Gooner Grass Has Never Been Greener

Last updated : 21 August 2004 By Bernard Azulay
If the rain in Spain does indeed remain on the plain, I seriously hope Paddy was enjoying his grub, whilst learning to appreciate that the grass certainly isn't any greener.

The Madrid side have attempted to 'tap up' our main man Musketeer over the course of successive summers and within the Marble Halls the suits have bent over backwards to cling onto one of their prize assets, by maintaining his financial and footballing contentment. If it were virtually any other player than Paddy, Arsenal fans would have long since lost patience with his silence over the past few weeks. In fact we'd grown so fed up that most Gooners just wanted a swift conclusion to the sordid shenanigans. So whether he went, or stayed, at least we could get on with the season, knowing where we stood.

We might never get to discover exactly why the deal with Madrid didn't work out. Yet up until Friday's shock announcement, in the eyes of many, it was just a matter of waiting for the inevitable moment when Real paraded the latest addition to their impressive array of Galacticos in public. Most cynics will warrant that it was all a matter of money and that Madrid weren't prepared to light Paddy's fire with sufficient filthy lucre. Whether or not we are prepared to swallow our captain's contention that there were more altruistic principles at stake, as they say 'talk is cheap' and it is only out on the pitch that Paddy can quash any qualms about his continued commitment to the Arsenal cause.

Who knows, after a below par season by Vieira's incredibly high standards, perhaps this will prove to be the perfect spark to stoke the fire in Paddy's belly. Hopefully he'll demonstrate a renewed hunger and desire which will leave all the doubting Thomases dumbstruck. By deciding to stay put Patrick has definitely provided a fillip for the Arsenal team spirit which might otherwise have suffered irreparable damage and if there is one thing to come out of this whole protracted affair, it's that you definitely don't want to play poker with Arsène Wenger

Meanwhile there was more than a little irony to the fact that two days after Paddy had finally nailed his colour's to the Highbury mast and sworn his undying love for the Gunners, his team mates should go out and produce a performance which might leave room for some doubt in the mind of Vieira and everyone else that our midfield general might not be quite such a vital cog in the Arsenal engine as had previously been perceived.

We'd all heard what a fabulous prospect Fabregas Cesc was. I suppose Barca wouldn't have been quite so peeved to have let the promising bambino slip through their grasp, if there wasn't some substance to the claims that in his age group, Cesc is the greatest midfielder on the planet. However until his extremely impressive endeavours these past two Sundays, there was little evidence in the Spanish schnip's previous Carling Cup exploits to suggest he was the best thing since sliced bread. Whereas suddenly it seems that under his 'orrible mullet haircut, there might be a youngster with the footballing brain of a Liam Brady and the 'cahones' of a Billy Bremner who could prove to be the dogs proverbial whatsits.

By throwing Fabregas in as the deep end and with the diminutive prodigy not only floating, but apparently walking on water, it only goes to prove that you can't really judge these young prospects in encounters which aren't quite so high-octane as the Premiership real McCoy. You might wonder what more could Gooner gluttons wish for from our first day back at school than a four goal romp away from home, where four different goal scorers stepped up to the plate while Thierry Henry plays his way back into form.

With Parlour taking his bow for Boro and Keown's combative introduction to the Coca Cola League with Leicester, my only wish would be for Wenger to redress the balance slightly so that Ashley Cole wasn't the only player from these shores in an Arsenal shirt. David Bentley might be getting his opportunity to impersonate Dennis Bergkamp playing for the Canaries (while in his final season Bergkamp's effulgent bulb appears to be more dazzling than ever) and Justin Hoyte remains on the first team fringe, unless he's replaced by a foreign right-back. What would these two give for the same chance as Cesc to prove their Gunner's pedigree? My other wish would be that Pascal Cygan didn't have the turning circle of an oil tanker but then I'd probably be wasting my breath

If Vieira wasn't quite such a colossus and our club captain, we might be wondering what right he has to walk back into a winning team in such fine form. Although until Sol Campbell returns to fitness our defence is going to require all possible protection. Hopefully clean sheets will be a luxury we can afford to be without while Jose Reyes is playing like a man possessed. I just pray that his selection for the Spanish squad doesn't dampen his fervent fire.

I can't help but laugh at the tabloid sheep who only last season were touting the Arsenal's too thin squad as also-rans. Twelve months and a mere couple of players later and apparently no amount of Abramovich's profligate millions can match us. I must admit that I was tempted to have a lie-in on Sunday instead of schlepping to scouse territory, so I could suss out the competition watching both games live on the box. However if you've had the dubious pleasure of watching the likes of David Hillier and Eddie McGoldrick every week, you know not to take this Arsenal team for granted. I want to squeeze out every last drop of scintillating live entertainment and an eight hour round trip trek is a paltry price to pay for such heavenly football pleasure. (certainly at the enthusiastic start of the season).

As for the opposition, Kezman to me is more Coventry than Chelsea and while Drogba is an undoubted talent (at a premium price), I can't quite picture him doing his stuff on a dirty winter's night up at West Brom. If I was a betting man I'd have a flutter that the two together won't beat the goal scoring tally of Jose Reyes. My pitiful Spurs pals were so disappointed when Paddy didn't depart that they've taken to supporting Chelsea as their only source of salvation to thwarting the Arsenal. Run by a robber baron Russian jew, with their traditional BNP bovver boys on the terraces and a manager who has arrogant as his middle name, they must be the only ones in the land siding with this mercenary collection of contradictions.