Match updates via text – how 2006 is that? It fell on the willing shoulders of @feverpitch to keep me in the loop during Saturday’s game, as I had been called up for duty elsewhere. He did a sterling job, signing it all off by waxing lyrical about Andy Linighan. It takes a man of a certain age to a) remember Andy Linighan and b) wax lyrical about him.
Would Linighan get into today’s team? Ha – now there’s a conundrum. No, in short. Though I’d have him as a sub, if only so he could come on, zombie-like and barely able to see through a bloodied bandage, to nod a 93rd minute cup final winner.
As an Arsenal fan, it feels like a slightly odd time though. A cursory glance at the league table tells you that we are doing very well; within sneezing distance of second in fact, and not impossibly far away from the league leaders with just 11 games remaining.
But still, any talk of a genuine title challenge seems incredibly fanciful to me, and I’m hardly the only one to think that. It’s not borne of deep natural pessimism, though I do have some of that floating about, more a realistic assessment based on what we have seen so far. Are we disgruntled as fans? No, I’d say not. But we’re far from being gruntled. (With apologies to P.G. Wodehouse).
For much of this campaign, the next defensive blip or injury has seemed nearer than the next run of form, and yet here we are, far from out of things.
What we are crying out for more than anything is for the injury clouds to miraculously burn off and for some of our key players to hit a rich vein of form. I chuckle sourly as I write that of course, because it’s easier said than done. It does sound plainly obvious too, but how can any team be properly judged when half its big players are either out long-term, or are blighted by boomerang injuries? It’s held us back all season, along with kamikaze losses of concentration.
One of the players who has had a poor old season but who could yet make an enormous difference over the next three months is of course Theo Walcott. He’s had something wrong with just about every part of his body this season, so perhaps we have expected too much too soon. By the sound of it, his game did pick up on Saturday – can he rip into form just at the right time? What a weapon he might be if he could.
Wenger for one has bemoaned the “terrible pressure” on Walcott, presumably most of it because he is English and we’re in a World Cup year. It’s been said before, but he needs to forget England completely and get on with improving his game for his employers. Look after his club form and the international side of things will take care of itself. There’s no doubt that a confident, fit and hungry Walcott could be like… am I allowed to say… oh go on then… a new signing.
Anyway, there’s a whole week off now to train for long throws and set pieces. And for the Arsenal medical team to dish out strepsils, deep heat and magic sponges to whoever finds himself on the injury list this week.