Citeh The Potters and Injury Jinx

Last Wednesday night at Eastlands was not a lot of fun, unlike most Carling Cup nights. Comprehensively beaten by a club which is taking the tournament far more seriously than us and handshake-gate at the end.
For what it’s worth a lot of our woes against Citeh can be put down to the more experienced players in the side. Unlike the heart-warming experience for all concerned in the last round at home against Liverpool this won’t have cheered up either the young players or the fans.
In some ways the air of disappointment and even gathering crisis amongst the Gooner Nation is a sign of the progress we’ve made as a club since those far off days of the mid-1970s, so soon after the single greatest season in Arsenal history up to that point, the 1970/71 Double. We very nearly went down to the old Second Division in 1974/75 and 1975/6, finishing sixteenth then seventeenth. Over those two seasons Jimmy Rimmer in goal and Brian Kidd up front – both signed from Manchester United – just about kept us the top flight on their own with great saves and vital goals.
We had a brief taste of glory again in a great FA Cup Final against Manchester United in one of the great Final finishes, letting a two goal lead slip before finally winning 3-2. This win was sandwiched between losses to Ipswich Town and West Ham United (then in the old Second Division); in two finals we were favourites to win. We then had another eight season spell in the trophy wilderness before winning the League Cup against Liverpool in 1987 under new manager George Graham. Since 1987 it’s been pretty much all gravy since. We’ve come to expect success and regular European football. The club has gone from turning over £2 million to over £200 million in football revenue alone. We’ve got a shiny new ground that feels more and more like home after dear old Highbury of blessed memory. We’re been squabbled over by billionaires where David Dein bought over sixteen percent of the club for a mere £292,000 in 1983.
It’s easy to forget that we were an underachieving club with a great name for large parts of our history since the ground-making move from south of the Thames in 1913. We had a seventeen season trophyless dry spell from 1953 to the European Fairs Cup win in 1970. Then eight years without silverware from the 1971 Double to the 1979 FA Cup win, remaining potless again for another eight seasons from 1979 until 1987. Historically this current dry spell four and – possibly but hopefully not – five seasons without a trophy isn’t THAT bad, disappointing as it is.
There are differences of course. From our perspective as fans we weren’t obliged to pay the ludicrous ticket prices we’re asked for now. Right into the early 1990s we prided ourselves on our affordable admission charges. If you treat fans as customers they’re inclined to behave like customers. More and more Gooners sit back and metaphorically say “entertain me”, turning up late, leaving early, vacating their seats before half time and returning long after play has re-started in the second half. We’ve become addicted to style and success. I suppose it depends on whether one personally makes one’s support conditional on silverware. Don’t get me wrong, I crave success and trophies as much as any other Gooner. I just don’t assume they’re ours as of right because we’ve got oodles more cash than most clubs in the world.
Neither am I an uncritical worshipper at the shrine of Saint Arsčne. Clearly he’s an extremely gifted manager. Like all of us though he has his weak spots. Being a graceful loser is one of them. There are reports that Citeh manager Mark Hughes was screaming foul-mouthed abuse at Wenger during the game on Wednesday night. If that’s true it’s not big and clever, but industrial language has been around in football for forever. I want a manager and players who take every loss and disappointment personally. We are though, The Arsenal. There’s a time and a place for everything. I think Arsčne should have shown that he’s better than Hughes by shaking his hand at the end of the game. We were after all well beaten by a much more experienced team on the night. The time for rage is in private in the dressing room.
As things stand the roof is threatening to fall in on our season. We’re now well off the pace in the title race and face a difficult away derby tie in the FA Cup in the New Year. The injury curse is still with us with Theo Walcott having done a hamstring against Chelsea. Since hitting his best form since joining us the lad has been cursed with injuries. We’ve also got Alex Song, who has been very consistent this season, suspended for tomorrow. I fully expect Stoke City to “park the bus” in front of their goal tomorrow. I dislike Arsčne criticising opponents for adopting what they think is their best strategy against us. Why would an opponent do anything not in their best interests? It’s up to us to pick the lock when teams do this.
All that said panic buying in the winter window is not the reaction we need. Fine, if we can pick up players we want at sane prices and wages then by all means let’s do it. Let’s not spend money for the sake of it though. The priority must be to secure the continued services of those players we wish to keep. Ivan Gazidis and his team are quietly working away at this. Let’s also continue to buy quality such as Andrey Arshavin (although his form has not been what we’d like this season. I still think he may de-camp to sunnier climes, both in terms of the weather and the tax regime at the end of this season. He doesn’t seem either fully adjusted to life in London or at Arsenal) and Thomas Vermaelen. The latter is surely the signing of the season in the Premier League.
We now need to put the past week’s disappointments behind us and concentrate on three points against the Potters tomorrow. That’s the way we’ll re-build our season – one game at a time.Keep the faith!

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