I don’t know about you, but all of this injury time shenanigans is bad for my blood pressure. Having said that, I’d rather have an ulcer and three points than an ulcer and depression. For me, one of the particularly satsifying features our recent renaissance (and there have been many) has been the correlation of the public declarations of a number of players to their actual performances on the pitch. Every day we are treated to selected, carefully phrased snippets on the club website, referring to ‘spirit’, ‘fight’, etc. etc. Normally these terms are inserted into sentences that vary from “We have the _______ to see us through, there is great ________ in the squad” (after a defeat) to “We showed our true ________, there is great ________ in the squad” (after a victory). Since the San Siro debacle, however, we have seen performances that, individually and collectively, have displayed exactly these characteristics.
In the last couple of days certain players and observers have been cranking up the mind games by suggesting that T*******m must be feeling the pressure now that the ten-point gap has shrunk to just one. Theo made this observation on the club site: “It’s been an up-and-down season but it’s the way you finish that matters. T*******m, we’re breathing down their necks now and hopefully they can feel it.” And Wrighty, being only slightly less impartial than Hanging Judge Jeffries, reckons that:
“T*******m are having a great season, but the fact is they don’t know how it is to finish it off at this stage, which is the problem they’re going to have now. They lost against Everton, they got murdered against Arsenal and lost to Man United…Arsenal know how to finish the season and stay in that top four, while S***s are still finding out what it is like to be in there, stay in there and the pressure of having to win games…I think Arsenal know that and it has just been good to stay close enough to get the points where they can and now we’re one point behind and right amongst them. I think we can finish third, no problem.”
Ah bless – he can never stop himself from reverting to the first person plural at times, and who am I to chastise him for that? Scott Parker has, naturally, denied that he and his teammates are concerned by our surge and their slump; but who gives a shit what he thinks? The fact is you don’t have to go far to find S***s fans who are resigned to capitulation, and fully expect their team to choke. There can be little doubt that Twitcher’s England prospects are having a significant effect on his players. And you never know – another defeat like the one against Everton and he may end up lamping a post-match interviewer. So he could conceivably end up with a conviction after all.
The resurgent Rosicky has been receiving a good deal of praise for his sparkling form over the last couple of weeks, and it is all fully deserved, of course. Clearly, Ramsey’s injury and Arshavin’s loan to Zenit have offered him an opportunity, but it has been particularly gratifying for all of us to see how he’s made the most of it. Last season he started only eight league games and made thirteen further appearances as a sub. So far this season he has started on ten occasions and played as a sub nine times. But his comment when interviewed on Monday after signing a new contract was interesting: “You can see now that I have the rhythm of the games and that is what I needed.” I’d suggest that what he has rediscovered is how to influence the rhythm of games by playing with more urgency and attacking intent.
Unlike poor old Andrei, Rosicky’s recent performances have been characterised by a willingness to work harder without the ball, but it seems to me he is also less focussed on ball retention for it’s own sake (a problem identified by His Holiness Dennis the Immaculate in his interview with Smudger in the Nazigraph last month). I don’t have any hard (or even weak ) stats to back up this latter assertion, but it would be interesting to compare an overview of his passing patterns from last season to those of his last four appearances.
Many Gooners have pointed out that when we don’t move the ball with pace and urgency we look pedestrian and pretty impotent. Rosicky and his teammates seem to have come to this conclusion as well, and performances such as that displayed in the first sixty minutes against Milan at the Grove demonstrate that when there is a collective effort to raise the intensity and pace of the game, in attack and defence, we can prosper. It is stating the obvious, I know, but the trick will be to find the resources to maintain this level of effort for the remaining games of the season. Both ourselves and the spuds have to play three of the five teams in the bottom five during the run in, and both ourselves and that shower face the Chavs between now and the end of April. We also have to face Citeh at the Grove, but the spuds do have tricky games against Swansea (home) and Sunderland (away) in early April. And of course they are still in the FA Cup – so I’m holding out for a couple of energy-sapping replays before their hearts are broken by a semi-final loss on penalties to someone who is shit at penalties – like Liverpool…
Rumours of the cancellation of St. Totteringham’s day may prove to be premature after all.
Go in peace.