I laid down the fountain pen after my last entry some 17 days ago, full of the best intentions to rattle off a post here, another there, and to keep up the forward motion gained from that helter-skelter nut-bag of a win at Reading. “Football is about momentum and morale and confidence,” I said, evidently practically sweating excitement, before adding with what now appears to have been a certain cruelness, “and last night will be the kind of shot in the arm the club needs”.
So off we went to Manchester, never turned up, were totally and depressingly outclassed and the fountain pen remained sealed shut. If it was a shot in the arm, it was a cocktail of sedatives and deadly defensive nightshade. (The antidote is winning, and winning more, and winning more again – it’s a rare elixir.)
We’re unbeaten since then of course, which is the line I’m taking from twice being two goals to the good, but winning on neither occasion.
And those of us who dwell online have been to the ends of the debate and back, with blame for that lifeless effort against Utd being apportioned to Wenger, the players, the training, the board (which is increasingly getting it in the neck for a perceived fourth-is-a-trophy comfort zone.) The truth is hidden away amongst all that, somewhere.
Things are not what we want them to be but I remain wedded to the notion that a team with a defensive unit of Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Gibbs (stop fidgeting, you at the back), can defend better than it is doing. And that a midfield with Arteta, Wilshere and Cazorla setting the tone should end up reaping more rewards than it has done yet. Up front we are undoubtedly weaker than we were last season but Giroud has scored six goals in eight starts, and had his best game in an Arsenal shirt against Fulham. Theo is playing well.
I’m not burying my head in the sand when I say that; trust me, I’m not enjoying it much either. But those are all very good players. It’s clearly not a squad to win the title but it’s a squad that is better, surely, than it currently looks. And I want to be positive – who doesn’t?
Which leads us neatly onto the north London derby. Two teams out of form, both under pressure, both riotously unpredictable. A fixture that is as splenetic as it has ever been. What could possibly go wrong?
I have given up predicting any game containing Wenger’s Mark IV Arsenal side. It is riddled with weaknesses but contains plenty of strengths. It can score six or seven goals, but is equally capable of not having a single shot on target. It is a side, as Arseblogger said in the Arsecast, that can fight back and win from four-nil down, but which can also end up drawing having been four-nil up. It is utterly and maddeningly inconsistent.
So I’m clinging onto the coat-tails of last year’s 5-2 and taking it from there.
Incidentally, this is the 125th north London derby, and to me it only seems like yesterday that we commemorated the 100th in 1987. I remember buying a special magazine, and on the front were Charlie Nicholas and Glenn Hoddle in old-fashioned clobber. I momentarily considered scanning it and putting it on here, but it’s up in the loft and frankly, I can’t be done with it. Besides, who wants to see a picture of Glenn Hoddle?