Arsenal: The Ox Was Great But Our Elitist Fans Need To Stop Turning On Each Other
So. An unfancied team leads the league from two heavyweights going into February, steered by a manager who has had his fair share of criticism and a team that has been continually written off.
I am of course talking about Athletico Madrid easing to the top of La Liga, ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Boss Diego Simeone has a mantra of “partido a partido” which effectively means we’ll take one game at a time, Brian.
It is an ethos that appears to be working so far. Being humble under a canny manager, working hard as a team, possessing a solid defence and having no little flair in attack – witness another goal each for David Villa and Diego Costa yesterday in their 4-0 evisceration of Real Sociedad – all these elements have conspired to see Los Rojiblancos rise to the top of arguably the best league in the world. (Disclaimer: I said best league – not most exciting).
Another team of red and whites in England appear to be doing the same.
Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace yesterday appeared far more comfortable than it threatened to be under a well-organised side who looked to hit on the counter with pace.
We were helped to the three vital points by the Ox having a stellar game in the centre of midfield. He looked fit, sharp, pacey and powerful. If you ally that with an excellent technique and a desire that is frightening at times – witness the way he always sought out the ball – suggests he could be a very influential figure during the run-in.
Cazorla showed also flair and passed the ball well yesterday, with Arteta excelling in his holding role.
And for those still carping about Mesut Özil’s contribution – what is it with you people? He made 72 passes in the first half alone, only 62 fewer than they achieved in total.
Hell, it was such a day that even the Crown Prince of Denmark deigned to make a substitute appearance on the pitch.
It was a good day all in all as I even managed to interview an idol of mine, the legendary Kenny Sansom, at Piebury Corner yesterday (massive thanks to Scottish Paul and Ben Sansom). They say never meet your idols but Kenny was a true gentleman.
The fact that we have won seven Premier League games 2-0 this season with the nearest team having only three to their name - not to mention the fact that we have recorded ten 2-0 wins in all comps at home this season which is the same amount as we managed in the last four years - indicates a consistency that has been lacking over the last few years. A consistency which saw a spring in the step of many Gooners coming away from yesterday’s game.
Even if, as ever, a considerable amount left before the final whistle. Why? It’s a complete lack of respect to leave before the end, not to mention making us look ridiculous to other sets of fans. Come on, Dancing on Ice can’t be that good to leave early – certainly now Dave Seaman’s been voted off. Try staying to the end. You knows you might even enjoy it.
Incidentally can I just give a mention to the away fans, who were loud and proud for the whole 90 minutes, and were by far the best visitors to have travelled to Ashburton Grove this season. Fair play to you all, with support like that I can only wish you well.
Likewise with Chamakh who received a nice ovation yesterday. It is clear that he had some off field problems which were affecting his performances during his time with us which can’t have been much fun, yet he gave a very dignified interview over the weekend, and again I wish him all the best with Palace.
Talking of support I bumped into some nice people from the Singapore Arsenal supporters club pre-match at a buzzing Piebury Corner. They had flown over for the week to take in yesterday’s game and our crunch match at Anfield this Saturday. It never ceases to amaze me how our support is so far flung and loyal.
As someone who grew up watching football in the 80s, which for the most part was a dangerous and uncomfortable experience, not to mention the fact that between August 85 and January 1986 there was no football shown on TV - imagine that kids and football hipsters? - I am still surprised that people who aren’t from London support Arsenal.
But surprised in a good way.
There has been a bit of debate on twitter about what constitutes an Arsenal fan with one or two mean-spirited individuals stating that unless you go to the games you can’t be considered a fan. Well, I’ve had a season ticket for 30 years and did most of the away’s too, but I went travelling for two of those years and gave it to a mate – does that mean whilst I was caning it in Thailand, climbing Mayan ruins or camping at Ayers Rock I wasn’t a proper Arsenal fan because I didn’t go to the games? I don’t bloody think so, son.
It would also be grand if certain people realised the club are running a campaign called ‘Arsenal For Everyone.” If they ran one called ‘Arsenal for those who think they’re superior fans because they go to every game allegedly’ then I could understand their sniffy nosed and arrogant attitude.
Anyway, I am glad our Singaporean Gooners enjoyed the three points and a sterling performance from The Ox. All credit to you guys for your loyalty.
It was instructive to learn that the Ox is now our 14th player to score for the club in the league this season. Which is going to be helpful as our moment of truth is fast approaching with Liverpool away, United home, Liverpool away (FA Cup) and Bayern Munich (CL h).
Even Arsene admits “we have it all to do”.
But if we can get through that pretty lot unscathed then I might just pour myself a large one and tweet Danny Murphy, Michael Owen, Alan Hansen (is he on twitter btw?), Steve Claridge, Tony Cascarino, Andy Townsend, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Dion Dublin and a myriad of others and ask how many more ‘tests’ do you have to pass to be considered genuine challengers for silverware?
I have been cautioning all season not to get carried away by our wins, nor to get too deflated by our losses, yet it is fair to say the crux of our season is now; our moment of truth appears to be fast approaching.
However, it should be savoured not feared.
In the five title winning seasons I’ve watched Arsenal (89,91,98,02,04) blocks of fixtures similar to our next four and the set in mid-March, were treated as a challenge, not something to be feared.
Let’s hope there’s a similar reaction that, with hindsight, sees February 2014 being a good month for The Arsenal – or at the very least an implosion such as Feb/March 2008 is sidestepped. As I for one dearly wish to avoid the heartache of that dreadful spell on and off the pitch, which still makes me shudder now.
With the lead of the Premier League having changed hands 18 times already this season – by comparison it only occurred four times in the whole of 2012-13 – we are surely in for a lot more drama over the next month or two.
The best way to approach our moment of truth then?
Partido a partido of course.
Apart from being a regular contributor to Sabotage, Layth has written for When Saturday Comes, World Soccer, Four-Four-Two, The Gooner, The London Evening Standard, The Sunday People, In Bed With Maradona, The Football Pink and The Inside Left amongst others.