Tangerine Nightmare/Big Bad Bill/Welcome Back The Clock!

First things first. Let’s big it up for Blackpool’s travelling support at the Grove on Saturday. They were a vivid, noisy tangerine splash in the south-east corner lower tier, singing and chanting throughout the game, even as their team got belted.
The tangerine dream turned into a tangerine nightmare for them as we systematically took them apart on the park. Such passion deserves so much more than a convicted rapist as majority owner and a rip-off payday loan provider advertised on those proud tangerine shirts.
I’m so old I can remember the last time Blackpool had a spell in the top flight. They knocked us out of the FA Cup in 1969/70, getting a draw at our place before beating us in a replay at Bloomfield Road 3-2. They had an excellent Scottish international winger called Tommy Hutchison who always played well against us, both for Blackpool and later for Coventry City.
I had a sense of déjà vu when the players came out on Saturday. Blackpool were in exactly the same change strip as they wore in the FA Cup in January 1970, white shirts and tangerine shorts. Unfortunately for them that was where the similarity ended. Give Ian Holloway credit, they tried to keep it down and pass it rather than parking the bus in front of goal. Unfortunately you have to be really good to play an open style against us. Blackpool weren’t. Tomáš Rosický was excellent in the centre of a midfield trio with Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott either side of him.
Alexandre Song was moved back to centre-back to partner Thomas Vermaelen. Aside from one scare at a corner in the first half the pair of them could have spent the afternoon in deckchairs sipping cold drinks and reading the newspaper. In front of the back four Jack Wilshere was industrious and efficient, only playing one stray pass all afternoon. Abou Diaby alongside him was frustrating at times, holding play up when a quick pass was the way to go.
Theo Walcott was having all sorts of fun down the wing, helping himself to an excellent hat-trick as well as displaying much improved decision-making in the last third, before going off to a deserved standing ovation on 66 minutes, being replaced by Carlos Vela. Just before that and with us being five-nil up and Blackpool having gone down to ten men in the first half – when Ian Evatt was dismissed for a “last man” foul on Marouane Chamakh – bringing on Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie for Diaby and Arshavin seemed like cruel and unusual punishment for the Seasiders.
I’ll be much more impressed when Theo Walcott produces the same sort of vivid performance against much better teams than Blackpool. For now let’s all just enjoy the moment though, he and us together.
We shouldn’t get too carried away with Saturday. Good performance it was but it should have been more. Marouane Chamakh managed one of what will definitely be amongst  the misses of the season before netting his first competitive goal for us. All in all I like the 4-2-3-1 that the manager has used with increasing frequency but Blackpool’s lone chance from which they should have scored shows we still have a LOT of work to do defensively. We also need to add a goalkeeper and another central defender.
It’s far too early to know what lies ahead this season, but a 6-0 win is always welcome. Let’s not get too carried away with it though.
There’s been a lot of comment on Big Bad Bill Gallas signing for the Spuds. You never really got the feeling that he was doing anything but passing through at Arsenal. If you believe the media reports he didn’t re-sign for us because he was holding out for a two or three year deal on the same money he was on, said to be somewhere between £4-4.5 million a year.
Having touted himself to Juventus, Panathanaikos, Paris St Germain and Uncle Tom Cobbly, each in turn saying, “Thanks but no thanks” when they learned of his contract demands, where does he end up? At Spurs on a one year contract! I can’t believe even Spurs are daft enough to pay him the same never mind more than we were. It would appear he decided to roll the dice and has lost. That’s his blues. He was quite entitled to go where he wanted his contract having expired. You’ve made your choice mate. Now own it.
He was a very good defender, although not quite as outstanding as he appears to think. From what I hear of him from various sources he’s not a very nice human being. He certainly stirred the pot in the Arsenal dressing room. I wanted to keep him, but not at any price. You have to ask why we didn’t fight all that hard to keep him. Not that I think that every player needs to be Mr Popular with the other players to have a successful team. Famously Emelyn Hughes and Tommy Smith in the all-conquering Liverpool team of the late 1970s/early 1980s detested each other personally. They both fought for the team on the pitch. A player who will tell under-performers a few home truths when they’re not giving their all can be a very good thing. Something we lack enough of at the moment I think. Too often its excuses rather than some critical self-analysis.
That said I think on balance we’re probably better off without Gallas and his mercenary “Me Generation” baggage. I’ve no doubt he will get the bird from Gooners at White Hart Lane and at the Grove this season, in the same way Emmanuel Adebayor did last season. Adebayor deserved stick for his antics, although some of the invective aimed at him crossed the line into – frankly – racism. Other Gooners booed this nonsense down. Good. By all means have a go but we should never stray into racism. We’re The Arsenal. Do you know what I think would be great when we play Spuds if he’s in the side? Total, utter silence at every mention of his name, every touch on the ball. Just total utter silence. It would be different and VERY effective as a way of showing our feelings. I don’t imagine for a moment it’ll happen but it would be brilliant if it did. It would spook him FAR more than getting booed and insulted. A display of complete and utter indifference. The same indifference he’s shown to us.
Finally, it was great to see the clock back at the Clock End on Saturday. Congratulations to all those involved in the video film and especially the big flags unfurled over the lower tiers at both ends. Brilliant. Great theatre. Full marks. I hope the club will work with REDaction for more such displays at appropriate games. A mate of mine texted me saying “happy-clappy feel-good events are all very well but it’s all about a winning team.” I don’t disagree but the display was Arsenal class at its best. There is an Arsenal way of doing things and the video and banners were a good example of that. Why we can’t we have pure class both on and off the pitch? Does it have to be a choice? I don’t think so.
Keep the faith!

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