Thursday 23rd October 2014
Like all of us, I’m not really sure quite how that happened. But the reality is it did. And in complete contrast to the majority of the night, boy did we enjoy it!
Our choice of trip on this occasion was a 35 seat VIP coach often used as a team bus for clubs such as Colchester and Ipswich. Departing Maidstone about 6am on Wednesday morning was a little painful admittedly but the coach’s major comfort and social side meant the journey through the tunnel and across France into Belgium simply flew by.
I quite like Brussels. And we made the very most of its hospitality from the moment we arrived until we entered the stadium.
What can I say about the game? Well, we had plenty of the ball but it couldn’t be described as anything more than a poor performance. We were sluggish, not dangerous at any stage and after conceding we could have quite easily gone 2 or 3 behind. I couldn’t have felt more deflated and along with frustration and anger it matched my fellow travelling Gooners.
But football has a way of matching those emotions with joy. And last night, as unexpected and unlikely as it looked, we got just that.
I wouldn’t describe our celebrations of Gibbo’s equaliser as crazy. A point is better than none but it didn’t hide the fact we had been poor. When the ball fell to Poldi a couple of minutes later and he thumped it home however, it was total and utter carnage!
The most unlikely of victories to take home from our latest European jolly, along with some considerable delicate heads brought on by the expected celebrations.
Strangely, our next away trip is further away than this one. And our host’s previous result suggests they are highly likely to come out as a side with something to prove. And that is a dangerous prospect.
We know that however, so we can offer no excuses if we are not prepared.
Now, some shut eye I think, before getting back to Blighty.
See you at the Stadium of Light.
Monday 20th October 2014
Last May an extremely memorable Wembley final was added to our long list of historical trophy winning moments and our opponents on the day of course, were Hull City. Our memories of their visits to London N5 however, could not possibly be more opposite.
At the moment it seems quite easy to work out what needs to quickly change for our results to improve. If we had kept clean sheets in our last three home games (or only conceded 1 in 2 of them), we would have 6 more points and sitting in 2nd place.
That is not the only reason of course but it is difficult to find another when analysing why we didn’t win on Saturday.
With so many decisions across the course of the game I wouldn’t blame a referee for a result. I will however, criticise if a decision is so obviously wrong and it leads to a result changing incident.
Although our first half performance wasn’t outstanding we played ok and certainly deserved our one goal lead, arguably our best player on the day putting us in front with a fine individual moment. We weren’t absolutely battering our visitors but we were extremely dominant and comfortable.
When Hull equalized i’m sure it was the first time they had been in our box. And if the referee had made the right decision we would’ve remained in the lead. A foul in everybody’s book, it’s as simple as that.
Saying all that, Hull had done nothing to impress me so come half time I was still confident we could and would go on to take the three points.
I didn’t however, allow for the fact we would be caught so cold straight after the break. Yes, it was great movement from the striker and a good header but our lack of concentration and application was simply not acceptable.
One point is better than none, even when a draw at home to Hull is so disappointing so our equalizer was pleasing. A winner in the 6 minutes of injury time would have been fantastic but we cannot deny it would have papered over the cracks in our current defensive frailties.
A trip to Brussels means we have absolutely no time to dwell on the two points dropped. The last time we took on Anderlecht was a two legged affair that ended a 17 year period without a trophy in the cabinet. A huge couple of nights in our history, although I am slightly too young to remember it, those Gooners who do always look back with extremely fond memories.
My journey to Belgium starts tomorrow afternoon. The full details will be revealed over the coming week.
Come on you mighty Gooners!
Monday 6th October 2014
Other than the inevitable feeling of disappointment any fan gets after a defeat I found it difficult to put my finger on exactly how I felt walking back to Fulham Broadway tube station on Sunday afternoon. We had arguably played quite well on the day however, it also felt like our hosts had taken the points relatively comfortably. And that I suppose is the aspect that should worry us most.
