Rovers – A Good Start – Now It’s Up For The Cup!

A very good reaction to the midweek Champions League drama on Saturday against Blackburn Rovers. Rovers, in typical Bit Fat Sam Allardyce stylee, were robust from the start. Missing Eduardo, our very own Terminator, through injury and with Rockin’ Robin, Emmanuel Eboué and Big Bad Bill Gallas given a rest on the bench, Theo Walcott got his first League start in four months and Johan Djourou partnered skipper Kolo Touré in central defence.
Before we’d all settled down we were one nil up with our Russian pocket battle ship Andrey Arshavin opening his account, sliding in to apparently finish a Theo Walcott low cross. Replays in fact suggested an own goal. Whichever way the Premier League disputed goals panel goes, the diminutive Russian was influential. The Lancastrians were second best in most aspects of the game, except clogging.
I’m not one of those who think that’s all Sam Allardyce teams do. He was the first Premier League manager to figure out how play against us when he was at Bolton Wanderers. Beneath that bluff northern exterior is a good football brain. He simply doesn’t have the quality at Ewood Park at the moment. The only player on the visitors’ side who caught my eye was Aaron Mokoena. The South African ran his blood to water for their cause. Bafana Bafana will need him on top form when South Africa hosts the World Cup Finals next summer.
We could have ended up with a much bigger winning margin than four-nil if Nicklas Bendtner hadn’t had one of those afternoons when he couldn’t hit a cow’s rear end with a banjo (I’ve never understood why anybody would want to strike a bovine in that way, but never mind). I actually felt sorry for him. He really worked hard for the cause on Saturday, which hasn’t always been the case. He has had a tendency to come on all Bertie Big Potatoes, but against Rovers you couldn’t accuse him of lack of effort, just poor finishing.
Still, he made way towards the end, and his replacement Carlos Vela drew a penalty which was converted by Emmanuel Eboué, who’d already got himself on the score sheet. Two goals from Eboué, our new goal machine. Who knew?
With Spuds winning at Villa Park yesterday, fourth place is now in our own hands again – just. We now need to kick on and try for third place. A big ask, especially with Liverpool’s shock 4-1 thrashing of Yoonited at Old Trafford on Saturday. Nine points is a LOT to make up with only nine games to go and we’d definitely have to win at Old Trafford and Anfield, but let’s go for it. Unfortunately Spurs’ win at Villa Park makes their relegation even less likely than it already was, but you can’t have everything. As we all know by now, fourth place doesn’t absolutely guarantee Champions League football. Even if it does it’ll mean a tough draw against a leading club from Germany, France, Spain or Italy.
Nigel Phillips, a board member of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) has dissected what the numbers mean with great skill. If you’re not already a member of AST you should be. Simple as that. Membership costs as little as £2 a month if you pay by standing order (you choose which day of the month to pay), £30 a year by debit/credit card or £250 for life. You can sign up on-line or download a form if you want to pay by standing order. They need YOUR support and voice to do the vital work they do for all of us.
There’s also a worry that Kolo Touré may be on his bike at the end of the season. Although his form hasn’t been what it was this season, he has the heart of a lion and would be a loss to us. I think the right decision has been made to be honest about him and Big Bad Bill (who I don’t like personally, but you can’t argue about his form since the turn of the year). Famously Emlyn Hughes and Tommy Smith, both essential components of the Liverpool team that dominated England and Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s (although they never managed the World title) couldn’t stand each other. That didn’t stop them giving their all for the cause on the park. An old mentor of mine once told me, “Son, you can choose your friends but not your comrades.” Wise words. Very wise.
On the park, another vital game tomorrow night against Hull City in the FA Cup at the Grove. For the all the doom-mongers amongst our support, the fact that just about every game we play at the moment is vital speaks well for us. Of course we’d like to have gone further in the Carling Cup and be challenging for the League, but we’re still up and running in the Champions League and the FA Cup. I can’t see how this can be described as disastrous. It’s not all I’d like, true, but it could be worse, we could be Spurs fans!
I hope Arsčne takes tomorrow night as seriously as the occasion warrants. A semi-final at Wembley against Chelsea awaits the winners of this tie. I have a feeling that he will. Let’s make our minimum objective third in the League, a BIG ask I know, but all we can do is keep winning and see what happens, and two finals this season. What a week that could be – a trip to Rome followed by walking up Wembley Way.
Stuck record time again. The ONLY way we’re going to achieve this is one game at a time. The next is Hull City. Lady Luck has smiled benignly on us in the FA Cup draws this season. Let’s take full advantage of that. As the Tigers proved in their League visit, we take them lightly at our peril. Let’s not lose the momentum we’ve gained in the last week. We’re still not a great side, but we’re a much better one than we’ve showed at times this term. Let’s hope it’s all dropping into place at the right time.
Keep the faith!

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