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Huge thanks to our own, inimitable, Bergkamp the Man for a unique account and pics of his Saturday out at Boreham Wood. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I. Thank you maestro.

With no other sporting event of any real significance on offer in this very fine, ‘Better Together’, United Kingdom, what other option could take precedence for a footie starved Gooner over the annual trip to Boreham Wood? “A10 to Potters Bar, take the first right and you can’t miss Meadow Park” (Well, you can, actually but that’s another story).

When, in 1948, Boreham Rovers and Royal Retournez pooled their resources to form the mighty “Wood”, little could they have realized that 66 years later they’d open a brand spanking new West Stand in the presence of Lord Wenger, in temperatures that nearly melted the very fibre of the new structure itself. Nor could they have dreamt that the young Welsh Wizard himself, Aaron Aragorn Ramsey, would captain The Arsenal for the first time, but by no means the last time, in a career that promises previously unreached pinnacles, exhaltation and euphoric reverberation throughout the valleys filled with leeks.

The local Hertfordshire Blackhead sheep flock had munched the Meadow perfectly and uniformly to a luxurious emerald carpet. Rows and flows of angel hair drifted across and sky of azure blue perfection and ‘Alexis’ shirts were too numerous to count on tiny Gooners, smaller than the number 17 on their backs. The atmosphere was carnival, lacking toffee apples and steam-engine-powered organ chords, but supplemented instead by the inevitable chorus of “if you hate, Tottenham….” all washed down with chilled, secretly smuggled, Guinness. ‘Hic’

And suddenly, there they were, resplendent in Puma and ready to pounce, The Arsenal, in their new blue and yellow away kit. Younger, and in several cases, difficult to recognize, “Who’s that playing Number 12 for us?”, but The Arsenal, nevertheless, unequivocally. “Wojcieck, Wojcieck, give us a wave”, an exchange of pennants, a shrill whistle and we were off to the races.

The Arsenal dominated the first half, but frankly, rarely looked like scoring. “Were we trying to?”, I wondered. Wonderboy Zelalem started well but faded quickly. Jenkinson had more acres than Donald Trump but didn’t do much with them. Sanogo worked hard and should have scored but failed to remove the albatross of “hasn’t yet converted” from around his neck. Ramsey’s quality lacked the spark of an equal or an Ozil to fire the exceptional. Jon Toral, doing a very fine impersonation of Aaron Ramsey, caught the eye, but not sufficiently to merit inclusion in the first team squad for the coming season. Try harder to impose yourself, young man. You have what it takes. Nacho impressed in a defense that was never really threatened.

These warm-ups provide the luxury of an entirely new eleven at the manager’s whim and so “All change” commanded Arsene after 45 minutes. And it was a different, much more purposeful Arsenal that the sunburned legions witnessed for the second segment, even without the Wunderkinder, Serge Gnabry and Eisfeld the Iceman.

Iggi Miguel has doubled his body mass since I saw him last (in the seven-goaler at Reading). He played well. Gibbsy stayed in second gear and was untroubled. Our number 8 (who was he? I never knew) was solid. Bellerin was outstanding and the Corporal will be really challenged for the right back berth if Debuchy goes lame. Flamini and Rosicky started where they left off last season and were excellent. Olsson, Afobe and Akpom (who really grew in confidence as the half progressed) looked sharper than tacks and before we knew it, we’d won 2-0 without ever needing to fire up more than five of our twelve cylinders.

But wait! This wouldn’t be a BtM report without a mention of the finest box-to-box midfielder that the world has never seen at his peak. I was very nervous for Abou Diaby from the first warm-up leap, through the first tackle, the first stretch and then the first kick. Abou is like your best china. You want to take him out and show him off but you’re scared shitless that he’ll break or chip and you’ll be left heart-broken.

I needn’t have worried. Diaby was imperious. He oozed quality, didn’t put a foot wrong and was the heartbeat of the second-half team. If he can stay fit, Sami Khedira will spend next season sitting on the bench beside Arsene watching in awe. “Will he?” is the big question.

The whistle blew. Abou swapped shirts. He looked over to where I was standing and gave me the “I’ll be absolutely fine this season, BtM” wink. You heard it FIRST right here on Goonerholic. Abou Diaby is going to play a MAJOR roll for The Arsenal this season AND I’m back on the double. (Champagne on me at the Tolly next May!)

Enjoy it, Holics! We have an amazingly strong squad and there’s more, much more, quality to come. It just keeps getting better over here on the sunny side. COYRRRs.

