As tradition goes, I never feel confident before a match against promoted opposition away from home. Arsenal, who naturally take up the mantle of Goliath in these clashes, have a tendency to trip up from a sly foot thrown forward by these Davids; and such matches have an even greater probability of being forbearers of frustration if they succeed an international break. The vocally-backed but workmanlike home team empty all their tanks of stamina into the ninety minutes, snap, bite and hustle for the ball with no let-up whatsoever and one lucky break or moment of magic can leave the supposed Goliath tired and chasing a lead in a hostile environment. It was in a surprising departure from tradition then, that I felt oddly at-ease prior to the Norwich game, reasonably secure in the hope that we would manage to pull out a win at Carrow Road. Perhaps not so surprising given our recent run of form, which rather mirrors Robin van Persie’s purple patch over this calendar year.
I don’t mean to say Norwich didn’t battle as expected, they did that and more. They shadowed our players diligently from the outset, and tried to play it along the ground as and when they could instead of mindless hoofing. Albeit it was a skied clearance out from the back that gave them the lead; Mertesacker letting the ball bounce and falling down like a lopsided giraffe as Morrison slipped in and beat Szczesny. That boo-boo from the BFG aside though, we saw an Arsenal defence that dealt well with any threat Norwich possessed, Vermaelen and Koscielny impressing again with the latter fortunately showing himself to be a more-than-decent right back in the wake of recent plagues running through red-and-white FullBackLand.
So with very little attacking prowess to deal with, Arsenal started displaying their own. Our Dutch grandmaster of brilliance and his English deputy made life difficult for the Norwich defenders, and they together just about managed to nullify the generosity of spirit Gervinho was intent on showing the opposition. The equaliser came when Theo Garrincha-ed his way round Tierney and fizzed it in to a dangerous area, hoping that someone would get on the end of it. After Gervinho unsuccessfully tried acting like an Ivorian show-dolphin, the ball made its way to Van the man who tapped in. And when Song won the ball back in midfield in the 59th minute, he played it to the in-form man in the worse position rather than the determined but misfiring five-head who was better placed. Van Persie took a slightly heavy touch with his left foot, but the little dink over the keeper with his chocolate foot oozed confidence, and it was something that he might not have tried last year. Fortunately, there are very few things that Robin van Persie will not try at the moment.
With all these things taken into consideration, most would rightly consider it lunacy to take the headline of this post seriously (and some would even call it a misnomer, what with Chamakh hardly attacking nowadays, haha) but I think there are two things to consider here. Firstly, van Persie has been involved in virtually every Arsenal game this season, and although Arsene has wrapped him up in cotton-wool and shut him up in a bottle of formaldehyde at every feasible opportunity, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Robin is flirting with the fabled ‘red zone’ of fitness that did Wilshere in last season. There is a continuous run of matches till February, and the games are only going to get more important from now on. Since we cocked up so royally in August and September, I guess the Premier League automatically takes precedence over other competitions, at least until we get ourselves back into a moderately cosy position.
More than that though, is the worrying vicious circle that Chamakh now finds himself in. Woefully out-of-form, he doesn’t get the run of games that might herald some sort of return to goal-scoring, because of the same poor form in question. I think everyone including Marouane would agree that RvP deserves to be first choice completely on merit, but it should be equally clear that Chamakh’s form won’t return based only on training sessions and the odd Carling Cup match. He’s our player, so we should ideally be proactive in helping him rediscover his touch, not least because we will be the prime benefactors of a more confident, fleet-footed Chamakh who isn’t afraid of striking the ball.
I’m not understating the importance of the Dortmund game in any way, and I realize Wenger will be wary to repeat the ‘mistake’ that saw us take only a point against Marseille (a misplaced opinion, we created more than enough chances to win that game). There are those who will say that Chamakh can be tried in the final Champions League group game, after qualification has been secured. But that brings me back to the original point- one dead rubber game isn’t going to help Chamakh gain any sort of tangible momentum. I wouldn’t call it a Catch-22, but it’s pretty close.
The fact that Wenger played RvP the entire ninety minutes against Norwich suggests that he may be open to starting with Chamakh on Wednesday (or Park, must not forget that Park exists). And if things go awry, we can always ask the Dutch grandmaster of brilliance to shake off his cotton-wool and step into to arena to strike down upon Dortmund with great vengeance and furious anger.
What do you guys think?
You’re a buffoon, Nicks!
Yeah, yeah. Apart from that, I meant.
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