A few beers on Saturday night meant the Sunday brunch we enjoyed in Southfields pre-match was very welcome and made for a relaxing few hours before the main event. I am always optimistic going into every game we play but to say I was confident would be probably pushing it a little. I knew we were capable of getting a result but our hosts powerful start to this season and the fact they had a fully fit squad to choose from didn’t have me entering the stadium with the utmost belief.
Talking of which, in a week where ‘flares’ have very much been in the news, who are these so called Arsenal ‘fans’ who insist on taking such items to away games right now? It is not the first time we have seen it and I don’t really get the mentality behind them. On Sunday, someone setting one off in the small, tight concourse of the away end upper tier was not only idiotic and dangerous but caused major knock on problems to those of us outside trying to enter the stadium. Yes, your fellow Gooners and therefore, not that this should be relevant, people who support the same team as you.
In my last piece I was critical of the Galatasaray fans for doing exactly the same on Wednesday night and the fact the authorities have apportioned part of the blame on our great club I still think is disgusting. These items are not very big. What are the stewards supposed to do, strip search?!? But I would be hugely hypocritical if I didn’t express similar feelings about those responsible for Sunday. At one stage, the crush outside got a little bit dangerous. That’s down to whoever you are. So why would they be happy? You might want to think about that next time, if your brain has the ability to do that.
For me there were very few chances in a tightly fault game. When these big moments come along however, it is crucial you take them. Chelsea did that on Sunday and we didn’t. If Jack’s first touch had been better when clean through in the first half the whole game might have been different. If Cahill had been rightly sent off for his two footed, over the top lunge on Alexis, the game might have been different. If any referee at any stage finally recognises the cynical side to the beautiful game too, things might be different. All Mourinho sides down the years have been absolute experts in that (and believe me I am not being critical). All the time referees don’t punish it or don’t understand it, why wouldn’t a manager instruct his players to undertake such measures. Blocking at corners is probably the one most highlighted by the TV pundits but yesterday we saw numerous perfect examples of how to stop a counter attack before it has even started. Cynical fouls and unpunished until it was far too late in the game. We even saw the referee clearly point to the one, two, three, four times one Chelsea player had done this…….but did a card come out? Of course not.
For all this however, despite working extremely hard and enjoying much possession, we came away with what felt like an inevitable defeat. And it’s that inevitability that needs to change in games like this for us to progress.
For now, its the next International break. On this occasion we have players missing from their national sides and hopefully it will give them time to recover before we take on Hull in a couple of weeks time. For all our squad that are travelling the globe however, we wish them good luck and please return fit and well!
Yesterday wasn’t good, as Gooners we all know that. But the season is still young and we need to go forward positively together.
Thursday 2nd October 2014
Come this time of the year Autumn is well and truly upon us apparently. As the sun pours through my window for the umpteenth day on the trot however, Summer appears to be hanging in there. The evenings certainly should be much cooler but the many still wearing short sleeves at last night’s latest Champions League outing certainly suggested otherwise. Not that this is a complaint of course. Those dark, wet, dreary Winter nights can stay far away all year round as far as I’m concerned!
Despite remaining unbeaten in the league I think it is fair to say our season hasn’t really got going as yet. Getting through our tricky Champions League Qualifier was huge of course but exiting early in the league Cup and arguably dropping points in league games we should have won on the day have not necessarily put us in the most buoyant of moods. Our bad luck with injuries has continued too but although this all sounds a bit ‘doom and gloom’ I think in addition we all recognise new players take a little bit of time to integrate and the start has been far from disasterous.
Overall however, I think we all needed last night. A good, powerful, thumping win is just what the doctor ordered.
The streets around where we usually enjoy our pre-match build up were very quiet last night, maybe testament to my words above but midweek home games often see fans arrive much later than they would for those at the weekend, work commitments putting time at a premium. Reports in the news, social media and from fellow Gooners suggest it wasn’t as quiet elsewhere, the passion of a small number of the Galatasaray fans present going beyond what is considered acceptable and more importantly safe when it comes to attending football matches.