Arsenal Are Back, Again

3pm Saturday. A small but enthusiastic crowd gathers in Hertfordshire to witness the seasonal bow of the Arsenal squad, albeit with significant absentees in this World Cup summer. Arsenal are back, again, and hopefully to prepare for a season in which we build on the FA Cup triumph of a couple of months ago.

Most will have seen the match at Boreham Wood live, or on Arsenal Player, or will be catching up on the highlights. In a nutshell we fielded a side of young hopefuls surrounding a core of Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson, Nacho Monreal, and Aaron Ramsey in a goal-less first half. Gedion Zelalem caught the eye with his ability to play defence-splitting passes as he did at this stage of last season.

There is a danger of reading too much into just one half of what is basically a step up from a training match. Zelalem remains an unpolished diamond and by the end of August our already impressive midfield options may have been strengthened further. The other side of the ‘too early to judge’ coin is the performance of Yaya Sanogo, slated on some tweets I saw. I don’t mind him missing chances against non-league opposition in the warm July sun. The fact he was in position so often is more encouraging.

After the break a fresh eleven built around Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby, and Tomas Rosicky took the game to tiring opponents and eventually delivered the victory to send the largely Arsenal supporting crowd home happy. Diaby and the impressive Chuba Akpom both drew excellent saves from Russell in the Wood goal before Rosicky took on the mantle of master passer to set up Kris Olsson for a neat dinked finish over the goalkeeper midway through the half.

The winning margin was doubled in the closing minutes when Benik Afobe was bundled over in the six yard box and the same player netted comfortably from the spot.

In the aftermath Arsene Wenger signed autographs for the supporters and chatted with the assembled journalists. The inevitable topic of transfers came up.

“Sometimes players that you want are available very late. You refer maybe to the Ozil case but at the same period last year he was not available, and became available very late. We’ll do the deals when it’s possible.”

Of course we are in a much better position than this time last year with Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, and this week Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle, added to the squad. These are quality signings that send out a strong message, but with improved commercial deals and an extra three percent of revenue from the supporters pockets in the bank clearly there is no reason why further quality additions won’t be made. An exciting few weeks lie ahead.

Meanwhile an exciting few days lie ahead of me in South Devon. I mention it only because last year internet connectivity in that particular part of the south west was something of a hit and miss affair. It may be a quiet week in advance of next weekend’s fixture in New York, by which time we may have yet more new signings confirmed.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

As Ian Poulter goes through his final preparations for The Open this weekend, the Englishman experienced a rather unusual encounter from a passionate group of Arsenal supporters.  The Golfing Gooner was given a little help from his fellow fans who brought some terrace atmosphere to the normally quieter golfing fairways.  The day became even more interesting when Poulter found Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg had taken the place of his caddie.

Ian Poulter once said home support really drives him on when he plays tournament golf in Britain, especially at The Open or Ryder Cup.  With his passion for football, PUMA arranged for an Arsenal contingent to give him a special send off for Hoylake.

Ian Poulter said: “Home support means a lot to me in England, it’s always inspiring and motivating to hear the fans cheering you on through eighteen holes on home soil. Obviously I’ve seen Arsenal play a lot throughout my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in some very passionate Ryder Cup matches in recent years, so being part of this film that brought Arsenal fans together with a very different spectator sport like golf was a fantastic and unique experience.”

Well played PUMA for the enthusiastic approach to their new partnership with Arsenal. I might not have quite the right shape for the new shirt, but loving the promotion you are bringing to the club we all love.

Arsenal in the Community 2014 Awards

Arsenal in the Community held their annual awards ceremony in the Woolwich Suite at Emirates Stadium on Monday afternoon.

The event took place to recognise the achievements and work of 350 Arsenal in the Community participants over the course of the 2013/14 season. Among the projects celebrated were the club’s education initiative the Arsenal Double Club, the social inclusion programmes Kicks and Positive Futures and the long running Arsenal Bowles programme.

Arsenal legends Alan Smith and Perry Groves were on hand to congratulate the winners, along with representatives from Islington Council. A video message from Gunners midfielder Abou Diaby was also played out.

Another former Arsenal player, Roy Pack, was recognised for his contribution to the club’s community work. Roy, who played for the club in the 1960s, now volunteers with Arsenal’s mental health programme Imagine Your Goals.

After the ceremony, attendees had the opportunity to have their picture taken with the FA Cup. As luck would have it I missed out, unable to accept my invite, but I do still have a snap of a younger and fitter me with the Premier League trophy, FA Cup, and Community Shield from 2002. Some consolation, I think you will agree.

