As a kid I fell in love with George Graham’s Arsenal. We were labelled ‘boring, boring Arsenal’ but not by our own fans, of other fans jealous of our success. We were tactically the best team in England, if we took the lead we usually won – leading to the the famous ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ chant. Even when Arsene Wenger took over we were a physical team, the midfield pairing of Vieira and Petit being feared by opponents for their aggressive approach to the game. Flair players like Henry and Pires did give us more to our game, but even though the invincibles played flowing ‘Wengerball’, they still had players like Vieira, Gilberto and Keown who were more than capable of winning a physical battle.
Since Wednesday and the injuries to Fabregas and Walcott, I have heard complaints from fellow Gooners about Stoke’s approach. I honestly thought that we were past all that. A few years ago it was Sam Allardyce’s Bolton who were our bogey team, Wenger and our players openly criticised them for their approach to the game both in terms of their long ball and defensive tactics and their over physical approach. This seemed to me like an admission that we couldn’t handle opponents like that, it almost invited other teams to go into games with us with the same mentality. We saw teams like Stoke and Birmingham go into games with the intention of ‘roughing us up’ resulting in horrific injuries to Eduardo and Ramsey.
This season things are different, we have centre backs like Koscielny (and Vermaelen when fit) who openly talk about loving the physical side of the game. We have Song as our physical presence in midfield and even the more creative Wilshere seeming to thrive on getting stuck in. We have come out of a number of physical battles (including Wednesday night) with three points and no longer need to fear opponents who approach games in this way. Now that we have sorted our issues on the pitch I feel that it is time for fans to cut out the moaning off the pitch. For those who cheered us on in the days of George Graham’s long ball and defensively organised sides and Wenger’s sides who were regularly bottom of the fair-play league, it is hypocrisy to criticise the likes of Stoke, Blackburn and co.
On Sunday we face Birmingham in the Mickey Mouse Cup final, they are another team who have tried to bully us in the past, the last thing we need is another game like Wednesday and another load of injuries. Mentally, if our players go into the game worrying about getting injured then there is every chance that we will lose. Going in half heartedly can also lead to more injuries. We must not have any doubts in our mind that if Birmingham park the bus, play long balls over the top or go out to kick us off the park, we can still win. We now have the players capable of winning games like that and should go into the game with NO FEAR!
Discuss the Birmingham game on the goonersworld forum!!!