Monday, March 9, 2009

Tasty football, mmmmm

Catch that FA Cup match against Burnley on Sunday? (Image from the Club site wallpaper) Mmmmm. Delicious, that was. Like a tall and cold vodka tonic with a dash of lime to it. One that you can really get a good look at, know what I mean? 

Now, now, stop yourself. I know what you're saying all you Match Pricks reading non-Arsenal supporters ... it was Burnley. Right, if I've said it once and all that ... When it comes to the Arsenal, in my opinion (and hey, that's what counts here, right? I'm entitled.), they simply need to play themselves into form. Doesn't matter if it's Chelski, Juventus, some team from Dubai or Our Little Sisters of the Poor. The teams plays on a rhythm. The importance of that cannot be overstated. It's one of the reasons you see them playing so well and then so poorly against such divergent competition from week to week. And it's also one of the reasons they generally (although it's changing with the cash machine of the new Emirates Cup each year) don't play against stiff pre-season competition.

At any rate, here they are then, playing themselves into form. And it's got me all smiley. I've often had the chat of how does one, so mired in supporting his football team, answer the rather simple question of "hey, how are you?" Mmmm (and remember, that's not the mmmm of delicious, more that of rumbly acceptance), right. Well, at the moment, I've more energy than I've had in some time, I've shaken off a weeklong cough and cold, even feel like I may have dropped a few pounds, thanks very much.  I wonder why. Oh that's right, it's because my team is playing good football again. It's because the pieces are coming back into place. 

Arsenal won 3-nil against Burnley on Sunday morning. While Burnley did show up to play, it was never in doubt. The goals, and in fact much of the performances, were sublime. There was touch ... Carlos Vela accepting Arshavin's pass and pushing it through the defender before chipping the goalkeeper (a habit he seems to be picking up). There was magic ... Alex Song lobbing the ball over the defense only for Eduardo, in a turn of sheer necessity, invention and confidence, to slice the ball to the opposite corner with the outside back heel on his left foot. (As Jim commented to me earlier today, just try to stand like that in your living room, much less do it under pressure in the heat of the moment and while placing a ball.) And there was even a little prank ... Alex Song again involved as his back heel sprung the ever-so hardworking (in this match) Emmanuel Eboue who finished cleanly and calmly. Forgive and forget, right?

Beyond that? The match was notable to me for three special instances, one being the aforementioned goal from Eduardo, his third in 2 games back. Another is the fact that Eduardo came out wearing the captain's armband. What an honor. What a man. What an inspiration. This boy, as I've said since the match, just knows how to score goals. He deserves everything he gets and I better not hear a negative word about this man. I don't believe it's possible at this point to overstate his influence and the scope of his inspiration. There's no mistake that if his injury didn't happen last year the title chase would have been extraordinarily different. As it is though, it did happen. And now here we are with Eduardo back in the lineup and contributing mightily, both physically and emotionally - no doubt about it. The haze of the last year of Arsenal's floundering form will hopefully become a fading memory with the sharpened identity we're seeing now. Finally, the other thing I'd like to mention is the return of Theo Walcott. He just looks like he's growing up, doesn't he? Since we bought him from Southampton, he's been young, skinny, fragile and loaded with potential. I think we can well and truly say that he is now a weapon. It won't be long until we can say that opponents fear him. Theo was soaring in his cameo. Burnley were no match for his pace, movement and imagination. 

Then again, not many teams would have been equipped to handle the movement of the Arsenal on Sunday. It's just the notable way they are beginning to link together. Eduardo playing into space with a soft turn of his chest, Arshavin drifting in and sending those incisive passes through to the pacey Vela, even Eboue racing up and down the pitch and Song holding a much higher line made a difference. It allowed the team to play the kind of football they are supposed to play, the kind of football that Arsene Wenger looks for and expects to put on display for the supporters. These dudes are flying right now. And there's only one way to find out how fast this puppy will go. So pump up those tires (you know, to test the cornering) and get that gas on the floor. There's a couple of trophies to win. And apparently, there's goals out there to be picked up. Might I suggest a song for the trip? Maybe a little Purple Rain?

Reality check: yes, I know. West Brom and Burnley. Gotta start somewhere. How about Wednesday for a next step? A match of massive importance and significance.

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