Feeling the pain of profligacy on a blue day at St Andrew’s

CAUGHT between the devil and the deep blue sea is the ideal expression to describe Paul Burrell’s situation on Sunday, as I heard the dulcet tones of the Arsenal’s stadium announcer (as opposed to Lady Di’s butler), echoing out from the Wembley tannoy at the Mickey Mouse Cup Final.

Then I guess that much like me, most Gooners were struggling with the dilemma of having to choose between the insufferable smugness of their Spurs mates, should they manage to secure their first silverware in nine years, or the unbearable thought of the Blue scum bagging yet another, albeit trivial tin pot.

Anyway, I’ve been expressing my concerns about our lack of a sufficient ruthless streak for much of the season. It seemed obvious to me our inability to kill teams off might eventually cost us dear and sadly this account finally fell due on Saturday. Never mind Gael Clichy’s last gasp act of hari-kari (or Flamini’s failure to clear our lines), our five-point cushion would’ve still been intact, in spite of this lapse in concentration, if we’d managed to force home our advantage.

Mind you, at half-time I was mightily relieved, as in truth McFadden should’ve scored a second, when one-on-one with Almunia, in just about City’s only other attack of the game. My relief was tenfold when Theo managed to pop up with an equaliser so soon after the break, finally giving my Dublin nephew Shane something to celebrate. Naturally I’d have preferred for the euphoria to have been a little less fleeting, but when Theo found the back of the net for a second time, I am sure Shane enjoyed the sort of highly intoxicating rush that makes addicts of the rest of us live football fanatics.

It was all the sweeter for the fact that we were sitting in seats directly adjacent to the home fans and we’d endured a non-stop stream of vitriolic stick for the entire first 45. As a result, we didn’t hesitate to return the compliment, in spades! However our proximity to the home fans meant that it was all the more painful when they had the last laugh. And with the traumatic details of Eduardo’s horrific injury having trickled down across the terrace during half-time, we were all the more distraught, as only minutes earlier we’d been trumpeting that “we’re gonna win for Eduardo”.

I am glad le Gaffer retracted his somewhat rash, post-match comments. Admittedly we were a long way from the incident, but if I’m honest, I actually groaned when Mike Dean produced a red card. I initially thought it a fairly innocuous incident and for the second time in a week, I was gutted to see a ref spoil a match in the opening minutes. Aside from the fact there is so little space behind the 10 men’s concerted efforts to defend in numbers, often as not the ref will spend the remainder of the match attempting to redress the balance by booking everything that moves.

With hindsight perhaps Taylor did deserve to go, but I am unconvinced that there was any malice involved and if it wasn’t for the recent crackdown on “over the top” tackles or perhaps the awful sight of Eduardo’s distorted limb, