Apr 3rd, 2017 by 'holic
With apologies for the delay here are a few thoughts on the draw against Manchester City. My day was certainly more enjoyable than a lot of others according to what I saw on social media on the homeward journey. A stroll around the spiritual home that is Highbury always provokes the best memories, and maybe a happy tear or two.
I had arranged to meet Mike, the face behind the GoonersinUSA podcast, at the Gunners and delighted to meet many more visitors from across the pond in situ. After saying hello to Ted we took to the beer garden to exchange tales of following the Arsenal while enjoying pints of muscle-relaxing lubricant. It was a lot of fun.
As was the welcome at the Tollie from one of our own. Bergkamp the Man, the ‘holic not the non-flying Dutchman at the bar. “What’ll ye have?” before we talked of our hopes and fears for the afternoon and weeks ahead. A pleasant stroll to the stadium and as we entered the ground there were distant and muted chants of “We want Wenger out”.
Whilst having some sympathy with their cries for change, as a step-grandfather I cannot commend the poisonous atmosphere that is created around the stadium. Neither can I support the level of vitriol being expelled at an honourable man who deserves to leave the club with appreciation ringing in his ears. I understand that this situation is one created by the board and the manager not clarifying the situation in a timely fashion. I am going over old ground. The point here is that the protesters are choosing to make their day unpleasant. To their credit though the support inside the stadium was excellent as a fanbase united behind the team.
Another glass of something tasty, and a chat with some of those we are fortunate enough to share Block 32 with, and so to our seats. We usually play better with the sun on our backs but far too soon we are behind. There is little point in me adding to the criticism of the back four at this late stage. Perhaps one of our holding midfielders might have filled in for Skhodran Mustafi when he advanced to meet the long clearance? Credit too the excellent Sane for his wonderful control and finish at pace.
Whilst the split of togetherness isn’t as it was in the early months of the season there was no visible dropping of heads as we looked to claw our way back into the contest. When we did it was hardly a surprise that Gael Clichy contributed to Theo Walcott’s opportunism by sitting in when his colleagues advanced in search of an offside flag. Walcott deserved his goal for his early endeavours which included a most un-Walcott like challenge which surprised the referee so much he forgot to award a free-kick!
But Arsenal 2017, being Arsenal 2017, immediately found themselves behind again. As the move built there was a sense of ‘City can score when they want and are going to do just that’ about it. I’m told that we supporters don’t know enough about the game to be critical of players or the manager. I know that over fifty years of watching football at the top level has given me an opinion that you really shouldn’t leave Aguero unmarked to finish some wonderful work by De Bruyne.
Credit the Gunners though for digging in and trading blows with the visitors after the break. Mustafi’s wonderful header earned us the point I genuinely believe we deserved, but the celebrations told a story. Alexis beckoned the half of the team that had gone back to their positions for the restart to join the scorer in front of Red Action. Francis Coquelin hesitantly made it half of the distance. It furthers the impression of a squad at war with itself.
Selfishly I prayed for us to find an unlikely winner. The neighbour shared my regular ‘cash-out’ checks. At best I was offered £40 against potential winnings of £290. I stayed stubborn, over-estimating the qualities of my team. “You should have took the forty.”
The post mortem in the pub was less ‘lively’ than what was going on back at the stadium. There’s an air of resignation around the place. We needed the three points but remain perilously poised in sixth place. A couple of pints later everything was put into perspective and I walked back to begin the journey home, passing the now sunlit and becalmed stadium and it’s usual smattering of supporters hoping to catch a glimpse, or more, of the team and manager as they depart.
We used to meet players in the pubs after matches. The times they are a changin’.