Head of Arsenal in the Community Alan Sefton said: “These awards are a great way for us to celebrate the achievements of the young people we work with, and to take stock of what we’ve achieved together over the past year. There are hundreds of people who make Arsenal in the Community what it is, and it’s brilliant to be able to thank them here at Emirates Stadium.”

The Final Boast

“I will stand accused of donning my rose tinteds when I tell you I have grabbed the 13/2 available for Jogi Low’s boys.”

Nobody likes a smartarse, right? I wrote that before a ball had been kicked in anger. What is so wrong about saying “I told you so”? Guilty, your honour.

The squad comprising three FA Cup winners and some fairly decent ballast triumphed over Argentina to become the first European nation to win the World Cup on South American soil. The Final, like the tournament before it, got mixed reviews. I am firmly in the camp that enjoyed the game from first to last. Two teams committed to trading attacks whilst retaining a defensive shape made for an engrossing show. I use the word carefully, wary of typing entertaining, for not all were.

I’ll be the first to admit I had more than a passing interest in the outcome. A small punt pre-tournament at the odds above was supplemented by another at 13/5 on the eve of the semi-final against Brazil. My belief was tested in the early stages, and when Kroos freed Higuain with an awful misplaced header Argentina should have had the advantage. When the same player found the net from an offside position it was clear that Germany would not be dominating in the way they had the semi-final against the hosts.

They were disrupted by the loss of Khedira in the pre-match warm-up, then by the loss of his replacement, Kramer, to concussion. Cue the movement of Mesut Ozil to centre stage, playmaker supreme, and with the benefit of the outstanding Schweinsteiger to ride shotgun for him. Schurrle, on for Kramer, brought the best out of Argentine ‘keeper Romero before Howedes, preferred to Mertesacker, thundered a header against the post. So it was goal-less at half-time, but not a 0-0 in nature, if that makes sense.

The second-half started as the first had. Messi found himself in with a chance to cement his legacy but the question marks remain after he screwed his effort wide of the far post. It is hard to say if he loooked more embarrassed at that moment, or at the end of the match when he was presented with the player of the tournament award. At the other end the industrious Ozil teed up Kroos but the man bound for Real Madrid sidefooted wide. Extra-time it was, and I started to regret not backing both sides to win on penalties, as I had for Argentina’s semi-final triumph over the Dutch.

When the veteran Klose had departed the contest in the final minutes I was surprised not to see Lukas Podolski sent on. Instead Gotze got the call and eased my disappointment for the Arsenal man with the superb finish that secured the World Cup and a gazillion bets. There remained time enough for Messi to head over the bar and repeat the feat from the final free-kick.

Per Mertesacker came on for club colleague Ozil in the final minute. Reports coming out of the German camp tell of an inspirational speech made by the BFG to his team-mates before the kick-off. That says a great deal about him. He must have been disappointed at not being selected, but showed true leadership qualities. Arsene, the armband for this man please.

So that was it for the tournament. I missed the best of it in the group stages by all accounts, although Belgium v USA, and the German semi-final and final were unmissable. Germany were the stand-out team (I told you so, neer!) but not in the way of the Brazilian teams of 1958-70. But for wayward Argentine finishing it might have been very different. There was little between the two sides who brought the curtain down on Brazil ’14.

As I am still typing left-handed that is it for me too for tonight. It will be good to get back to commenting on all things Arsenal, although next week may be a bare one as I am heading to Devon for a week of rest and recovery on Sunday. If any ‘holics are going to Boreham Wood on Saturday and fancy sharing your day with us I would be happy to publish that as a guest post. Let me know.

Have a great week, all.

Big thanks to our very own Clive, the sweeper, for his initial thoughts on the excellent signing of Alexis Sanchez. Thanks for stepping into the breach, my friend.

When I retired early last night, worn out by five grandchildren who had not only appropriated my laptop all afternoon, but had also emptied my fridge and pantry of anything vaguely resembling food. The Arsenal still had not made an official signing of any new players.

So imagine the smile that spread across my dial when I fired up the laptop first thing this morning and was greeted with the cheeky smiling face of Alexis Sanchez in an Arsenal shirt. What a wonderful addition to team Arsenal.

Another high class technician to complement our other HCT in Mesut Ozil. Will Alexis Sanchez improve our team? Absolutely. Can we win the league title now he is ours? Again, absolutely, but not without some other top quality additions in positions that we have discussed ad nauseam in the Bar.

