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.

The Grove Cup was great viewing

Despite somewhat stop-start viewing – I watched the first half of yesterday’s game on my phone and the second half late last night – the Grove Cup was, as ever, enjoyable. It’s the first proper chance as fans to see new signings and other returning players, to parade the excellent new home shirt, and unless your name is Almunia or Fabianski, it’s almost entirely pressure-free.

But it doesn’t tell us much really, with players missing and others not yet match fit.

It’s perhaps not surprising at the tail end of a summer in which England flopped, but a lot of the headlines this morning go to Jack Wilshere, man of the match yesterday. Despite generally cautious praise from Wenger, he did not rule out Wilshere being called up for England.

“In 2012 he will be 20, so why not. You cannot rule it out, but it is down to performances.”

Personally, I’d rather he got more club experience before England even considered him, but if he continues to improve as he is doing, the call will come sooner rather than later. There’s no doubt he’s a very bright talent, an Englishman who likes to both win and keep the ball, and with an eye for pass. Very exciting for Arsenal fans.

Wenger was quick to lump Frimpong (aka ‘The Frimster‘ – now lodged in my mind, thanks for that blogger) in with the same praise too, and he was certainly the pleasant surprise of the tournament.

Walcott and Gibbs both looked hungry too, giving us more genuine British options this season than we’ve had for many a year. If Ramsey comes back in late autumn (and we’re all desperate for him to), then we will have four British players good enough to nail down first team places, with some exciting reserves (Jet, Frimpong, Eastmond etc). The bottom line is that if they are good enough, Wenger will play them, and this lot are our best crop of local youngsters for a long time.

This week we get Fabregas and van Persie back, and with Wenger challenging Cesc to break radio silence, the focus will be on him once more – not that it ever wasn’t. But we need it to stop, one way or another, because a) it’s a boring pantomime and b) we need it to be ‘behind us’. Sorry.

Other than that, the boss admits we need “at least one” centre back and that as far as keepers go, “we have two more weeks to decide what I will do”.

So no change there then…