Feed The Scousers, Let Them Know It's Xmas Time As Well

Last updated : 05 December 2004 By Bernard Azulay

One of the many Liverpool fans who must have been livid with themselves for leaving before the final whistle and missing Neil Mellor's Excocet missile, stuck the knife in a little further by asking us to confirm the scorer. Back at the car park, Sod's Law ensured that we were completely blocked in by a selfish dawdler. Nell and I were forced to sit there in stunned silence, amidst all the euphoria of the home fans, hearing how they were directly in line as the shot arrowed towards them on the Kop. Sore losers that we all are, I couldn't avoid the cruel contemplation that if only the ball's flight path hadn't found the back of the net, not only would there have been no goal for the Scousers to gloat about, but it might have knocked this individual's block off!

I couldn't really begrudge them their moment of unconfined joy. Liverpool fans haven't exactly had a lot to crow about since Owen's smash and grab raid in the last ten at Cardiff three years back. And our handsome share of success has included a sufficient number of occasions when the last gasp goal shoe has been on the other foot. However this loss felt particularly frustrating. At least if we'd we conceded a goal from yet another set piece, we could've sat there airing our grievances about our defensive frailties. But this was such an opportunistic thunderbolt that we couldn't even apportion any real blame. Sitting there wondering what we'd done to offend the fickle favours of Lady Luck, the 200 mile trip back to London felt ever further by the moment.

Nell's mobile was chirruping away with text messages from his far too smug and somewhat premature Chelsea pals. Someone might remind them that there are no prizes for topping the pile in November. While the bleep on my phone was my Spurs mate driving me barmy, waxing lyrical as he wondered "When was the last time you lost and we won?" To which I replied "I dunno, when was the last time Spurs won!"

I have to be careful criticizing my own team because I want no part of the bandwagon of Gooner ingrates who were happy enough wallowing in the smooth but who are far too quick to complain when the ride becomes a little rough. According to their whinging, they'd have the entire crew walking the plank! What's more, if we'd continued in the same sensational vein as we started the season and actually managed to remain undefeated, any silverware we happened to collect on the way would've been devalued as we'd have only been doing what was expected of us. Whereas if we are destined for success this season, it's now going to taste a whole lot sweeter after this hors d'oeuvres of adversity.

Besides if I'm looking for a culprit for Sunday's misadventures then I need look no further than the fate tempting face in my mirror. After our competitors' goalfests on Saturday, we were discussing the importance of a win on the way to Liverpool. On the basis that a point at Anfield would have been a sufficiently acceptable result to gloss over our shortcomings, I made the mistake of saying that I'd almost rather we lost than endure yet another draw. What's more I can't help thinking that we might not have lost if we hadn't made the fatal mistake of leaving our seats before the final whistle to be closer to the exit for a quick getaway? Yet no matter how superstitious I am, I can't find an excuse for the Arsenal's abject failure to warm Chris Kirkland's hands during the entire first-half.

I'd arranged to meet another Gooner at the turnstile before the game to give him Rona's ticket and mercifully for once I managed to make it there a minute before kick-off. We would've been even earlier if I hadn't been collared a couple of miles from the ground by a copper who gave me a 30 quid ticket for not wearing a seat belt. I told PC Plod that if it would guarantee a win, it would be cheap at twice the price. Yet in truth I should've known there and then that it just wasn't going to be our day! I gave this chap Nell's ticket, so Nell and I could sit together and having taken 30 quid off him, I almost instinctively hid before we bumped into one another in the karsey at half-time, in case he demanded a refund!

I'm beginning to wonder why they bother interviewing Arséne on the radio after the game. Over the past few weeks they could just have easily played a tape of his comments from when we drew with Soton some weeks back. Le Prof is sounding more like Le Perroquet (parrot) these days. After each game he's said "the players are looking a bit short physically" but if they are short now Arséne, surely they are going to be bleedin' microscopic come May! If we were winning you can be sure that there would be no concerns about our condition.

Gordon Strachan hit the nail on the head when he highlighted the stark contrast between the Arsenal side he'd seen playing against Villa last month, where we played some of the most entertaining football the Scot had ever seen. By contrast we've become a pale shadow of the side which was having such fun back then, as evidenced by Vieira's tendency to try and con a free-kick, or Henry hitting a hopeful effort from the halfway line, instead of attempting to carve the opposition open with our piss-taking passing. Most remarkable is Jose Reyes' fall from grace. If you'd only been watching the young Spaniard for the past few weeks, you would be wondering why on earth we wasted 20 million in him.

Aside from the astonishing ability which was evident early doors, Jose's most endearing attribute was his whole hearted attitude. Considering the frenetic pace of Premiership matches compared to La Liga, I believe Jose is the one player who is truly suffering physically. Ljungberg remains relatively energetic but much like Reyes, in recent games I can't recall a single instance where Pires has gone past the opposition with the ball at his feet. Rumour has is that Robert has been suffering all season on account of his domestic strife. So where Duff and Robben are doing damage for Chelsea, providing them with plenty of ammunition, the Gunners appear to have been given a vasectomy as we've been left firing blanks!

I guess it was always a likely consequence of the shenanigans in the summer but the longer this "blip" continues, believe it or not, the more we Gooners are beginning to question if we might have been better off cashing in on our captain. Patrick undoubtedly pulled his finger out on Sunday after we went a goal down. Yet prior to that and in the past couple of games, if I'd been the manager I would have questioned his motivation at half-time. I'd have demanded he switched off the auto-pilot and demonstrated how much he wanted it by grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, as we know he is only too capable of doing. To my mind Paddy's frame of mind is evident in the way he now appears to need to work that much harder, where once it all seemed so effortless as one of his long legs would casually retrieve and control the ball.

Yet I suspect there is far too much respect between Wenger and some of our stars for him to be able to give them a much needed bollocking. And on Sunday in my humble opinion, Paddy's apparent reluctance to demand the ball and his willingness to let the younger legs of Fabregas do all the grafting, made him a prime candidate for the hairdryer treatment at half-time.

Nell and I were both starving on the way home but the first service station we tried on the motorway wasn't serving any food. So when we stopped for a second time, we were both ravenous and the smell of the bolognese sauce being heated up behind the counter had us both drooling. I suppose it was par for the course on a miserable day out to discover that this was the last portion. As we sat down to stuff our faces with another starch filled sarnie I looked up to see a couple of Liverpool shirts on the travellers at the adjacent table. To add insult to ignominy those thieving Scousers had stole our points and our pasta!