Has Arsene Wenger learnt his lesson? Buying early to integrate rather than leaving to the last minute, and hoping to pick up players at a reduced price, as he has in the past. None of us are privy to the inner workings behind the scenes at the club, and the past few seasons have certainly been a trial for everyone who loves AFC, with some top talent and not so top talent leaving, and the boss operating in the market with one hand tied behind his back.

Some cynics were of the mind last season that Ozil was a purchase forced on him by the board who demanded Arsene invest in a serious talent to appease the baying of the hounds among the press and impatient supporters.

I prefer to think that we had to be patient, until Ancelotti (who took over at a very late stage at Madrid after a protracted move from his previous club,which was haggling over the compensation package) could finalise the Bale purchase and decide which players he deemed were not guaranteed regular first team football. Fortunately for us Mesut was one of those and we had a massive boost to the club and it’s supporters.

Now here we are,not even mid July and a wonderfully talented player has arrived at the Arsenal seduced by the silver tongue of the silver fox who convinced him that the peak years of his career should be spent not at Liverpool or Juventus or any other European powerhouse, but with us.
It will be a privilege to watch him showcase his enormous talents at Arsenal Football Club.

The heavens have opened and so my advice to get out in the garden is rendered rather pointless. Twenty-four hours before the first semi-final I have a chance to look at the World Cup once more as the pointed end looms into view.

It is a strange tournament too. I missed much of the early phase but everybody was quick to tell me I was missing out. The knock-out stage I have seen in it’s entirety and I am left with the same sort of feeling as someone who has booked a table at a once lauded restaurant only to find the chef has moved on and the fare is more ordinary.

The lesser sides who lit up the early phase are now history. Farewell Colombia and Costa Rica (and Switzerland), and thanks for the memories. Not surprisingly the big guns of South America, hosts Brazil and their old rivals Argentina, will face up to Europe’s current strongest, Germany and Holland, respectively. So this is where continental advantage kicks in and the Europeans meet their match, right?

Well but for a sickening broken vertebra for Neymar I might have been more inclined to accept that. Without him there are huge question marks about this Brazil team. One could argue that about the other three semi-finalists as well, but you can see where they might click and score goals. Popular belief has it that Oscar will be pushed up behind, or alongside, Fred and Hulk. He has undoubted quality, but will need the others to shake off the inconsistency and lack of imagination they have suffered from thus far.

Germany come to the party having already recorded three clean sheets. Manuel Neuer has been the goalsweeper (you read it here first!) of the tournament, and ahead of a mean defence is a midfield that has everything. Schweinsteiger and Khedira anchoring behind a fluid trio of Ozil, Muller, and Kroos. Will the BFG return after missing the quarter-final victory over France with a bug? Will we get to see Lukas Podolski at any stage. I tipped them before the tournament and earnestly believe that the three Gunners will be lifted to new levels next season if they can earn the epithet, World Cup winners.

I am on Germany to spring not much of a surprise, perhaps by a 2-1 margin.

On Wednesday one could argue that Argentina face a similar burden to their neighbours. Maybe Di Maria is not the talisman, as Neymar is to Brazil, but he does provide variety and a significant threat. Without him to worry about the Dutch will be able to focus just a little more on the genius that is Messi. He came into this tournament with some pundits playing down his status as the best player in the world because ‘he hasn’t done it at international level’. He is possibly three hours playing time away from wiping out the few doubts that can remain about his talent. However the Dutch will do everything to crowd him out of the game and how successful they are at doing that will determine their fate.

The Netherlands have three key players who most definitely could hurt the Argentines in Sneijder, and the loathesome pairing of Robben and van Persie. Bitter, me? You bet I am, but that doesn’t alter the fact that this Dutch team has reached the last four on merit. They have shown devastating class against Spain, character against Australia and Mexico, and although sentiment demanded that they were slated after beating Costa Rica in a controversial penalty shoot out I would argue the end result was probably the correct, if not popular, one.

I really can see this going to penalties again, which makes the result a lottery, but something is telling me Argentina will nick it at the death. A South American tournament cannot produce an all European Final, surely?

Whatever happens I hope football is the winner and we are not discussing terrible injuries and unsporting behaviour. When the stakes are so high don’t be surprised if that is exactly what we are talking about on Thursday.

Have a good couple of days, ‘holics.

Two matches per evening, glorious sunshine, absent neighbours, and an iPad. I have digested all of the ’round of sixteen’ matches, and half of them without compromising my ‘get out in the garden’ advice. The result is a quarter-final line-up that tantalises.

