I have long developed an extraordinary capacity to completely switch off from Arsenal during international breaks. I practically went into hibernation the moment the final whistle blew against West Brom and itâ€™s only now that Iâ€™m kicking my cocoon open so I can peer out.
I hesitate to say â€˜allâ€™s wellâ€™ for the simple reason thereâ€™s one further game to play, but we can at least be safe in the knowledge that, after this break, thereâ€™s not another â€˜international match dayâ€™ in the Fifa calendar until the season has ended – although there is a â€˜friendly match dayâ€™ on February 29th which amounts, I presume, to the same thing. Oh, and then thereâ€™s the Africa Cup of Nations from 21st January to 12th February, to which we can bid adieu to Gervinho, Frimpong and Chamakh. The former, on current form, will be a big loss but I canâ€™t imagine weâ€™ll be sobbing in the aisles at the loss of the latter two. By then, we should have Wilshere back to strengthen the midfield, and who knows, Wenger *may* have dipped his toes into the transfer market for a backup striker with tighter fitting shooting boots than Chamakh and Park.
Now, some of you might recall that I vowed not to spend money on merchandising this season following the 6.5% rise in ticket prices (which still gets my goat), so you may be disappointed to hear that I have spectacularly broken my pledge not once, but twice.
Albeit not on stuff for me – that part of the pledge stands. But I have had two very close gooner friends turning 40 recently (I find myself at this regrettable stage of life), and for both I have bought numbered shirts. On the first occasion, as I left it far too late to shop around, I found myself at Niketown on Oxford Circus and nearly fainted when presented with the invoice: Â£69. There is simply no justification for this.
So on the second occasion, I promised myself to go for the cheapest option, which was Sports Direct (Â£40 for the shirt, plus a bit more for the numbers and letters; letâ€™s say Â£50). At which point I wended my way to Lillywhites, only to discover that there was nobody qualified to or capable of operating the printing machine. Never mind – there was another Sports Direct on Oxford Street, so off I went. Again, the printing press was a ghost town – nobody could do it. One sale very much lost, Mr Direct.
Naturally, Arsenal was the next stop. Straight in, printed in moments, jobâ€™s a goodâ€™un. Â£58. Pledge broken (but a happy 40-year-old friend).
Thereâ€™s no moral of this story, just three observations. 1) I am a very weak man. 2) Football shirts are among the most outrageously overpriced items of clothing known to man. 3) But we still buy them anyway.
Roll on Saturday.