We saw examples of this a bit later inside the stadium too but by this time our first half blitz had virtually seen us home and hosed.
From minute one we totally dominated possession and until one incident later on in the match, Chezz will not have a quieter night. The first goal is crucial of course and was a perfect example of superb centre-forward running and finishing on what was to be a memorable night for DW. With the pressure off we looked extremely dangerous and goals 2 and 3 soon followed, again great examples of sheer pace and power. Half time and it was pretty much job done. Happy days.
Like a Villa a couple of weeks back it was all about keeping control in the second period and for the first 15 minutes we done this extremely well. With our visitors looking to try and get themselves back in the game in fact, we looked incredibly dangerous on the break and Welbs completed his hat-trick with a fine run and finish to pretty much put the game to bed. We were so much in control I feel with eleven v eleven we may well have gone on to get a hatful but Chezz receiving a red our visitors saw a potential opportunity to get back in the game when reducing the deficite the 4-1 from the resulting spot kick.
I strongly believe that rule should be changed. The punishment is too severe in my book and the reasons are threefold. The pace of the game means genuine attempts to get the ball can be illegal by a millisecond. Does that deserve a sending off? Players always ‘look for’ penalties and some are better at it than others. This makes it extremely difficult for referees but when players are very ‘clever’ does that warrant the defensive player being sent from the field? Thirdly officials get it wrong sometimes. They are human and as frustrating as it is, we have to accept that. But having given the penalty, sending the player off is simply wrong. In my opinion, if the referee deems the foul in the box a goalscoring opportunity or whatever it is called these days, a goal should be awarded. And the offending player should receive a yellow card but remain on the pitch. Quite radical I know but a better all round result for the remainder of the game and most importantly us fans, the paying public. Even if David Ospina had saved the penalty last night I would rather our visitors were given a goal and we remained with eleven on the pitch. Just my opinion.
For the remainder of last night’s game it was a case of keeping our defensive shape and seeing it out. Our visitors had a few attempts, mainly from distance but our new goalkeeper made some decent saves and we took the 4-1 victory we deserved away from the game. Indeed Santi was inches from making it 5 in the dying seconds.
So, a thoroughly good night with goals and that all important victory takes us into the tough tough fixture away at the current Premier League frontrunners.
Make some noise at the Bridge.
Come on you mighty reds!
Monday 29th September 2014
There has been much discussion as to if that was a decent result on Saturday. Certainly at one nil down with time getting on it’s not a complete disaster but by analysing everyone’s pre-match thoughts it’s easy to accept who is the happier. When asked before a ball was kicked if you would be happy if your team came away with a point I think every single spurs fan would have said yes. On the other hand I don’t think you would find any Gooner giving the same reaction. That alone probably sums up how we all feel.
For many many years now our geographical rivals have been forced to not only watch us win trophies but accept that even in seasons they’ve considered to be hugely positive for their team, the club they dislike most has always come out on top. Despite this, the historical rivalry lives on and the atmosphere in London N5 on ‘Derby Day’ is still unique and filled with a whole different kind of tension and passion.
Saturday was no different of course but it was to be a day where a combination of everything working against us and one oh so costly mistake prevented us from taking a deserved three points.
The first half was very stop start I felt and demonstrated a side to our visitors we haven’t probably witnessed in the past. They came to defend deeply and ‘spoil’, it is as simple as that. Once again you need a strong referee to deal with this by punishing constant niggling cynicism and time wasting early on to prevent it from supposedly ‘illegally’ dictating the game’s progression. I am a strong believer that referees have an extremely difficult job but I feel there is a bigger picture here. There is a strong opinion that the reason referees don’t deal with these kind of situations is they have never actually played the game. In other words they don’t even notice it or understand it exists.
