Encouraged by the Arsenals defeat in Seville, I bet the hordes within the
anti-Arsenal brigade would have been salivating over the prospect of
seeing Villa inflict yet more disappointment on us. And, if Villa had done
just that, could you imagine what the press and the media would have been
But in a season where our dissenters have constantly talked what Arsenal
cannot do or will not do and in a season where our dissenters are
constantly telling us what we don't have in terms of a squad and God only
knows what else, the Arsenal still continue to defy all comers in the
I would have loved a penny for the thoughts of Oliver Holt, the little
shit that writes for the Daily Mirror, after the Villa game. After last
Tuesday's game in Seville, Holt was on ITV 4's post match Champions League
show claiming that there is brittleness about the Arsenal that isn't quite
there with the likes of ManUre.
All I can say is that Holt must be a damn sight older than I thought.
Because as far as I knew senile dementia rarely sets in before you hit
your sixties. Of course, I can't pretend to be in the first flush of youth
myself these days but if my memory serves me well, ManUre were not the
team enjoying a 28 match unbeaten run carried over from last April - we
What's more, ManUre have already been beaten twice on their travels in the
league this season and been embarrassingly knocked out of the Carling Cup
in their own back yard by Coventry - but just because we lost for the
first time in over SEVEN MONTHS in a dead rubber against a decent side who
had more to play for than we did, Holt suddenly draws the conclusion that
WE, compared to ManUre, are brittle?
If Holt is not senile, then he showed himself up to be just another
honorary season ticket holder on the Stretford End - because that little
pearl of wisdom was straight out of the handbook of warped logic every Man
U fan has tucked under his pillow along with the customary teddy bear.
Going back to the game on Saturday, well I think that a text I got from
Gazza summed up the game in a nutshell. The first half was our best of the
season and the second half was our worst. But, as Gazza also said in
another text later on, the Arsenal may have come away with two more points
than we perhaps deserved - but how many times down the years have we not
got what we deserved from matches?
So, like Gazza I was more than glad to take what we got in the end at
Villa Park. And on reflection the value of that victory was fairly
substantial. To use boxing terminology, Villa certainly backed us up in
the second half and showed definite signs that they a team on the up.
But from our point of view, we showed that we not only had the ability to
come from behind but the resilience and fortitude in adversity to hold
onto the advantage that we had fought to gain. Are those the qualities of
a side that are brittle in nature? Well, my fellow Gooners, I will allow
you to make your own minds up about that.
I make no secret of the fact that I'm not the easiest person to be around
when Arsenal have lost particularly on a weekend. But when the Arsenal win
and our poorer relations up the road lose virtually at the same time, my
mood cannot more contrasting.
I didn't watch the game live but I got a call from Gazza just after the
game and he told me our old boy Seb Larsson had planted a screamer past
Paul Robinson to win the game for Birmingham right at the death. Never
mind Sunday night, I couldn't stop grinning like Cheshire Cat on the way
into work on Monday!
I'm not one that normally likes to spend too much time talking about that
from the Lane but the fact that we currently have TREBLE the amount of
points that their mob have is really worth making reference to. I knew
there were flaws in their make up of the team in N17 but even I didn't
think those flaws were chronic enough to leave them one measly point above
the relegation zone.
To think that Berbatov was hailing Juande Ramos as the new Professor a few
days ago - well, Ramos is going to need to have a PhD in producing
miracles before he can whip that lot even into something resembling a
respectable outfit never mind a match for us and the rest of the top four,
that's for sure.
Now it's time to look forward to Wednesday's trip to St James's Park where
we will be entertained by Newcastle.
The media have often referred to Newcastle United as being a soap opera
all of its own and from the outside looking in, it's hard not to disagree
with that. Save for a spell in the mid nineties, Newcastle have invariably
been synonymous with upheaval, unrest and turmoil for years. And judging
by events lately, things haven't changed one bit.
Let's get one thing straight here. I have absolutely no sympathy for Fat
Sam Allardyce personally. He is a James Hunt of the highest order and if
ever someone had his current situation coming to him, it's Allardyce.
