You go away for a few days and the world goes mad…
What do you mean “the world goes mad”?, I hear you ask. Well, over the weekend we were subjected to a real biblical, end times, onslaught of rain. Rain that hit so hard that four hours after we we left a Sheffield downpour, we arrived back in London with damp coats. Aside from that Arsenal went to Stoke and didn’t get beaten, or, more importantly, any bones broken. Finally, most thrillingly of all, Arsenal confirmed that Lukas Podolski will indeed be joining us from FC Cologne in the summer. What’s that? Arsenal confirming a signing before the season has even finished? Well, yeah. End times indeed.
Let’s start there. Podolski has spoken of his pride at joining us, Arsene has spoken of his “delight” at signing a “top class player” and for us I think this signing can only be a good thing. We know that Podolski is versatile. We know he can operate off the flank, and at some speed too, but he can also provide cover for Robin van Persie when needed. And, yeah, I’m assuming that club captain is staying. Well, if his dad says he’s staying, then he must be. Right?
What we don’t know is whether Podolski can escape the fate of our previous two signings in the forward department. One of my frustrations this season has been that when we’ve needed a goal, Arsene has steadfastly refused to release Marouane Chamakh from the bench. Of course, Park has had even less of a look in. It’s not as if either of them were lacking in pedigree when they arrived, although I will freely admit to knowing the square root of fuck all about the Korean. Clearly, that situation remains unchanged despite Park having arrived in London last September. I’m assuming the two forwards will be cut adrift on the first planes out of Heathrow come the end of the season.
This one feels different though. I suppose it’s because I grew up in an era when the Germans were an all conquering football nation, the very definition of ruthless efficiency. Incidentally, I just looked up their tournament record. In my lifetime, Germany (or West Germany as they once were) have made 4 appearances each in the World Cup and European Championship final- that’s eight final appearances since 1977. In that time, the best England can do is two semi finals with 6 years of each other. Talk about a great footballing nation, eh?
Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit. The point I began the last paragraph trying to make is that I’ve always looked up to German footballers, wished we had more of them- with their efficiency and mental toughness- and wondered why Arsene Wenger hasn’t tried to sign more of them. To me, their mixture of technique, pace and power would make them the archetypal Wenger signings (I know I’m generalising massively here). Maybe 1999′s capture of Stefan Malz put him off, who knows? Anyway, I’m more than happy to see another German arrive and particularly one with 43 goals in 95 appearances for his country. I don’t know whether Podolski will have a smilar calming influence to Per Mertesacker. Although, the recent picture of him coming off the pitch after a red card with his hands around his coach’s throat suggests not, but I live in hope.
The weekend’s game at Stoke appears to have largely passed without incident. Big giant dude scores from a cross for them, RvP equalises for us. No surprises there then. We didn’t get a penalty when Benayoun went down under contact, Arsene archly remarking that it was merely another one for the end of season video. I’m not sure it was a penalty myself, but he certainly has a point about any number of stonewall penalties we’ve been denied. Not one penalty given to us at home in the league this season. Not one. But we’ve seen both Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez win penalties against us for- I say “win penalties”, actually I mean conning the ref. The cheats.
Anyway, I think a point at Stoke, in the Cathedral of the Neanderthals, can never really be a bad point and most of the Arsenal reaction seems to agree with this. Much was made of the Stoke fans mocking Arsene Wenger after a decision given against us (and Gary Lineker’s subsequent aping of it) but I reckon getting annoyed by something like that is a pointless waste of energy. As is the fact that they- again- booed Aaron Ramsey for the heinous crime of having his leg broken by Ryan Shawcross. Everyone knows that the only reason Stoke fans go to football matches is so that they don’t end up in prison, they’re certainly not there for quality football. They’re not worth worrying about. Really.
In terms of third, and the Champions League places, Wigan’s thrashing of Newcastle was a massive, pleasant, surprise and means that our fate is still in our own hands. Win at home to Norwich and away at West Brom- who will, no doubt, be wanting to send the England manager elect off with a smile on his face- and third place is ours. No matter what anyone else does. And, although I wish we’d been able to sew this one up before now, if we’d been offered this scenario on the 26th of February, I think we’d have all taken it.
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