Having reached half time level I would normally be extremely confident we would go on and win the game, especially given how much possession we had enjoyed. To see two of our midfield limp off and another quite obviously struggling with an additional knock could not have been any more unlucky. When dominating the game and pushing to get the win this warrants, losing key players always feels a little unfair, despite it being part of the game.
We started the second period on fire I felt, quicker in both the tackle and in our passing we poured forward creating an intense spell of pressure. When in total control however, then came the mistake. Flammers got caught in possession close to our own box and our visitors grabbed the opportunity to sting us where it hurts. So so frustrating.
Having defended well in numbers so deeply and taking even more of an opportunity to waste precious minutes the chance to equalise looked extremely difficult. At nil nil our patience would have been perfect. We always look like scoring at some stage and if we did just that we would win the game. But now our costly error meant we needed to score just to get back on level terms.
The BFG seems to like scoring against spurs and he was inches from doing it yet again, his towering header seeing the goalkeeper make a stunning save. Still we poured forward and eventually we were to get the reward we richly deserved, the Ox slamming home at the far post producing the kind of noise and jostle you would expect.
There was time to get a winner and just as with the rest of the game there was only one team that both looked like and wanted that to happen. Banging on that door as much as we could however, it’s very difficult to keep that momentum going when your opponent uses every single opportunity to stop, break up and spoil the flow of the game. When you get a winner in that situation it feels even more satisfying but on this occasion our opponents will argue they got it tactically right as they escaped with a point.
Not the greatest result and with our injury list getting ever longer its hard to be massively positive. The fixtures dictate we can’t be negative however, as our next huge game is only a couple of days away. We need to stick together as the depth of our squad is severely tested.
It’s a long time since we faced Galatasaray in a competitive fixture, that penalty shoot-out defeat in Copenhagen still one of the more disappointing nights in our long illustrious history. Having lost our opening group game out in Dortmund a win on Wednesday night is hugely important. With a noisy away support guaranteed we can certainly play our part in helping the team achieve what we all want from the night.
So sing up!
Wednesday 24th September 2014
Some of our most enjoyable, entertaining and successful nights over the years have been in the League Cup. On this occasion we have fallen at the first hurdle. Being competitive we want to win every single game and competition we enter. But does it hurt all that much? Not really. For me, that tells a thousand words.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the League Cup nights. That ‘cup tie’ feel is accompanied by many aspects that are different to the norm and for me that includes not sitting in my usual season ticket seat. I absolutely love the vantage point from my seat and enjoy all the banter with the Gooners around me that only familiarity can produce. But on occasion it is nice to do something different and coupled with the discounted tickets in this competition the League Cup gives me a perfect opportunity.
For all those of us fortunate enough to be in a position to attend every home game, these nights are also quite amusing. Without meaning to be in the slightest bit derogatory, outside the stadium is a little bit chaotic! Thousands of people a little unsure as to where they are going, what they need to do to get in, how much time they should have left to arrive for kick-off and all accompanied by what seems like millions of kids!! A whole different pre-match situation and fantastic to see. A great opportunity for many who cannot usually attend and great to see so many Gooners of future generations.
Ten changes from the starting line up at Villa was kind of expected and although we looked quite strong in some areas, we certainly looked young and perhaps experimental in others. In a game that could have gone either way it took a penalty, an incredible strike and some missed chances for an extremely big, strong and powerful Southampton first choice eleven to put us out.
Alexis’ early free-kick was sublime and probably worth the entrance money alone but proved to be the only highlight from our point of view. Other chances came and went and despite enjoying long spells of possession our visitors looked dangerous on the break. Not to be on this occasion and we move on to another incredibly tough week in two other competitions.
Saturday evening is the first game on the agenda and our latest encounter with our nearest and dearest from down the Seven Sisters Road. A fixture that comes along with hugely differing pre-match situations year on year but one where local passion and rivalry out shines anything else. Time and time again it has also proved that the clubs’ two positions off the field are largely irrelevant when it comes to the result.
