Arsenal review: van Persie ices the party cake

125
Pic courtesy of @agsibley

Arsenal 1-0 Everton

And so it was (and in hindsight, so it was always going to be) that on Arsenal’s 125th birthday party the score was one-nil to the Arsenal. That was a nice touch, eh?

To top it off, it wasn’t just any old bog standard, common-or-garden winning goal, it was a veritable van Persie humdinger; a sumptuous volley right up there in execution with the one he scissored in all those years ago at the Valley. It lit the place up like a Catherine Wheel. If most of his goals are Austin Princesses, then this one was an Ambassador Vanden Plas, [dreadful cars both – rewrite, Ed].

Honestly, if you watch it again and again and again you will on each occasion find another nuance to it to amaze and astound you. I might have to get a duvet cover made out of it. Come on Arsenal – if you’ve now got ‘Dench’ in your merchandising catalogue, you can go the extra mile and make me a van Persie duvet cover (single – there’s no way I’d get a double past control and I might get relegated to the sofa bed anyway). As it was, that goal was well dench.

Caveat: I was not, as some of you will know, at the game. Instead, I was ensconced in Clown Town at a children’s party (my own child’s party, to clarify). Now you know what, I love the little blighter to bits but this will go down as a calamitous failure of organisation on my part. Let’s be quite open about it: with a little less cotton wool between my ears I could have avoided dishing out fish fingers and scrabbling around trying to locate children who have climbed into the rafters of the soft play area, and instead, I could have been at the proper party. Six does not have a patch on one hundred and twenty-five.

So all the jamboree before the match; the bands and the statues and the line-up of old luminaries and the ‘125’ cards raised high (I should have been hoisting one of those above my head – oh woe, oh woe) obviously passed me by entirely. When I zoom in on the 360 panorama on Monday, it will feature not me, but my cousin (who cannot probably believe his luck and is this very moment toasting my incompetency). Seriously though, I hear the whole day was well done from top to bottom. When the club wants to do tradition, it does it rather well and massive credit where it is due.

The rest of the game – as much as you can glean from Sky’s Football First and Match du Jour – was a tale of missed opportunities, with very presentable chances squandered by Walcott, Gervinho and Ramsey, but none of this strikes me as particularly relevant in the grand scheme of things.

What matters is that Arsenal turned 125, Robin van Persie scored an eye-waterer and we won one nil.

Perfick.

Friday roundup: Greece / Book launch / 125

So Friday rolls round again in a flash, apparently seven days after it last did. That doesn’t feel quite possible.

Olympiacos on Tuesday started badly and never really picked up, but if you haven’t yet filed that one away under ‘nothing to dwell too much on’ then I shall politely recommend that you do. The final – and even penultimate – Champions League group games have the habit of throwing up matches that mean the world to one side but not a whole lot to the other, and this was one of those. The outcome will not affect the pecking order of many of the players: Fabianski, Squillaci, Chamakh & Arshavin are benchwarmers and showed why, while Coquelin, The Ox and Frimpong did themselves no harm.

On Wednesday it was of course the Arseblog book launch, with the evening in the Tollington being a memorable and lively number. Arseblogger was ensconced in the corner getting wrist-ache (you at the back, stop tittering – he was signing his book), and the pub bubbled and fizzed with gooners aplenty. One of the most enjoyable things for me was putting real faces to virtual ones, with many of us introducing ourselves with the name of our blog or twitter handle first, and our actual names second. It really did put the social into social media and confirmed what a top collection of folk inhabits this sometimes peculiar online world we live in. Hats off to the driving force behind the whole thing too: the book is a tremendous achievement. Also impressive (and I have yet to ask him how he did this) was the fiddling of the night’s Champions League action, rapturously received via the pub’s many screens as you might imagine.

Finally, today starts a weekend of memories for the club with the unveiling of three statues at the stadium ahead of our 125th anniversary match against Everton. There’ll be legends and nods to tradition and panoramic photos and the Royal Artillery band and I’d be massively looking forward to it if only for the fact that I can’t make it. I was desperate to gurn into the panoramic photo for posterity, but there you go, it’s my son’s birthday party (he was founded more recently, though not in a pub in Woolwich) and that’s just the way it is.

Finally, back to Arseblog, and I’m on the arsecast today discussing a bunch of stuff. Always fun to do, so tune in.

So yes, it’s Friday. Wonderfully, marvellously Friday. Have a great weekend.

Prawn sandwich fan / Hip Hip Hooray

Admission: Tuesday came and went and passed me by entirely. For me, it’s a rarety for me not to follow a game in some way. I go to most home games, and watch or listen to most of the others. Those matches I can’t go to, see or hear I will follow via Twitter etc, as many of us do. But on Tuesday, as the match kicked off, I was out meeting football-agnostic friends (they do exist, it seems) in a pub with pleasant steak and kidney pies but no telly, and although I briefly toyed with the time-honoured gadget switch-off so I could play the match as live when I got in, I knew my resolve wouldn’t last and sure enough, it didn’t. Having found out we’d lost 1-0, I opted against pursuing the venture any further when I got home. Fickle? Guilty as charged.

I did sniff round the reaction though, and the goodwill to a) a weakened team and b) a loss was widespread. Partly because we seem to have acquitted ourselves very well, and partly, perhaps, with one eye on last February’s Wembley final, which was the catalyst for a sensational collapse.

Wenger said in his L’Equipe interview that last season, “to try to catch one [trophy], we ran after all the hares”, and that contributed to the dismal season end, but that this year, rather than change approach, “I’ll do the same thing”.

I think he approached it right given the obvious fatigue on Saturday, and while the hunt for a trophy is as important as ever, I get the feeling that things don’t seem to hinge so much on the winning of a cup this year. Maybe expectations are a little bit lower and maybe, after the start we had, this season became as much about turning an underperforming team around – which is happening – as it was about having a genuine tilt at a trophy.

Either way, I don’t see too many – any – dissenters saying we should have played the Persies and the Ramseys and the Walcotts of this world on Tuesday. Chasing four trophies puts an impossible burden on any squad, especially one still scraping off the mud of an early season quagmire. We performed well and as has been pointed out elsewhere in numerous places, it was an opportunity seized for some of our players – Coquelin, Frimpong, Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular.

125

I wasn’t aware of the exact date, but today is apparently the 125th anniversary of the club. How time flies – I vaguely remember the celebrations around the 100th anniversary and here we are again for another milestone. It feels like a long time but when I worked out I had followed Arsenal for almost 25% of its existence, and that time has disappeared into the ether like a flash, it feels a bit less so.

In those 125 years, Arsenal have won the First Division / Premier League title 13 times. Unlucky for some, but equally, 11 times more than others. That averages out as one title every 9.6 years, which puts our barren trophy run into some perspective and, as I mentioned on Twitter, raises the interesting prospect of our next title coming in 2014 (if stats can be relied on – no comment).

I can’t imagine too many of us would find that too long a wait. I’ll just drop a call to the club and check they’ve booked Islington Town Hall.

Best to be well prepared for these things.