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 it’s only now that I’m kicking my cocoon open so I can peer out.
I hesitate to say ‘all’s well’ for the simple reason there’s one further game to play, but we can at least be safe in the knowledge that, after this break, there’s not another ‘international match day’ in the Fifa calendar until the season has ended – although there is a ‘friendly match day’ on February 29th which amounts, I presume, to the same thing. Oh, and then there’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 can’t imagine we’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: £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 (£40 for the shirt, plus a bit more for the numbers and letters; let’s say £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, job’s a good’un. £58. Pledge broken (but a happy 40-year-old friend).
There’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.