Come on you mighty mighty reds!
Sunday 21st September 2014
Travelling home from the West Midlands yesterday evening my fellow away Gooners and I listened to ‘radio 5 live’ as do many thousands of football fans all over the country. I like to hear the results, the brief match reports and interviews with all those involved. Listening to those describing our fine victory however, you would think we had just won away at Chatham Town!
Please correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t this a Villa side that won at Anfield last week, a team unbeaten in their first four games sitting proudly in 2nd spot? Were we not going into the game off the back of a rightly criticised poor performance out in Germany just a few days ago? Was it not being reported in some quarters that we were going into the game under considerable pressure?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to go completely over the top but I also refuse to accept that wasn’t an excellent, powerful, controlled and thoroughly professional performance in a potentially extremely difficult game.
Rarely will you get to enjoy a better Balti than in the West Midlands and being rather partial to this particular culinary option our pre-match time in the area was too good an opportunity to turn down. My choice of a chicken aloo balti with 3 roti was right up there with the best I’ve tasted and awesome value at a fiver.
Such cuisine creates a thirst of course so a couple of jars were enjoyed to ‘put the fire out’ before we made our way into Villa Park, definitely one of those stadia we have not only visited more than most but one with so many fantastic memories (and 1 or 2 bad ones too).
Looking resplendent in our awesome yellow away kit the number of attacking options we have right now was demonstrated by the fact we had Alexis, Jack, Poldi and Tommy Rosicky on the bench! Villa Park seems rarely full to the brim these days but the fact it wasn’t far off it yesterday demonstrates the locals’ optimism. The scene was set then for a tough afternoon.
Much has been said in the various match reports about how well Villa played in in the opening exchanges. I think I must have been at a different game! We controlled possession without really threatening but I do remember one shot from distance that Chezz comfortably saved and Villa’s only chance of the whole game when our big Pole made a fantastic stop from an unchallenged far post header……so I guess that is what they are referring to.
Our game is all about that combination of passing, patience and picking the right times to make that telling contribution in the final third and pulling all the strings yesterday was the quite magnificent Mesut Ozil. Nobody can argue that he won the World Cup playing wide left but surely on yesterday’s showing his best position is that much talked about number 10 role. He totally ran the show all afternoon.
The transmission from patient ball retention to quick, incisive and completely destructive passing was so evident in our opening goal. Mesut calmly slotted home and the travelling Gooner army went ballistic. Get in!
No sooner had we dusted ourselves down when he turned provider for DW and our big new striker opened his account with aplomb. Cue total and utter carnage!
I’d like to maybe talk about something else between our goals but with a little over 3 minutes between when Mesut slotted home our lead being trebled I can’t really offer you anything! Needless to say amongst the considerable jostling and enjoyment we also all looked at one another with a small amount of disbelief.
At half time I remember saying I’d be quite happy if the second half was the most boring I’d ever witnessed. And to be fair, in the way we were so professional, there really wasn’t much that happened. Perfect.
So an awesome day out in Birmingham and on getting back I celebrated well into the early hours before my thoughts turn to the first of this season’s two roads to Wembley and Tuesday night’s home game against high flying Southampton.
Don’t forget Gooners, the media have told us these away games at the likes of Aston Villa, West Ham and Leicester are easy, a stroll in the park. Just ask Liverpool and Man Utd this weekend.
Victoria Concordia Crescit
Friday 19th September 2014
If I was a betting man I wouldn’t mind placing a little wager that most of you who travelled to Germany this week have been faced with the following question,
“Apart from the football, how was your trip?!”
Following your team week in week out it is a question we have to accept will crop up from time to time and although the smug/cheeky grin that accompanies can be more than annoying depending on how important the game was, I do believe the way we feel after a victory happens far more regularly.
