Wednesday, 7 March 2012

I predict a goal riot

I am beginning to think I may have the gift after correctly predicting that we'd nick 3 points at Anfield and secure a good (if ultimately inadequate) win, with a clean sheet, against Milan at home yesterday. Actually, this talent for scrying is based on nothing more than a reasonable assessment of the facts, rather than a crystal ball, but it's useful none the less. Naturally, I won't ruin it all by putting my money where my mouth is.

My heart said that if we won 5-0 we'd go on to win the big-eared trophy. My head said that an exit now would boost our chances of finishing third in the league. Spurs and Chelsea have FA Cup distractions (the former's replay with Stevenage is a win-win in my book), and they meet next week. If we can beat Newcastle (and 6 days to recover is just what we need in preparation), and the Spuds and Chelski draw, then we'll be looking good.

The team put in a great effort in the first half last night, pressing hard and taking their chances, and were predictably knackered in the second, which allowed Milan to get off the ropes. Had RvP's sand wedge gone in, we might have got the fifth on adrenaline alone, though I suspect the Rossoneri would have also gone for broke to secure a decisive away goal. Looking at the season as a whole, the clean-sheet may well prove of greater psychological benefit than winning 5-1 and still going out.

The press are creaming themselves over The Ox, though his was a modest contribution compared to Tomas Rosicky who did so much to set the tempo and create space. It's idle speculation to wonder how Arsenal's fortunes would have panned out if the Czech and RvP had not been so blighted by injury over the last 6 seasons, though it is worth a minute of thought in respect of Wenger's transfer dealings. The "potless years" unquestionably owe a lot to the loss to injury of too many quality players at key times. Too little attention is paid to the fact that Wenger acquired those key players (including Fabregas and Nasri) in the first place.

Chamakh and Park's entrance late on triggered the usual gripe about a "poor summer" leading to inadequate options on the bench, but the fact Wenger's bulk-buy also brought in Oxlade-Chamberlain and the (missed) Arteta tends to be ignored.

The Ox aura seems to stem from a belief that he is "not Walcott", being more intelligent in his decision-making and reliable when he attempts a dribble. I suspect Theo will never get over the prejudice of many that all he has is pace. One of the joys of fandom is being able to criticise a professional player for his inability to do something that you can do, like trap a ball or pass it to feet. Of course, this myopia depends on ignoring the fact that the pro is doing it at high speed whereas you are walking.

Theo will need to become the new Giggs before he gets full credit from the press, though it was nice to see the crowd get behind him last night. The brace against Spurs mean he has credit in the bank for some time to come. If he (and various other midfielders) can stay fit, his pace could prove crucial as we approach the end of the season and some other teams drop their work-rate.

An average of over 3 goals in our last 3 games shows that the desire and effort is there. I don't need the gift, or a crystal ball, to say that should we keep this up, we'll walk third.

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