Stone Cold Friday: Time To Gun Down The Fools Panel
As Otter said, “No, no, no, don’t think of it as work. The whole point is just to enjoy yourself.” Here’s Darius…
You could argue that the respite provided by the last fortnight was a welcome breath of fresh air. Arsenal needed to regroup and arrest the indifferent performances that have made the club fair game for criticism and vitriol in equal measure.
Aside from the conspiracy to run Jack Wilshere into the ground, the international break has brought good news all round with our big guns getting the time to heal and quietly go about their fitness without much ado. We’ve really missed Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott and it has shown.
The destination of the Premier League title is still very much in our hands but it’s fair to say that we’ve run out of wiggle room. We can’t afford to depend on other teams dropping points for the simple reason that if we don’t win or get positive results in the key games, it matters not what points United or Chelsea drop.
The air waves, news and cyber columns are filled with proclamations of Arsenal’s alleged imminent collapse. Any little deficiency the team portrays will be grabbed upon and ruthlessly masticated and spat back at us. There is only one way around this and it’s for the team to get first past that finishing line.
It’s been unfortunate that some key injuries especially for Johan Djourou and both Wookash Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny in goal have come at a critical time. It’s inevitably been accompanied by the classic cliché of “Arsenal need a proper keeper and a real defender to compete”.
Even Frank Mclintock recently spouted the “Arsenal needs one or two key players to make it”. When challenged by Richard Keys and Andy Gray to name the so called one or two world class players he’s talking about, the former Arsenal captain was speechless and had no clue about who these mysterious players are.
Until we win the title, the talk will continue to be about Arsenal’s ‘deficiencies’. The fools’ panels that sit all weekend to pontificate over the game will continue to pour scorn at Arsenal.
At this point, talk is cheap and any attempt to do so from the team won’t cut the mustard. Results are what count, performances less so if an ugly display on the pitch bags the points.
Cesc was quick to show regret at his performance at the Nou Camp, claiming that it was the worst game of his career. He now has the opportunity in the next 9 games to redeem himself and to help carry his team to victory. A positive result will not only help him exorcise the demons of the Nou Camp, but it will set the tone for the rest of the team.
Robin Van Persie clearly has competition from his 4 year old son when it comes to scoring sublime goals and maybe Arsenal should cut to the chase and sign the little nipper right now. Presently though, the Dutch ace is paramount and must continue his sublime form and goal scoring ruthlessness since January.
Theo too has a massive role to play despite the two key injuries that have hampered his lethal streak this season. Everyone has been pleasantly surprised at how much he has improved while at the same time adding goals to his ‘Arsenal’. You sometimes forget how young Theo is, despite those who pass judgements on footballing brains with Walcott clearly having the last laugh.
My take is that the player we have missed most in the last few weeks has been Alex Song. In my view, he is Arsenal’s most improved player in the last two seasons and we’ve got to the stage where if he’s not available or if he’s having a bad day at the office, it really shows. It’s hard to imagine that we’re looking at the same player who was nearly lynched for a criminal performance at Craven Cottage 4 years ago.
The other key players for us this season – particularly Sagna, Nasri and Koscielny must carry on in the same spirit and they must do more alongside the squad players who now need to play a prominent role.
This past Monday I was quietly sat at the bar in one of my neighbourhood pubs, sipping away at my poison. My Arsenal shirt gave me away to a clearly nervous Gooner who approached me, pulled a stool and asked me what I thought of Almunia and Squillaci.
My answer to him is that I would have Almunia every day of the week and twice on Sunday if two of our best performing keepers were out injured. You really can’t legislate for that. As for Squillaci, again, I said I’d rather have him than Smalling, Evans or any of the other 3rd or 4th choice centre backs anywhere in the league.
“You have more faith than I do my friend! Was his conclusion – to which I muttered under the cover of a swig of my pint “grow a frigging spine and support your team”.
I did wonder whether he was one of the defensive pessimists on ACLF – and if so, what pseudo name he used up in here. I decided it was easier to get another drink.