Dortmund is a city we have visited a number of times, especially recently and each time I have travelled by road. Just the four of us decided to make the trip on this occasion, Sheppey Gooner Mark joining myself and two of my longest and very best mates as we drove across Kent early on Monday morning. A simple Eurotunnel ‘crossing’ and just under three hundred miles of clear French, Belgian, Dutch and German motorways we arrived and checked into hotel with our host city’s entertainment firmly on our minds.
I would like to detail a tale of culture and history but if that is what you are expecting I am afraid you will be a little bit disappointed on this occasion. A small amount of liquid and solid refreshment was followed by a visit to a bar that had played host on previous visits. A ‘Happy Hour’ (or more accurately, 2 hours) saw beers at just 1 euro a pop……very disappointing as you can imagine!
Overall it all helped make up a very enjoyable opening day.
Matchday arrived with a certain degree of nausea but nothing that a bit of brunch in a city centre bathed in glorious sunshine wouldn’t sort out. That achieved it was time to enjoy the pre-match build up.
Previous visits had seen us locate a superb bar, not only within the shadow of what is one of the world’s greatest stadia but literally a few metres from the entrance to the away end. Consequently it was here we headed and accompanied by some of the many other Gooner friends present we did the usual thing of talking about how we would improve the world, our team and of course plenty of other total rubbish that us blokes tend to find amusing! The perfect pre-match combination I would say.
Entering the ground in fine spirits it was to see a totally different story unfold than our last visit. On the day we played poorly, it is as simple as that. Although like most games I felt the game turned on moments that could have seen an alternative outcome had they been different, we all have to accept we were beaten by the better team on the night. Disappointing but being the first game in the group it doesn’t have to be a disaster.
One last night enjoying our German friends’ hospitality and we headed back to the UK on Wednesday after another thoroughly enjoyable European adventure…….apart from the football of course!!
Aston Villa have made a great start this season and it is they we face next. Villa Park when full and noisy is a difficult place to go. There is only one way to keep that to a minimum.
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Sunday 14th September 2014
Packing my passport, currency, Eurotunnel booking and maps this morning it is a little bit disappointing that I cannot put three points in the bag too. On the other hand we could be sitting here with nothing, no matter how cruel that would have been.
Of all the TV dictated kick-off times I quite enjoy those moved on a Saturday. The evening ones very much extend the pre-match activities whilst giving the game that added night time ingredient that is often so special and although it usually means an early start the lunchtime versions, like yesterday, mean there is still plenty of your Saturday to enjoy even after the match has finished.
We all knew Man City would prove a tough test but on the day I felt we thoroughly deserved our point at the very least.
In the first half an hour we were excellent and totally dominated the game, Danny Welbeck’s chip no more than half an inch from giving us a thoroughly deserved lead. A combination of bad luck when a fine challenge on the half way line saw the ball stay in play when it looked to all of us like it was heading out for a throw in and our visitors being clinical from the position the situation had presented them saw us go behind completely against the run of play.
Gutwrenching to say the least, especially having played so well. In a game packed full of them, an incident shortly after going behind was crucial for me, Chezz making a fine save to prevent City doubling their lead and probably giving us too big a mountain to climb.
As it was we went in at half time hugely disappointed to be behind yet upbeat about our performance.
I don’t like to complain too much about referees and officials. I do believe they have an extremely tough job out there and we all tend to forget they are human beings and not robots. I do wonder sometimes however, how decisions are not made as a team when they don’t have one pair of eyes but four!
Mark Clattenberg is one of our top referees in my opinion. Fernandinho, although a fine player, is known throughout the country by us fans as someone who makes sure promising situations are ‘stopped’. Every team needs one and although it is an extremely cynical side there are many of us who accept it is part of the game. In the opening exchanges he made a scything foul in the middle of the pitch and received a stiff warning. From that moment he committed foul after cynical foul for the remainder of the time he stayed on the pitch and nothing was done about it.
