The Waiting Game
Wednesday 25th January 2017
We seem to be spending an awful lot of time waiting at the moment. Southampton have been involved in a lot of it, their FA Cup replay against Norwich meaning we had to wait 10 days or so after beating Preston to find out our 4th round opponent whereas tonight will determine if we have another trip to St Marys at the end of February or an unexpected free weekend. There has also been quite a large gap between the final whistle on Sunday and me writing these thoughts and I apologise to those of you who have enquired if I am ok/busy/away/dead! Look on the bright side, you could be waiting for a service operated by Southern Trains!
We had to wait a long time for three points on Sunday afternoon too……but we got there in the end. Just.
It put the icing on the cake of a fine weekend. A fellow Gooner and long term mate ‘Gilly’ has decided to up sticks with his family and move house. Living in Kent he is only going ‘local’. Sydney, Australia to be exact!! So it only seemed right to try and see him off in style.
Consequently a large group of us got together in the city of London to enjoy some Saturday afternoon refreshment, top tucker in Shoreditch and after dinner entertainment that is a little bit more difficult to recall given the previous few hours’ excesses.
Not for the first time it meant we re-convened in our usual pre-match establishment feeling a little bit ‘under the weather’ but medicine consumed we headed along Gillespie Road and over the North Bridge for our latest home encounter.
The fact my biggest memory of the first half is the fact the sun was in my eyes is comfortably evidence enough that it wasn’t exactly inspiring. But although it was an average game, time starting to tick by at nil-nil starts to get those nerves jangling a little. And if nothing else that always adds to that unique set of emotions football puts us all through.
After much hard work and constant probing, our crucial opener could not have been more simple. A glancing and well placed header and we were on our way. The atmosphere was laced with relief as much as anything else but having given ourselves that winning platform it was hugely important we turned that into three points.
Not for the first time and it certainly won’t be the last, the remainder of the game was crammed full of incidents that provide huge subjects for debate.
Granit needs to eradicate the clumsiness from his game. And quickly. I’m convinced his ‘scissor’ type lunge is a genuine attempt to win the ball and there is no intent to foul or injure his opponent. But if he gets it wrong and if you watch highlights of his game, he does regularly, he runs the risk every time of getting sent off. There are other incidents too including giving away costly penalties. He is a fine player and for me a good addition to our squad but the clumsy side to his game has, can and will prove costly across the course of the season if he doesn’t get rid of it as soon as possible.
After doing pretty well with ten men and the Coq coming close to opening his Arsenal account and doubling our lead, the same player stuck out a leg, made minor contact and it looked like our whole afternoon’s hard work would be undone. A footballer’s life in a nutshell.
A fan’s life on the other hand means football can make you feel lower than low. Yet within seconds it can lift you from those depths and make you feel as high as a kite. And Sunday, deep into injury time, we went through those emotions. But it couldn’t be a last minute 30 yarder could it? No we had to wait an unbearable few minutes before Alexis showed coolness and cheek beyond belief to clinch those all important 3 points.
The debate surrounding all 3 incidents has been long and intense. For me, although we got the favourable side of an incredibly tight offside decision in the build up to our penalty, by the letter of the law, the referee got all 3 right. But, I also believe something needs to change.
Its not a new thing that players throw themselves in the air in supposed fits of agony when they have hardly been touched. Players falling to the floor in the penalty area when just ‘touched’ when quite clearly they could have stayed on their feet is not exactly news. But I also think it is currently worse than it has ever been before.
There are a number of reasons I believe but one that never seems to get a mention by any media pundits and reporters is the fact those players who are a little bit more ‘honest’ when quite clearly they have been fouled, by doing their utmost to stay on their feet for example, do not receive the free kicks, the penalties and punishment to the offender that they deserve. So in other words, they pay for their ‘honesty’. So what encouragement are they getting to remain honest? Those who do a pirouette accompanied by graphic facial expressions, or dive to the floor when touched in the box are getting away with it, week in week out. So the ‘honest’ players might as well join them and reap the benefits.
Some decisions are difficult to judge in normal time of course. But many it is extremely obvious a player has ‘bought’ a foul. Even from distance in the stands. Even after a few beers!! But the rule seems to be if a player is ‘touched’, he has the right to go down. Utter rubbish in my book! Since when did football become a non contact sport.
Overall, we can debate for 24 hours, 7 days a week if we like. But a 2-1 home win has gone down in the book. And crucially for us Gooners that is all that counts.
Southampton away comes next, not exactly our most fruitful fixture in recent times. But cup games are unique. And our huge following need to make some serious noise to assist our attempt to progress.
As I sign off, 70 minutes has gone in Saturday’s opponents League Cup tie at Anfield. And we are no nearer to knowing what will be doing on 25th Feb!
The waiting game indeed.
Come on you mighty Gooners!