Burnley – First Win For Aaron/Porto

Saturday was our first match post Aaron Ramsey’s horrible injury away to Stoke City in the Potteries. The players ran out wearing t-shirts over their jerseys with “GET WELL AARON” and his squad number 16 on the back.  Wales similarly appeared in t-shirts bearing the legend GET WELL SOON RAMBO! Last Wednesday night before their friendly with Sweden in Swansea.
A very big well played to those good people at REDaction for the ONE AARON RAMSEY banner in the Red Section down in the lower north-west corner of the ground. I also liked the banner with “TOGETHER”, the old art-deco Arsenal logo and the number 16 on it on the upper tier perimeter. “TOGETHER” was the word constantly intoned by the 2004 League championship Invincibles squad, led by Sol Campbell. One word that sums up neatly the club motto “VICTORIA CONCORDIA CRESCIT”.
On the park we made hard work of seeing off Burnley. The despatch of the relegation strugglers wasn’t helped by one of those afternoons from Nicklas Bendtner. He seemed unable to locate the proverbial rear end of the cow with a banjo. I’ve never understood why anybody would want to hit a cow on the backside with a banjo. It doesn’t appear to be an implement designed for such a task, but what do I know? I do know that the Dane turned his nose up and four absolute gifts.
I was pleased that we didn’t get on his back, as frustrated as I and every Gooner present was at his complete inability to find the target when chances were served up on a plate for him. He got a decent ovation when he went off in the second half to be replaced by Eduardo. Good. I’ve yet to see a player improve his performance when the crowd gets in his ear. We can but hope that he’s got his sights zeroed in on his next performance.
Sol Campbell and William Gallas weren’t fit for selection so Mikaël Silvestre played alongside Thomas Vermaelen. He gave one of those performances that had my bottom squeaking every time he went near the ball. I’d certainly put him on the list of those who can look for another club at the end of the season. Even at the height of his powers at Old Trafford he had the bad habit of losing concentration at least once a match. He’s never been the quickest but his lack of pace is really showing now.
Campbell is no fleet-footed Mercury either, but he reads the game so well and his shear physical presence, allied to his leadership on the field, makes him an astute short-term signing by Arsčne Wenger. He’s made a real contribution in every game in which he’s appeared since returning to the club.
Our continuing and seemingly endless injury curse saw Cesc Fàbregas coming off with a hamstring tweak. He’s all but certain to miss tomorrow night’s Champions League knock-out round second leg game against Porto tomorrow night at the Grove. This is a real blow with Aaron Ramsey also out long-term. We also showed on Saturday that we still haven’t managed to stop throwing soft goals away. I think we’ll need to score three times to go through tomorrow night as I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet. Despite the margin only being one goal I’m a little pessimistic about tomorrow night. We tonked Porto the last time they visited the Grove. I’d love to repeat that result but I think it’ll be very close tomorrow night, especially if they equalise our away goal out in Portugal.
As hard as we made it for ourselves on Saturday we got the three points. We should have murdered Burnley by six or seven goals however. I hope that the chance to rack up our goal difference and goals scored doesn’t return to haunt us at the end of the season. Still, at least we got the three points which was the first objective. All thoughts of the League need to go on hold now until after tomorrow night’s game.
At this stage of the season it’s about momentum. We’ve got a little at the moment. We need to keep on pushing the boulder downhill. In the 42+ years I’ve been following Arsenal we’ve had a long tradition of a spring offensive, no matter how indifferently we’ve played up until the latter stages of the season. That’s what we need if we’re to have a trophy or two to celebrate come May. I honestly don’t think we’re good enough to win the Champions League but, but. Momentum and team spirit count for an awful lot. When the going gets tough the tough need to get going. So implied Gooner editor Kevin Whitcher in his Talking Reds editorial in the latest edition of that estimable organ on Saturday. Quite right.
The late, great Australian rugby league coach Jack Gibson in his book Winning Begins On Mondays said the most crucial part of a player’s anatomy is the top twelve centimetres. The great teams he built were all incredibly fit, had great technical ability and tactical discipline but, most of all, fantastic mental strength. That’s what we need as we approach the business end of the season. Rugby league is a very different game to football to state the obvious. Gibson’s attention to mental preparation is universal to any sport however. That’s what we need now.
Keep the faith!

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