Arsenal feature heavily in the first. Germany v France is unmissable as Per Mertesacker may be called upon to do battle with Olivier Giroud, while Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski have to find a way past Laurent Koscielny at the other end. Giroud must be a doubtful starter. After an excellent start to the tournament he looked a little jaded once again and was substituted as the French somewhat controversially edged past Nigeria. He has played a lot of football in both red and blue this season and if my pre-tournament tips for the Cup do win through on Friday then it is much-needed holiday time for the striker.

That will be followed by the all South American affair between hosts Brazil and the perhaps surprisingly excellent Colombia. The latter impressively saw off Uruguay with two goals from James Rodriguez, the first an absolute screamer, the second a superb team goal. Those of us who have hung around this mortal coil for a fair few years have a romantic view of Brazilian football built by a succession of teams and individuals. The current incarnation however has yet to light up their own tournament.

The bookmakers are convinced home advantage and partisan support will see Brazil through, so they are just about odds-on favourites. Plenty of observers are tipping Colombia to spring a surprise and the 19/5 being offered by one High Street bookie looks tempting. Don’t be surprised if Brazil are taken to penalties again.

First up on Saturday will be Argentina against Belgium, taken all the way by a spirited USA team in the most enjoyable and gripping of the last sixteen ties. The Americans face the same technical deficiencies that haunt England at the highest level, but Klinsmann has forged a strong work ethic and team spirit. They gave it all and only just came up short.

Argentina will be fancied to get through on South American soil, but will need those around Lionel Messi to contribute more than in the narrowest of victories against unfancied Switzerland with an Angel Di Maria strike. (Insert something here about Arsenal’s alleged interest in the goalscorer.) Belgium, I’m told, were ‘pragmatic’ in the group phase. The word may actually have been ‘boring’, but I was not witness to any of their first three performances. They had to be at their best to win last night (Tuesday) and may be peaking at the right time. I’ll side with Argentina, but it will be tight.

The winners of that tie will meet the victor of the final contest between The Netherlands and Costa Rica. If Colombia have been merely ‘surprisingly excellent‘ that is because Costa Rica have been the delightful ‘surprise package‘ of the tournament thus far. They qualified by beating Uruguay and Italy before allowing England their only point of the tournament in Group D. They reached their first World Cup quarter-final by winning a penalty shoot-out against Greece on Sunday.

There is, of course, an Arsenal interest in the shape of striker Joel Campbell, out on loan since we signed him three years ago. He scored in the 3-1 win over Uruguay sparking much debate online about his suitability for a place in the squad next season. Personally I doubt he is what we need, but I pray he proves me wrong both on Saturday, and next season. I suspect the Dutch will progress, but Robben’s antics to get them this far leave a nasty taste.

As far as other Arsenal news is concerned we are said, by less than reputable sources, to have sealed a deal for Mathieu Debuchy and agreed a fee with Barcelona for Alexis Sanchez. Attractive though at least the latter would be I sense a little prematurity (at best) in both reports.

Perhaps it is time to get back in the garden.

Brazil Spot On, For Now

Force yourself to watch. Have a bet. The inner demons were persuasive. 2-1 to Brazil was 15/2. Too tempting. The hosts are the only side I have seen at least part of all four of their matches. Those of us who watched them in their pomp in 1970 will always have a soft spot for them at the World Cup. The differences between then and now are telling, however.

There is still a talisman. Neymar has sparkled in the early stages of this competition, and just as well. The striking talent alongside him reveals a paucity of options. Hulk, Fred, Jo, really? Behind them though is a mix of graft and skill that deserves a better cutting edge. And yet there is a sense that fortune is favouring those in yellow. Surely the pack will be juggled for the quarter-final, and then we may just see them peaking at the right end of the tournament a nation demands they win?

That massive pressure though could prove to be a burden this particular group is incapable of withstanding. Brazil will need more than good fortune to beat their old rivals, Argentina, and Europe’s leading contenders, the Germans, Holland, and France. It’s a wide-open tournament, and one that at last is starting to grab my interest. Late to the party? I know many of you think I am.

Assuming the ‘Hulk to Arsenal’ nonsense is just that then our interest in the game centred on Alexis Sanchez. It is said that he is going somewhere this summer, and there are much worse options out there. He is different to anything we have right now. Compact, mobile, good in possession, quick. For me an upgrade on Eduardo, and for those that know how much I rated the Crozillian that will be an indication of the regard that I hold him in. You also know what I feel about internet tittle-tattle. He will be a popular target for a number of clubs. In tomorrow (Sunday) morning’s papers I’m sure we will find at least eight other striking options in whom we are ‘interested’.

