I’ve tried to gain inspiration for today’s preview from the deluge of football which has swamped us around the turning of the year. Unfortunately as I don’t care about the other teams involved in these fixtures all I got for my troubles was a crick in the neck from trying to do other things while simultaneously keeping an eye on matches I wouldn’t normally condescend to acknowledge.
Of course it’s disingenuous to suggest that the results of our rivals have no impact on our season. The final league positions are decided by an holistic interweaving of results each affecting the others in a complex web of possibilities. That wasn’t why I watched Middlesbrough though. Not really. I watched them simply because Calum was playing and I’m intrigued to see if I can glean anything from his performances.
After Francis Coquelin’s inspired return from the barren wastes of the loan wilderness any Arsenal player currently honing their craft on alien pitches has that delicious potential to become an Emirates based game changer. The problem I have with watching an entire match just to enjoy the contribution of one player is the same as watching the Welsh international team. I’m simply not invested in the result nor the contest as a whole. One doesn’t enjoy a gourmet meal by lifting a single ingredient onto one’s fork and abstaining from the rest.
Not that ‘boro or Wales provided cordon bleu cookery, far from it, but I hope my point still stands. The gastronomic delight du jour in the Arsenal kitchen has been cooked up of course by our Gallic heartthrob. He has been promising a goal of such superlative defying elegant ostentation ever since he joined us. Older readers may remember February of twenty thirteen when I was moved to write these words:
“Out of absolutely nowhere and without bothering to so much as take a touch never mind think about a pass, Olivier Giroud, still some thirty yards from goal and near the touchline unleashed a terrifying dipping shot which would have snapped the Mordor keeper in half if it had hit him. OK so the shot missed the target by a fraction, Arsene got off the bench and signalled his displeasure, the commentators pointed out how well placed Ramsay was and we came home with a well earned point but no more.
But I was captivated by that moment. The audacity, the confidence, the technique. Name three other attributes you want more in your centre forward. Go on. Name them.
But of course the goals started to come. He opened his account against Coventry in the widdley diddley cup and gave us this fantastic quote “This goal has taken the pressure off me. It’s done, I have my first goal. But it has to be the start of a beautiful adventure.” And I started to love him just a little bit.
“But it has to be the start of a beautiful adventure.” Perfect. I’ve been accused of being a bit of a romantic where football is concerned and maybe that is true but like Larry I believe a player’s career and relationship with us should be just that. Wasn’t Thierry’s Arsenal career a beautiful adventure? How else would you describe it? I like that bit of poetry in Giroud’s make up. It complements his physical prowess rather neatly.”
What excited then me was the sense of adventure and invention which all great players have and which provides the moments we love and cherish, briefly lending the epithet ‘beautiful game’ a ring of truth. I think Giroud’s subsequent contribution to the side has vindicated my optimism. The blend of the sublime with an obvious physicality has been present in many of his goals and his vital assists.
His misfortune was to be born into an era dominated by over reaction and the promotion of idiocy which the internet has inadvertently spawned. Had he played in earlier times he’d have been rightly lauded for the player he has always been and not just for one moment of brilliance.
Today the players will need to find other attributes to compliment the skill and speed of their natural game. With an extremely ill timed flu bug working through the camp, injuries still robbing some players of match sharpness, others of any fitness at all, Elneny departing for international duty, and having played just the day before yesterday, stamina and determination will matter as much as fluency and improvisation.
Bournemouth have won and lost three each of their previous six games and are one of those sides I find difficult to predict. They don’t strike me as naturally suited to the suffocating defensive tactics beloved of many of our opponents nor quite good enough to go toe to toe in a straight footballing contest with us. But then, neither did Everton.
The Cherries’ best result was probably the four three over Liverpool who are enjoying their best form for a few years. There was also the six they stuck past Hull but then they’ve contrived to lose to Burnley, Sunderland, Stoke, and West Ham so pick the bones out of that lot. As I say, unpredictable, up and down; they are capable of flowing football and abject defending and their best hope will be our lack of fully fit players. They’ve had one day longer to recover since an away win at Swansea. Precious little you might say but when we’re talking of a four day period it is significant nonetheless.
I’ll settle for a win however achieved but I wouldn’t say no to another slice of scrumptious footballing cuisine from the man who stole my heart over four years ago. As I said back then “A man who should have taken a season to win me round had me in that one sparkling moment of near brilliance back in August. There’s just something very Arsenal about him.”