All I want for Christmas is a point at The Dell, or wherever it is that Southampton play these days and a home win against Bournemouth a mere two days later. Actually a little less than two days given the late Boxing Day kick off, though the Cherries themselves have a home game against Palace to get over. And then a whole year to recover in time to welcome Newcastle, so that should be fine, as long as the Boss has managed to squeeze a little rotation into our threadbare squad and provided of course that nobody else is injured or otherwise gone missing over the festive season. Which has sometimes proved to be the case, especially on New Year’s Day, I suspect. Still, enough of all that – what goes on tour stays on tour etc and all I would say is that highly paid though they are, they are also young men full of the joys of and it must be hard to stay focussed at Christmas time.
Some would say that nothing less than nine points as a festive return would be acceptable, but to be honest what I would happily settle for would be a run of games with no more injuries. Everyone I suspect has their own favourite player, but it has seemed to me for a while that the one player we struggle to do without is Aaron Ramsey, so much energy, belief and skill does he bring. So a fit and healthy rest of year and season for him, please Santa – and if he can go on to have a great summer with Wales and at the same time persuade his friend to come our way that would be a bonus. Although perhaps not the greatest Gareth to play football for the principality, under this particular code he is pretty special and if it is ever appropriate for someone of my age to covet a young man (and an ex-spud to boot) then that is my next wish should I prove to have been a good boy this year.
I am getting very worried about Welbeck: it has been a long absence and the various medical bulletins that we have been privilege to have not revealed much, other than vague talk of bone bruising, which doesn’t sound much but is in reality a lot more serious than many imagine. It is actually a fracture of the inner layer of bone, caused either by traumatic impact, or, more likely repetitive stress. So my next item on the list is a full and happy recovery to him of course, but also a greater understanding of the injury factors that surround these athletes. I am as certain as I can be that the medical staff at all the top clubs have as good an appreciation of sports injury as any medics in the world, and The Arsenal staff will be no exception – but I would like the pundits to educate the fans about some of the issues involved, and just how fit you need to be to play at the very highest level. But the problem with pundits is that the non-players just don’t know, and the ex-players are normally so busy promoting the notion that things were better in their day that they haven’t much time for the upstarts who now occupy their position in the sun. Which is a shame, because a better educated fan base would eventually lead to higher standards throughout the game. And also, maybe, a realisation that by the time a player is 23 he is going to have kicked a lot of footballs, done a lot of running, been the target for a lot of mistimed tackles. They aren’t machines (unless there is an unscrupulous Dr Needles in the background) so let’s not be too harsh on extended periods on the easy list for the younger players. And may I also ask for a greater seriousness from the authorities about the whole business of drug testing, because it would be nice to know for sure that the field of play is as level as possible.
Am I allowed to ask for new signings in the January window? Everybody else seems to, equating transfer activity and money (huge money) spent as an indication of ambition and seriousness. We can’t win unless we have a this or a that, goes the cry, but Pinter has taught me not to pin all my hopes on a promised land, and certainly not on Sidcup or a pair of DMs. So I will let others do the asking for that, and content myself with the fact that most needs are merely greeds by another name, that we have much to be grateful for with the players so carefully assembled by the manager, and that if he spots a good one who is available he will know a lot more about him than I do and will act decisively. And in any case, Joel Campbell has already proved to be this season’s proverbial “new signing”, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise in the world if Callum Chambers stepped forward to play a major role too. I certainly hope so as he seems the sort of boy next door you’d hope your daughter might fall for.
So reading this back it seems that I actually want quite a lot for Christmas, which is a bit rich given how much this club has already give me this last year. Frustrations at times to be sure, but also another glorious cup-run (that Welbeck winner my stand-out moment for on so many reasons), the joy of watching us put Bayern to the sword whilst on holiday in a German resort and also the sheer wonderment at the skills of Ozil on show every time he graces the field: that young man is a bit special and we are lucky to have him. You will all have your special memories too, and also a few things that you would like this Christmas; no doubt you will share them in the comments section. But finally, it would seem appropriate to save my biggest wish for last, and also to hope that it is one that we all might echo. Blackburn George, the founder of this site, and the most resolutely positive of us all, is not so very well at this moment. It would make this Christmas a lot happier should he be on the mend, and I wish him the best of all health, as I do to you all.