It’s a different game today alright. I had the good fortune to view proceedings from a privileged vantage point, and for much of the afternoon the football matched the surroundings. It was relaxed, calming even. However, the sting in the tail was one mistake too many for some elsewhere in the ground.
The rights and wrongs of booing are debated elsewhere this morning, and I have no desire to add to the debate. I am surprised that people don’t show more patience at what was no more than a pre-season friendly, but equally understand the frustration that is a result of our delayed activity in the transfer market.
It was an afternoon that could have produced a much different result from the crowd had the referee not observed the letter, rather than the spirit, of the law when informed of Arsenal’s wish that Thierry Henry be allowed to play the second-half for Arsenal. His judgement was that although it would be allowed in a friendly this was a sanctioned tournament and he would be hauled over the coals for allowing it. At half-time Arsene Wenger again went to the referee and pleaded for Henry to be allowed to pull on the red and white again, just for the final five minutes. Again the request was refused.
So instead of being off the pitch donning a different kit in the 84th minute, Thierry was very much still involved in the action, and orchestrating the attack that ended with poor Kyle Bartley putting through his own goal to provoke the end of match unhappiness. Once again a squad defender was involved in the incident that provoked the outpouring of dissatisfaction. It was not a ‘typical’ Arsenal goal to concede, and young Bartley is not a serial offender.
To that point Arsenal had done just enough, and no more. As it was the second match in twenty-four hours it was no surprise that the tempo was a little subdued. The lead was secured when Robin van Persie climbed to head home a free-kick from the again-impressive Tomas Rosicky. His selection ahead of Samir Nasri was an interesting one. The starting eleven looked like the team Arsene would have preferred to put out were this the first competitive fixture, but that is pure conjecture by me.
Gervinho, again lively, and therefore standing out from the rest, had a couple of opportunities to put the game beyond the visitors. Perhaps he needs to do some work on chipping the ‘keeper with Carlos Vela this week? Joking aside, we do seem to have signed ourselves a proper footballer for a reasonable fee. They are still out there. Now lets find the defenders to provide a base from which he and the other attackers can bring the disillusioned back onside.
The message of the weekend is not a new one, and yet we are now one last friendly away from competitive action. The fear is growing that we are playing Russian roulette with the loaded weapon that is the Champions League qualifier. There is a growing feeling that the Fabregas situation is starting to be more of a distraction than it should be. The bloodsuckers at Barca will love that. That is for another post. Most of all though, those known defensive frailties are no closer to being resolved. We have been promised they will be. It’s time to deliver on that promise.
I would also like to thank those with whom I watched the matches yesterday, and occasional guest writer here, Bergkamp the Man, who brought the delightful Helen to meet us in the Pins afterwards. Once again Ollie was a bad influence on me, as you may have guessed by the tardiness of this post. It was good to see Paul again, still pouring the best pint of Guinness in North London.
It was reminder that Arsenal is a bond that ties. It was a reminder that perhaps drawing a pre-season friendly (yes, Mr Friend) isn’t the end of the world.
Oh, and did I mention, it was a reminder we are still a couple of defenders short?
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