As I type another two South American sides are seeking a quarter-final berth. Uruguay, minus some bloke called Suarez, are considered outsiders against Columbia. Whoa, James Rodriguez has just opened the scoring with what can be described by any of a large number of superlatives. Stunning strike, and he has just added an extra zero on the right hand side of his asking price.

As for Suarez, I see he has divided ‘holics in the drinks. A reminder that respectful discussion is what the drinks are usually about. Let’s keep it that way please.

Halftime approaches. That seems an extremely sensible time to savour a nightcap of the malt variety. Thank you for sticking with me as sporadic posts have been the order of the day in June.

Have a great Sunday, all.

No football blogger should confess that he has yet to see a full game in the World Cup. No Englishman should own up to not having seen a second of our own humilation thus far. I should be casting an eye over potential signings and following the latest tactical trends, shouldn’t I?

A week of glorious weather has made the garden an unavoidable escape from a tournament that I anticipated little. That, a weekend in Cornwall, plus a day of golf, and the loss (hopefully temporarily) of all my documents and research have combined to keep me away from television and keyboard.

An unexpected drop of rain means I am right now watching Brazil and Cameroon exchanging goals in the opening half an hour. No, wait. Neymar has just made it 2-1. Decent enough game, but not holding my attention enough to keep me away from writing this overdue post.

My lack of viewing means I still hold to my pre-tournament tips and the Arsenal bias that had me tipping Germany to triumph and Spain to miss out. With a change in weather forecast I expect to be getting into the tournament more fully later this week, so looking forward to seeing those who qualify from the first phase.

As far as Arsenal are concerned the transfer department appears to be as well-manned as the customer complaints department at Carlsberg. Serge Aurier is close, I see some mention, and he may well be. The customary Salomon Kalou rumours have surfaced on Talk Shite (copyright @Arseblog). They do love a good sly chuckle at our expense. We have a fair few deals to push through in a short period of time if we are to go into the season with a full squad.

Into the second-half in Brazil, and like many of you I am praying the rumours of a move for Hulk are just that. Rumours, made up on a night out in the snug at the Sozzled Hack. Fred has put the hosts further ahead. The defenders left him unmarked and offside in front of goal confident that he could not score from a couple of yards out. A more un-Brazilian player you could not imagine, but he and Hulk owe Neymar their pay cheques after tonight. Any doubts about his talent are being answered in this tournament.

Tuesday is due to be another lovely evening so I may complete my clean sweep of missing England matches. It is astonishing how my feelings for the national team have changed. Inded the last ten days or so have shown me how much I have become an Arsenal supporter, rather than a football supporter, if that makes sense.

Have a lovely week, ‘holics.

Uber Alles

I hit the keyboard at ten after the final whistle blows on Brazil’s 0-0 draw with Mexico. It is the second match of the tournament I have seen bits of. The first was Brazil’s opening victory over Croatia. I am on social media sites. Brazil are poor, is the concensus. I am reminded of 1966 when England drew their opening fixture against unfancied Uruguay before taking maximum points off Mexico and France, both poorer sides than they could field today.

In the meantime I have spent a couple of evenings in Cornwall, where the mobile signal is almost non-existent, and the television I could have watched England on was hooked up to an aerial that was knacked in the autumn storms. Who fixes televisions in spare rooms?

Am I missing the greatest show on earth? Frankly, no. I am learning something about myself as the years pass. Do I give a sugarlump about what will happen in this tournament? The answer is a conditional yes. I care that the Arsenal players, current and future, come home in one piece and in good spirits. In the unlikely event that England make it into the latter phases then yes, I will get a little bit excited. Most of all though I care about the players I will want to watch every other week next season.

Really freaky is the the sudden realisation that I would really love Germany to carry out my pre-tournament tip and win the bloody thing. Having a confident and happy Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil, and Lukas Podolski (plus one or two?) pulling on the cannon next season is a happy vision. I can visualise Per lifting silverware as the new skipper. This feeling of course could all change as the competition progresses and Joel Campbell metamorphoses into the one we have sought for so long.

Now back in civilisation I am lured by the sun and the garden in a way that would not have happened when previous World Cups were played out. It dawns on me that these days only one thing matters to me, ‘footballistically’. Would I be in the garden were Arsenal playing, rather than England, or France, or Spain et al? No, I would not. I am watching individuals in a tournament rather than teams.

Does that make me a bad man?

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