It's A Bavarian Wind That Blows Nobody Any Good

Last updated : 28 February 2005 By Bernard Azulay

Her ears must've pricked up because I felt obliged to point out that I'd incurred a 12.50 Euros surcharge watching the previous night's footie. I was horrified lest anyoneshould think I'd been pervving at the only other Pay TV alternative of the hard-core porn on the half dozen 'movie' channels.

I've little enthusiasm for 'Langlaufen' (cross country skiing!) which was the only sport I could find on the box. So bored with being unable to translate the questions on the Kraut equivalent of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and with absolutely no interest in John Wayne meets Herman Goering, my instant impression of George Bush's attempts to butter up his German counterpart as portrayed by the unbearable round the clock coverage on the only English language channel, I will admit that whilst constantly flicking through the forty odd channels of utter crap, I lingered on the blue movies just long enough for the picture to be blocked by the Pay TV screen.

To be honest pictures weren't necessary. The incessant animalistic grunting ensured these were the only channels where my limited German wasn't a problem. Yet even if porn was my particular bag, why on earth would we Gooners throw away more good money to watch overpaid prima donnas, just going through the motions in uncommitted performances, lacking any real passion, when we've got the Gunners?

The frosty look from the fraulein at the front desk seemed to speak volumes to my salacious imagination "Vot there's something wrong with out best Bavarian pork sausages?" Don't get me wrong I'll take a hot-dog any day over a broiled tasteless samonella burger. But there's a time and a place for everything and for me these phallic foodstuffs are only ever on the menu at football matches. Whereas in Bavaria it seems they are shoved down one's throat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and there's no escaping the metaphoric image with their decidedly unkosher, debauched TV diet.

I don't want to sound bitter, if you're into consuming vast quantities of beer & bangers, then Munich's probably a marvelous place. But I've never had a taste for the distillation of hops, so I couldn't even drown my sorrows after our beating by Bayern. Sitting at breakfast Wednesday morning staring at the unpalatable pink bangers on my plate, I wondered what on earth I was doing there, when most of my team plainly hadn't bothered turning up the previous night.

"Tottenham watching Eastenders" is a common chant from the Arsenal end at Champions League matches abroad but it didn't get an airing at the Olympic Stadium. With nothing but a spectacular half-time snowball fight for nigh on 3000 Gooners to get excited about, there were several hurrying back to the airport long before Kolo Touré's consolation goal, hoping the missus had Sky Plussed the preposterous goings on at Albert Square. The soap's plot might have more holes than an Aero but standing with mouths agape watching schoolboy errors gifting Bayern goals, with only our anger to ward against the cold creeping up ones calves from the concrete terracing, it seemed far more preferable to Arsène's pitiful script.

We've suffered some sorry excuses for performances in Europe's premier competition. I was upset when we were undone by Deportivo and devastated when Valencia did for us at the Mestailla but these defeats were easier to swallow because they were both half-decent sides. Whereas we saw nothing on Tuesday night to suggest Bayern were anything more than an extremely well organised, opportunistic bunch of journeymen pros. In fact for the first half hour the German league leaders looked so terrified of the Arsenal's attacking prowess that they were treating the ball like a hot potato.

That was until it dawned on the Gerries that they were playing a pale imitation of the team that trounced Inter at the San Siro last term. Suddenly Bayern began to grow in confidence, as they realised the Gunners were firing blanks and were there for the taking. OK so perhaps a bruising weekend encounter with the Blades left some of our lot with heavy legs full of lactic acid and perhaps the freezing conditions weren't ideal for some of our fairweather fancy Dans. However if fatigue is an understandable factor, the lack of fire in their bellies was totally unacceptable.

Many of us thought this team was going to walk away with the big one last season. Until we exited with a whimper instead of a bang against a lachrymose Raneiri's Blues. I would've expected the bitter taste left by yet another under-achieving European campaign to be inspiration enough. Instead of which we witnessed an entirely lacklustre effort, which didn't for one minute display the mettle necessary to earn one of the eight remaining seats at the top table reserved for Europe's elite.

It was 10.50am on Saturday when this masochistic sucker for punishment put the pedal to the metal to make kick-off on the South Coast. It took us an hour to exit London's South-West suburbs, with a sigh of relief as I realised the philistines were playing the following day at Lansdowne Road and we positively sailed past 'Twickers' (on another day we'd be inching our way around all the Hooray Henrys hauling their Fortnum & Mason picnic hampers from the back of their MPVs!).

Miraculously we were parking up almost on St Mary's doorstep just prior to the whistle, which I misconstrued as a good omen (doubtless my speeding ticket/s are in the post as I write!). Ninety minutes later my mood was even darker as we dropped yet another couple of points to a Soton side which would be almost certain relegation fodder if it wasn't for the 'ducking & diving¹ of their chirpy chappy Cockney manager.

In the absence of Niemi, their relatively unknown reserve keeper, Paul Smith, kept us at bay with yet another Man of the Match performance from a goalie (following on from Given, Oakes and Kenny), as if fate was rubbing our noses in the number of goal minders out there who are all more capable than our current couple of monkeys (what can you expect when we pay peanuts!)

Lehmann was again at fault for Soton's equaliser but in truth we should have been home & hosed long before then. In fact I was even more wound up after this match because we'd seen a glimpse of the real Arsenal for 5 minutes after the break (until our hot-headed Hollander's early bath) and following Crouch's goal, when suddenly we stepped on the gas. Yet it was all too little, too late and I was whinging all the way home in frustration as to why they couldn't conjure up the intensity of the last 15 mins for the rest of the match.

As a sport principally played by toffs here in the South, I'm far from an egg-chasing aficionado. So while I was delighted to see the Boys in Green stick it to the Brits, I was far more focused on events in Cardiff while you folks cheered on the charge for the Grand Slam. Much in the way Gerrard went missing for the Scousers on Sunday, as we reach the business end of the season, the Arsenal are at a desperate loss for a leader on the pitch, capable of giving flagging team mates a much needed kick up the arse. Vieira's taken to needling the opposition, suggesting he's far from the right frame of mind. It's downright criminal when you know he's perfectly capable of winning a game like Saturday's almost single-handed.

Time was when we could always console ourselves that no matter how miserable we were, things could be worse as we could be Spurs fans. In light of the outcome at the Oscars, a boxing analogy seems appropriate. Would you prefer to see a boxer fail valiantly as he attempted to punch above his weight, or watch your heavyweight champs play rope-a-dope for the last few rounds only to come up short on points against patently lightweight opposition? And even if our captain's mind isn't on the job, if he's looking for an easy ride surely it's self-defeating to find himself struggling to redeem a result in the last 15 when with the right focus he's perfectly capable of contributing to putting most teams under the cosh immediately and resorting to cruise control for the remainder?

Worse still is that this is an all-pervasive plague of an attitude problem reflected in the fact that young Flamini was the only player seen putting himself about at St. Mary's. The sole solace on Saturday was my half-time chat with a Gooner pal from the internet. At least I hadn't flown all the way from Sydney to watch a team whose commitment didn't match my own! With Wenger's squad dropping like flies through suspension or injury and live coverage on the Beeb, it's no wonder I can't find anyone foolish enough to accompany me to Bramall Lane!