making predictions, they seem a little pointless and I’m patient enough to wait and allow events to unfold but I’m quite happy to share a couple of wild guesses. I’m guessing for instance that Liverpool, although desperate not to lose will not set out to defend against us. Under Brendan Rodgers they have often displayed a proactive, gung-ho approach and have, on a notable occasion not that long ago, profited from coming at us, guns blazing, straight out of the blocks. I think they’ll treat today as a cup final, an all or nothing, caution to the wind affair. If so it’ll be a hell of a game.
I alluded to last season’s encounter at Anfield in the previous paragraph and while we’re on that subject I’d like to set straight another piece of wayward thinking. There have been a number of people suggesting that today is about revenge for the home team. That in some way we have an unpaid bill hanging over us from last year and this game will be the time of reckoning. Strange how distorted and fickle memory can be, the tricks it can play. How exactly did we come up short against Liverpool last season, pray tell? Unless I have been misinformed we beat them at the Emirates, they beat us at Anfield which by any calculation would have left us even-stevens. At least it would have had we not then also taken their little ball from the sack for the sixth round of the FA Cup. I make that played three won two. We don’t owe anybody anything.
The simple fact is that until their last match they were the in form team in the premier league, now they are joint second with Man United, and our record over the last six matches is better than anybody else’s. The other interesting statistic is that they have the best away form over the last six and we have the best home form. It is set up to be a real humdinger. Two teams that love to attack both needing a win, both with one eye on an FA Cup semi final and both wondering if this might be the dress rehearsal for their fourth climactic Wembley meeting in that venerable competition. I think that on their day they keep the ball and move it around as well as anyone and I think that on our day we do too. It could be a game of tight margins. Which players are best able to shake off the dust from the dreaded international death march, which side benefits from the hapless and often surreal decisions of one of the most raggedly unpredictable referees ever to blight the game. I just hope that for once the side playing the best football, and creating the most chances comes out on top and whatever the result today I hope that Man United lose their remaining fixtures so that both sides can finish in the top four.
Reading back over my opening remarks I wonder if the influenza which has so cruelly afflicted my already weak and ageing mind might have made me a little more grumpy than is usually the case. Of course if you wish to to be led by the nose by scurrilous journalists and do as they tell you rather than have your own thoughts and ideas then by all means talk about prospective transfers, it is, after all, a free country. I don’t need to read it and I don’t need to join in, do I? So I apologise unreservedly if my remarks have offended those of you who think media inventions, gossip and lies are so worthy of discussion. Now where is the Vicks, and more to the point who’s going to rub some onto my chest?