Vintage Goals Against The Clarets – Eternal City Next

Excellent goals from Carlos Vela and skipper for the day Eduardo, and a good goal towards the end from Emmanuel Eboué saw us ease through the last eight of the Cup with a home tie against Hull City to look forward to. Beat them and we get a trip to Wembley for a semi-final against Chelsea.
Not a great game, but the result was never in any real doubt once we took the lead. Further cheer was provided by the performance of Theo Walcott, making his first appearance since that horrible loss in the Potteries against Stoke City where he dislocated his shoulder. He looked fit and full of vim and vigour, should have scored and also set up a chance for fellow substitute Rockin’ Robin Van Persie who probably should have headed a great scooped cross from Theo rather than try to volley it.
Now now we need to focus on our trip to the Eternal City for Wednesday night’s Champions League knockout round second leg match against AS Roma. This is going to be a difficult tie to negotiate. I think we’ll probably need to score at least one goal to go through. Although we played very well in the first leg, Roma were poor. I can’t believe they’ll play as badly again in front of their own crowd in the Stadio Olimpico. Score first though and there’s no possibility of extra time or penalties. It would have to be decided in the ninety minutes with Roma needing three goals to hit the lead. Any win or draw or a 2-1 loss would see us through.
With our injured players gradually returning and a seventeen game unbeaten run in all competitions stretching back into December, we need to keep on winning. Although our defending still looks brittle at times, we’ve only conceded eight goals in those seventeen games, never more than two in any one game and have kept ten clean sheets. The most we’ve conceded in the Champions League all season is two, against Fenerbahçe in a 5-2 away win in Istanbul and in the Estádio do Dragão away to Porto in a game in which we didn’t look much interested having already qualified for the knock-out round (our last defeat in any competition).
For all the talk of a crisis at Arsenal, we’re still in with a shout in two competitions. We must spend the next three days concentrating on the next game in Rome. The rest of the season can take care of itself after that. One game at a time.
Off the field yesterday’s official attendance (based on tickets sold) was three thousand under capacity. There were more empty seats than that, but then again there always are for some reason at our place. Why people can’t be bothered to pass on tickets they don’t want to use is frankly beyond me. General admission season ticket holders also had the choice of opting out of yesterday’s game. Unless the club takes some urgent remedial steps in the next couple of days I can see an even lower crowd against Hull City in the sixth round, especially as it will be played midweek. I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think I will be.
There’s also a story floating around, covered this week in one of the local rags, the Islington Tribune that the general admission season ticket renewal date will be moved forward from the end of May into April. The piece in the Tribune quotes an unnamed Arsenal spokesperson saying that the club understands that fans won’t know whether we’ve qualified for next season’s Champions League by then but that “luckily” the club has 47,000 fans on the season ticket waiting list. The spokesperson is also quoted as saying that the club hasn’t decided the final date but that it will be “sometime” in April.
I know that Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association (AISA) had a meeting with new chief executive officer Ivan Gazidis last week. He didn’t say anything about this.  AISA raised the possibility of the club offering interest free deferred payment and instalment options to season ticket holders.  I for one hope the story turns out to be a misunderstanding. If it isn’t, it would constitute an egregious breach of faith. I’ve been a season ticket holder for nearly 29 seasons now since 1980-81, first standing on the old North Bank, then sitting in the East Upper and now in block 112 in the upper tier at the Grove. Every year the renewal deadline has been 1 June. I shall be outraged if that’s been moved forward at such short notice. We need the sort of scheme that Sunderland has just introduced which allows for season tickets to be paid for in six instalments interest free, not to be taken for granted. I hope the Tribune has this wrong. If I have to drop to being a Red member because I don’t have the cash available to renew it would be a huge kick in the teeth if the club’s position is “Tough. There are plenty of others who’ll take your place.”
Memo to Ivan Gazidis. You need to sort this a bit lively mate. Away from planet football we’re all struggling.
One bit of good news from last week was that the club has been granted planning permission for the Queensland Road site to the south of the Grove. This is the last piece of the complicated development jigsaw which made up the building of the Grove. With property development and banking in the toilet at the moment I don’t expect the work will actually start for a while. The fact that a developer would take on the project with planning permission in the bag makes it a much more attractive proposition however. Well done to all those Gooners who showed up at the Council planning committee meeting, co-ordinated by those good people at AISA, to show support for the development.
One final word for those Gooners going out to Rome. Watch your backs, especially in the hours immediately before and after the game. A group of Roma ultras attacked the Hebert Chapman pub in Holloway Road after the home leg. There is an element of the Roma support that is pure poison. It is only a small element but they’re horribly violent. Their favoured mode of attack is to stab visiting supporters in the rear end. This sounds funny. If you’ve ever been stabbed in the arse you’ll know it isn’t. The reason for this is the Italian criminal code. Anybody stabbing somebody above the waist stands a good chance of being charged with attempted murder. Below the waist tends to bring the charge of criminal wounding. If they ever get caught. The local Babylon in Rome always seem more interested in belting visiting supporters with their batons rather than detecting and deterring attacks.
My STRONG recommendation for those going to Rome is to take the specially organised buses for visiting supporters (they’ll be buses for those travelling independently as well as those on organised trips) to and from the ground, or share a taxi. I wouldn’t even think about the local buses or the metro to get to and from the ground if I were you. Rome is a fantastic city that I love. I’ve had great times there, including following the Arsenal, but you do need to be careful.
The FSF (to which both AISA and the Arsenal Football Supporters’ Club are affiliated, as well as having many individual Gooners as members), advises fans to be VERY careful in Rome before and after the match. It’s also a good idea to put the emergency number of the British Consulate in Rome in your mobile if you’re carrying one and it has international roaming enabled. Overwhelmingly, if you don’t look for trouble it won’t find you. Keeping your wits about you is important however.
If you do sail into troubled waters, ask (politely, of course) to be allowed to call the British Consulate straight away. One final tip, carry your passport with you at all times (tucked away somewhere secure where it won’t get lifted by Rome’s world-class pick-pockets of course), or at the very least, a photocopy of it if you decide to leave it locked up in your hotel if you’re staying over. If the police ask for ID and you don’t have it on you it can mean a few hours in the local nick rather than being out and about enjoying the sights and sounds of Rome, which isn’t really the plan, is it?
That’s all for now.
Keep the faith!

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