We Are The Boys Who Will Have You On The Run

Last updated : 08 November 2004 By Bernard Azulay

I imagine he was probably more perturbed that we'd only achieved a point from running ourselves into the ground and according to him "finishing the game completely dead", than he was about the possibility of the wheels coming off because our Premiership form has gone to pieces.

"Arsène Knows" said my mate's banner, which made an appearance in the champions section of White Hart Lane when we won the league last season. On Saturday evening he exuded the air of a manager whose consummate knowledge hasn't been clouded by the hype surrounding our competitors from the upmarket environs of the Kings Road. "Frankly I don't know" might have been Wenger's response to a query about whether we are still suffering from an Old Trafford hangover, but he knows that this magical team he's been crafting for the past eight years haven't turned into clodhoppers overnight! He's been around the course a sufficient number of times that he doesn't need to be too concerned because "you go every year through periods like that"

In fact Arsène was in fine form, sufficiently relaxed to amuse all the media folk when he was asked after five games without a victory, excluding our cup success over City, at what stage does it become a problem? "When we lose a game in the Carling Cup with even more of a reserve team you always count them....now we win and you don't count them...is it just uneven years?" The truth of the matter is that we aren't actually playing badly. With Chelsea piling on the pressure, going undefeated is no longer acceptable. If there's a failing, it's that some of our fabulous fluency might have evaporated as we try force the issue and fatigue only become a factor when not winning. Yet with such irrepressible talent in his team, Wenger remains confident that success will come if we keep plugging away.

As his inquisitors eulogised about the awe inspiring football last term, inviting Arsène to put his finger on our present problems, Le Prof teased the hacks about their selective memory, instantly recalling the 1-1 draw at Leicester, where we were dire by comparison to Saturday's showing. "We had periods last year where we didn't play as well....some people even said we had too many draws" he chuckled.

Listening to the brickbats bouncing around amongst the ungrateful Gooners gathered in the Arthur Wait Stand, it was evident how incredibly spoilt we've become. Considering Cygan acquitted himself quite well (within the obvious limits of a centre-back with the turning circle of an oil tanker) and certainly wasn't found wanting for effort, I felt quite sorry for him. Poor Pascal has replaced Ray Parlour as the Gooners scapegoat. Whereas according to Dowie their biggest home crowd for a decade created the best atmosphere he'd "ever felt at the ground" both as a player and a manager.

I usually prefer to leave an away game, get into the car and get out on returning to our gaff, especially after a disappointing result which saw us concede top spot for the first time this season. I hate having to battle with the hordes trying to squeeze onto an overcrowded train. Then during a boring ride home with few delights amongst the Arsenal's efforts to distract us, you're left with little to do but stare out the window and contemplate the prodigious talents of Arjen Robben and the depth of quality Mourinho has amassed in his squad. Considering the ridiculous amount our club will be soon extorting from us, I reckon it would be comparatively cheap for us to club together to put a contract out on the Dutchman?

Under protest, my mates persuaded me to let the train take the strain, which was great for the outbound trip, as I absolutely despise the stressful trek from North to South. I prefer a couple of hours on the motorway to Brum than to be embroiled in an aggravating drive across the breadth of the congested capital. As ever I missed our meet at Victoria and ended up travelling on my tod. A genial Palace fan with two if his progeny in tow must have overheard me prattling away on the mobile, worried about being too tardy to collect a press pass and passing on the snatches of the other scores received in between all the white noise on my tranny. There's little more frustrating than to hear there's only the odd goal in the games between Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea with seconds left on the clock, only for interference to leave you waiting an agonising eternity before getting a signal again and establishing the final scores.

My new Palace pal suggested I alight with them, a stop before Selhurst station. The return trip seemed twice as far but then I wasn't engaged in an enjoyable discussion about all things football. It might have been a run of the mill match for me but I could sense the excitement of my three companions. Dad said he wouldn't admit it but they were more than pleased just to be able to watch Palace play the likes of the Arsenal, when only last season it was a much longer walk for a woeful encounter with Walsall.

If there was some solace after the game thinking how grateful they'd be for something far more substantial than mere small mercies, I was sad for a 'septic' Gooner who'd schlepped all the way across the big pond on his first ever football pilgrimage from the US. I'd advised him that his Arsenal experience wouldn't be complete without taking in the vastly improved atmosphere amidst the vociferous travelling fans. No doubt he will have been enamoured with his week long introduction to the delights of live footie but I would imagine the odds would have been very long on the poor sod seeing three disappointing draws. Don't panic, he's been sent packing for Saturday's derby at Spurs!