Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Silver Lining? More Like A Golden Thread.

By H. Cawood.

My footballing life as a Gooner is (horrifically) almost as closely tied to Liverpool Football Club, as it is to my beloved Arsenal. This is not by choice, but rather because in the football team I play for, the ‘big boys’ are the most passionate, single-minded Liverpool supporters anyone will ever come across. Call Suarez a cheat, and you won’t receive a single pass all practise; comment on how they don’t have an ethical leg to stand on when slagging off The Arsenal or Everton, and you’ll probably get a ball to the face (or worse) at a free kick; suggest that their Champion’s League victory against AC Milan in 2005 was a fluke, and you just know it’s a matter of time before you’re painfully taken out from behind. In fact I've learnt that to enjoy training it’s better to keep my opinions about Liverpool to myself. If Liverpool lose, the mood at training is tragic; if they win, we samba with the ball. So Liverpool and my pleasure in playing football are as interwoven as Dennis Bergkamp and God.

Theo Walcott celebrates after scoring the equaliser against Liverpool

On Wednesday night we played Liverpool. I was supposed to be attending a friend’s birthday party, but left early to watch the game. After all, we’d just come off a 5-1 thumping of those bubble-blowers down the road – how could we possibly mess this one up? By fifteen minutes into the second half I was wishing I’d stayed at the party and downed a bottle of tequila rather than watch what was unfolding before my eyes on the telly. The texts from my team-mates started to come through: “Hahahaha Arsenal are sh*t” and “YNWA!” and “We’re gonna take 4th place from you clowns” and “Hendo > Wilshere” (that last one really got to me). “Dear Dennis”, I prayed. “Please. Not against Liverpool.”

And Dennis heard the prayers of all the Gooners around the world. Or someone did. Maybe the players felt the despair in the air, or the sound of Gooner hearts breaking... Whatever it was, they responded. Our Jack’s heart seemed to swell like the chest of an irate rooster - he’d also had enough of this clownfest. He curled in a perfect free kick and our Oli, our French “flop”, connected the ball so sweetly it made angels cry. Two minutes later and his near-perfect first touch allowed our Theo to send a thunder-bastard past an anchored Reina. My phone remained awkwardly silent.  We could have won it - we were camped in their half. They could have nicked it off us on the break in the last minute. 

Could have, but didn’t. Perhaps better so. If we’d won, I wonder if Arsene would have bought Monreal. Our defence might have been excused in favour of our attacking prowess. If we’d got that 3rd goal, I wonder if we’d have beaten Stoke and kept a clean sheet on Saturday. We had to beat Stoke because of the single point against Liverpool, and we did, with heart and strength and courage and determination. I wonder if Mertesacker would have yelled at his defensive line as he did whenever Stoke threatened to break, or if Sagna would have been as responsible as he was in not pushing too far forward too often, or if Diaby would have played alongside Arteta with only Jack pushing on, or if Podolski wouldn’t have been rested to let Ox do the hard work in tracking back down the line, or if our Jack would have stood up to Michael Owen as decisively as he did. 

Nacho Monreal

I’m a determinist – I believe in cause and effect. I have a feeling that the effect of the Liverpool defensive shambles might actually be the catalyst for us to take 4th, if not 3rd. I think that Monreal will allow more stability in the CB positions, simply because (after one game) he looks more reliable than either Santos or Gibbs, he didn’t go missing during the game, putting unnecessary pressure on the DM’s to cover for him, and his strength of crossing on attack will allow the LW to drop behind him rather than them having to overlap the whole time. Kind of like when Jenks was playing RB at the beginning of the season, and we actually kept clean sheets.

I guess we’ll see. But what I do know is that we’ve had two football practices since and the Arsenal-Liverpool game still hasn’t been mentioned. Life is good.


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