Mine's A Double!

Last updated : 22 May 2002 By Bernard Azulay

Speaking to my Spurs pals, apparently they instinctively partied, when Poyet put the ball in the net just prior to the break. It was only when they sat back down, that the consequences dawned on them and they began to baulk at the unbearable thought of playing such a prominent part in putting the title on a plate for the arch enemy.

I guess they must have been more than a little relieved when Van Nistelroy's penalty winning performance that evening earned Utd. all three points and at least saved them (for the moment!) from suffering a long summer of galling Gooner gratitude. Their relief was shared by many, including my missus. Rona has been trying to visit the folks Dublin for the last couple of months, but the crowded football calendar has made it almost impossible, without passing on a couple of important matches. After missing the celebrations for her Ma earlier in the month, she finally settled on spending her own birthday with the family, as it meant forsaking only the one fixture. When I phoned her on Saturday after Spurs had won, she was horrified to hear that an Ipswich victory could result in us rejoicing our title triumph at the Reebok on Monday. Having travelled the length and breadth of the country in my company, sharing all the peaks and troughs in our pursuit of the ultimate domestic prize for so many seasons, it just wouldn't have felt right not to have her by my side for the big one. Besides, she wasn't the only Gooner to have some misgivings about such an impromptu end to this marathon championship saga.

The tortuous tension of these past two games has taken its toll on all our tickers. Ashley Cole sliding into the goalmouth, to hook the ball back over the line against West Ham, must have shortened my life span by another couple of years. Highbury was one of the first grounds to have the Jumbotron screens, but the club have always strictly adhered to their agreement only to show non-contentious replays. Consequently everyone in the ground understood the implications when this incident wasn't included in the halftime highlights, as the indignant Irons' fans hollered "show us the goal!" It was the sort of timely twist of fate, which left even this eternal pessimist mulling over the possibility that perhaps (just perhaps mind!) our name is on the trophy.

After all, I would hate to be accused of cocky, over confidence like our poor beleaguered manager. It would have been far more bemusing if Wenger had expressed the belief that he didn't think we could win it, rather than the views which were frowned upon by Fergie. To my mind they were the slightest sight of a straw for Alex to clutch at and so long as he's wasting his time with a war of words, you know he's worried!

The thought of all our hopes disappearing in a disastrous draw against West Ham was sufficiently traumatic, to leave us all thankful to take a title triumph any way it comes. And if that man Van hadn't managed to take the ref for a ride with his penalty ruse, we wouldn't have exactly refused an opportunity to settle matters at the Reebok. It would have been truly wonderful to go to Old Trafford with the trophy in our hands, sufficiently relaxed to taunt our rivals for the entire ninety minutes. Nevertheless it would seem suitably poetic, the possibility of actually taking Utd's title on their own turf. So although I felt the Tractor Boys deserved more from their doughty performance, I wasn't too downhearted about this result.

To win the league but lose at Old Trafford would lend credence to the contentions of the anti-Arsenal contingent in the media, that ours was a championship conceded by Utd, as opposed to a triumph of our own making. Whereas taking the title in a winner takes all, clash of the titans, in the Theatre Of Dreams, would without doubt be the icing on the cake. It would seal our incontrovertible credentials as the country's current top club and might at long last lay to rest the last remnants of any inferiority complex.

Meanwhile all thoughts of the possibility of such a tantalizing prospect must be postponed. As I write, we have the small matter of Monday's match against Bolton and Saturday's second string to our Double bow to deal with. It might prove providential that at least one of our competitors maintained the pressure and like last weekend, we go into our game at Bolton knowing we cannot afford to relax. The Arsenal's scintillating football might have suffered from the strain of the constant nip and tuck at the to in recent weeks. Yet so far the unrelenting tension has had a tremendous effect on our team spirit, resulting in totally committed performances, without a single stain on Spunky's clean sheets.

At this stage the winning momentum is paramount and if we could have afforded it, any relaxation at the Reebok might have proved costly, with calamitous feelings of fatigue causing the cracks to show at Cardiff. Besides it would be marvelous if we could manage an entire season without losing a game away from home, not to mention extending our unbeaten record. If the momentum is masking any signs of tiredness in the team, I certainly can't say the same. Over the next two weeks, I will either be leaping like a lamb with all the joys of spring, or end up becoming the bald, old wrinklie that I currently feel. Knowing the Arsenal's notion for never doing things the easy way, it is likely to be the latter.

Though I spent much of it writing, I couldn't sleep a wink last night, for worrying about the Bolton match and the few remaining permutations of the final matches. At Highbury last week there were small huddles at halftime, as everyone tries to concoct a cunning plan, to avoid the congestion of seventy thousand travelling from London to Cardiff plus all the Bank Holiday traffic. Mind much of the cynicism in the media about a London derby cup final being played in another country, relates to the fact that much of the capital's media rat pack can't abide the idea, that they themselves are forced to travel so far from London like the rest of us plebs.

It is a peculiar phenomenon amongst the media that the Arsenal were everbody's darlings when they were the underdogs. As always, the moment we became the favourites they all began gunning for the Gunners, with the sort of fervor they favour, for felling anyone who has the temerity to triumph. I only hope that with the sweet, sweet scent of victory in our nostrils, we'll keep our eyes on the ball, instead of their bogus claptrap. Our rapture rises to a crescendo as we creep along the final furlong, but with the winning post in sight, hidden behind my bellowing bravado, I'm petrified, in a palpitating funk with the fear of failure!