But I don't have any axe to grind with Newcastle as a club and from that
point of view, the idea that Allardyce is under pressure after barely
being at the club for five minutes, is nothing short of madness.
I cannot pretend to really know how the average Geordie fan thinks but
again from the outside looking in, Newcastle and their fans seem to be the
Premier League's equivalent to England on the international stage. As is
the case with England there is a passion amongst the fans and a never
ending sense of heightened expectation on Tyneside that hardly seems
justified. Because, save for the occasional glorious failure, the fact is
Newcastle, like England, haven't won anything significant for over the
best part of 40 years or more.
Slaven Bilic said that we as a nation need to wake up and realise that the
problems with the national team run way deeper than what is on the surface
and I think you can draw the same conclusions about Newcastle. Before the
club have any real chance of becoming a force again, everyone connected
with club really needs to understand where they are really at and instead
of constantly looking for scapegoats and adopting a knee jerk approach
they need to take a more constructive and above all patient long term
I know that Newcastle have spent an awful lot of money down the years for
precious little return but when the talents of men like, Kenny Dalglish,
Ruud Gullit, Sir Bobby Robson and Graeme Souness have come and gone as
managers at the club in the last 10 years alone without ever really
cracking the case, you have to wonder if that state of affairs was just
down to them or if there were other factors that have contributed to the
ongoing lack of success at the club.
I mean, all of those men enjoyed success at other clubs to varying degrees
as managers at either clubs even though they all had their own styles and
their own ideas on how the game should be played. Yet, once they hit
Tyneside nothing ever real worked out for any of them. I can't fathom it
Of course, Allardyce now finds himself in a similar situation to all of
those guys who were there before him. The majority of the fans are on his
back already and have made their minds up that he is not the answer. And
if the recent past is anything to go by, it won't be the board at
Newcastle that decides his fate up there, it will be the fans.
Therein lies the one of the roots of the problem. I don't like Joey Barton
one bit. What makes him qualified to talk about the Newcastle fans in the
way he did after being at the club five minutes I don't know. But at the
same time, whilst he was over the top (like his tackles) in describing the
Newcastle fans as "vicious", there was a part of me that sort of
understood where he was coming from.
I said that playing at Upton Park can be both a blessing and a curse for
West Ham's players ahead of Arsenal's game there back in September. There
is no doubt that the same applies at St James's Park. When the crowd are
with the team, the atmosphere is hard to beat. But the Newcastle fans are
also not afraid to let the players have it the moment things go a little
pear shaped either.
Still, I have found over the years that there is another thing that
Newcastle share with West Ham - as a team, they are predictably
unpredictable. And regardless of the amount of turmoil that may be going
on around the club at any one time, Newcastle always have had the ability
to produce a result from time to time which belies all of that.
If you are talking about a symbol of unpredictability then you don't have
to look any further than Mark Viduka. Despite having a career that has
been blighted by injury and elongated spells of poor form, particularly
since he moved south of the Border from Celtic, the fact is this lad can
win a game for any team against anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the world
if he is 100% physically and in particular, mentally. He is the man that I
really fear over and above Martins and anyone else in the Newcastle ranks.
Despite the fact that Arsenal will have a number of players missing on
Wednesday, the key to the game will be how focussed we are. We cannot
afford to go into this game thinking that the Geordies are in a state of
flux and get complacent. We need to focus on the incentives we have going
into this game.
We have a chance to put serious daylight between ourselves and the chasing
pack, we have the opportunity to totally extinguish the latest notion
going around that we cannot operate outside of the capital and most
importantly of all, we have the chance to sow another seed of doubt into
the minds of people both in the game and on the terraces who still think
that we can be intimidated and bullied by hostile crowds and aggressive
If we happen to put another nail in Fat Sam's coffin in the process, then
that would be a massive bonus.
The way I see it - Newcastle United v Arsenal
Encouraged by the Arsenals defeat in Seville, I bet the hordes within the