I like referees who do their utmost to keep cards in their pocket but the above was bordering on ridiculous.
Jack had a great game for me and his goal was a move and finish of beauty. London N5 erupted and it was thoroughly deserved. Back on level terms, now to go on and win it.
If the move wasn’t anything of note, Alexis’ stunning volleyed finish to put us into the lead certainly was. Bang! 2-1. Get in!
The next few moments were frantic to say the least but just as we had settled down and looked in total control that dreaded injury curse struck yet again, this time Matt Debuchy laid on the turf in considerable pain.
It was a break we could have done without and arguably changed the direction of the game. It gave our opponents time to think, gather their composure and assess their situation when before the minutes were running short and we looked in total control of our winning position.
If our visitors’ first goal had a degree of bad luck their equalizer was totally avoidable. The header was far far too easy and between Chezz and Flammers it probably should have been kept out. Disappointing and hugely frustrating.
In the few minutes of normal and added time that remained it was the one and only time in the whole match where City had the upper hand and we could have ended up with nothing. To be winning so late on however, the satisfaction of a point and our performance was tinged with a little disappointment as we headed back to the pub to discuss.
It’s certainly no disaster however, and we head to Germany still unbeaten if a little battle scarred.
Being my 4th visit there is no other stadium outside of the UK I have been to more (other than Bad Waltersdorf!), a defeat, a draw and a victory the results from the previous 3. Another from either of the latter two would be a hugely positive start.
See you in Deutschland.
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Wednesday 10th September 2014
Writing a blog during the season when we haven’t actually played since my last one, is not something I tend to do. But without our team playing, I tend to get a bit bored! Not that there hasn’t been plenty going on to talk about of course.
I like a music festival. In fact I quite like any kind of festival. The word alone suggests it will be an event with plenty going on! Over the last three years, including this, the September International break has coincided with the quite immense event that is ‘Bestival’, an incredible 4 day party with live music, djs, comedy, ‘streetfood’ etc etc where 60 thousand people turn up to enjoy the fun and frolics. The stunning weather over the last few days meant it could not have been any better. I didn’t see many football shirts over the weekend, the ‘Desert Island Disco’ theme not really lending itself to that kind of attire. The vast majority I did see however, were Gooners. Proud as ever.
Returning to reality on Monday I sat down to watch England’s trip to Switzerland whilst trying to ignore all the enormous hype that goes with every England International. With four of our own in the squad it certainly gives more of a reason to watch the game, coupled with the fact any ‘competition’ game is always more attractive to watch than a friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I am English and as a result my competitive side means I would rather my country wins against any opponent but I have never made it any secret that I put my club allegiances first.
For that reason alone wanting all our players back, fit and available for Saturday is way more important than anything else in my opinion, something that is always extremely difficult when most of your squad is involved all over the world.
Watching Danny Welbeck play on Monday night, became much more interesting of course when he became a Gooner last week and some of my thoughts demonstrate just how little attention I had given him as a player previously. Firstly I didn’t realise how big he is. Couple that with his unquestionable speed, something else I hadn’t really noticed in the past, and that is quite a package for a centre forward to possess. Twice on Monday night we were to also see his finishing ability in front of goal. As Arsenal fans that could not possibly be any more pleasing to see and leaves us all quite excited in anticipation of his future career as a Gooner.
Seeing Rambo limp off from the absolutely disgusting playing surface in Andorra just 24 hours later however, shows that other side we all fear when our players go off to play in Internationals. It kind of mirrors our trip to Everton. The sheer joy of a late equaliser followed by the news Olly would be out for a few months. As I write these thoughts I have everything crossed that the news regarding Rambo is more encouraging.
We certainly need as many of our squad available with the tough week we have ahead. Can we win all three games? Of course we can but the quality of our opponents means they are all fixtures that could go the other way too. Hosting the league champions is the first hurdle of course and a fixture to thoroughly look forward to.
Come on you mighty reds!