I can honestly say that it has been years since I felt the same sense of relief when Arsenal scored against Tottenham as I did on Saturday when Emmanuel Adebayour scored. In fact, it was similar to when Ian Wright scored a last minute equaliser at White Hart Lane in, I think, the 1991/2 season. When that goal went in, the whole of the away end celebrated as if we had won the FA Cup, a relief that a point had been salvaged. This time round, it was more a case of “Do you know Chaps, I think this one could be an OK result”. It was not, it was better than that. A comprehensive win with plaudits due to all and sundry. It is difficult to hand out individual “pats on the back” as that would mean each one of the players got one but the simple fact was that Saturday was almost the complete team performance. They hassled, harried and were utterly focussed on winning. To those who say that foreign players do not understand local rivalries, point them in the direction of each member of the starting XI. But it was more than that, almost as if they had all read the papers and made a collective decision to decisively throw the criticism and barbs aimed in their direction down the throats of their critics.
So it was somewhat surprising to read yesterday evening that the club is in total disarray. Or at least that is what the papers would have us believe. A Captain and Manager supposedly at each others throats, a loan signing completely fed up with life at The Emirates wanting away if he does not start in Wednesday’s make or break Champions League match. What is going on? The answer seems to be very little in fact. In both cases, it seems that the bias of the hacks in question have shown through. Indeed, The News Of The World carried what purported to be two reports on the match. In fact, one was an apology for all Tottenham fans to quote verbatim, choosing to devote 90% of its report to poor refereeing decisions, only acknowledging in the latter stages that the visitors were totally outclassed. This was in the Score section. The report in the newspaper itself was merely a truncated hatchet job on the club. Surrounded by the alledged comments by Baptista about being completely fed up with life because he is not considered an automatic starter, the piece rehashed the supposed rift between Wenger and Henry about his exclusion from the starting line-up on Saturday.
There was little to report but sensationalist journalism has never let a fact get in the way of a good headline. And I have to say that both Henry and Baptista have given the correct reaction to being omitted; be completely p*ssed off. Any player who is not upset about being left out is either (a) seriously injured and can barely walk, or, (b) not worth worrying about. It may be irritating for the manager to see “news” of a lovers tiff between the two – and it probably was news to him – but so be it. In a media-saturated age, football is a big seller although nothing like that on the continent where several countries manage to support at least two dailies devoted to sport with football high on the agenda. England, contrary to Henry’s assertion to the otherwise, is child’s play. What has happened this weekend is that the Captains contribution was to distract the media from the game, in the preparation at least. Shaun Wright-Phillips is not the answer to our problems at the moment: I just cannot see how he would fit into the side and for certain, he is not better than any of the squad players who can fulfill the wide midfield role. He may be more direct than Hleb but since when did putting your head down and running like a headless chicken for the touchline count for more than close ball control skills? Even more ludicrous is the suggestion that Arsenal are looking to sign Glenn Johnson. Neither of those two players are good enough to be regular first team players at Chelsea, so what makes them good enough for Arsenal?
The manager is meanwhile supposedly irritated by the comments from his Captain. Rightly so, for whilst Henry is entitled to his opinion surely he owes his manager the courtesy of a warning telephone call of anything that could be considered contentious. However, I doubt for one minute that these are not opinions that he has already shared with Arsene and I, for one, am not totally convinced that his constant assertions that there will be no additions in the January window; look at past history – when he has said we will sign someone, frequently nothing of note happens. Not through lack of effort, I am sure but it is easier to deny reports (and cleverer, for the club cannot be accused of tapping players up) than it is to admit you think someone will be a good addition to your squad. And frankly, with some of the supposed signings we are about to make (N’zogbia?!?!?) it is in his best interests to keep shtumm and let the ridiculous rumours run their course.
Good news in that Arsene appears less than keen to release Anthony Stokes once his loan spell at Falkirk finishes. I am all for sending the younger players out on loan and if they produce the goods, bring them back and give them a chance in the first team. Who knows, amongst Lupoli, Bendtner and Stokes he may find one or two (or even three if he is really lucky) who save him a fortune in the transfer market.
Ahead of Wednesday’s game, team news at this early stage is a bit scarce but The Daily Telegraph are reporting that Tomas Rosicky will miss the match due to an ankle injury sustained on Saturday which is a bit disappointing as he has done well since joining and I have the feeling that the match in Oporto would have been ideal for him. Henry is obviously out through suspension but he would have missed it anyway through his neck injury, something that it seems will keep him out of the team until January.
Which is the sort of smooth segue into today’s final note, the FA Cup Third Round draw. Am I alone in missing the Monday lunchtime huddle around a radio to find out the draw? Never mind, I guess I’m just an old git. Still, Liverpool away is one the sort of draw that you groan at and look forward to at the same time. Groan? Of course you do. Like myself, you want to draw non-league teams all the way to the final and then win the cup the easy way. It never happens of course but still this is the sort of tie that we all love. Far better than a troll to middle England to play a lower division team who you know will raise their game one million percent; this one relieves the pressure to a certain extent in that we are the underdogs. You read that correctly, we are the underdogs. Not in our minds but in that of the media; Liverpool are the Fallen Gods From Anfield but completely unbeatable at home or so we should believe. And who are we to prove them wrong? Well, we may just do that but one thing is for certain, Arsene will be fielding a damn sight stronger team than he does for the upcoming Hokey-Cokey Cup tie.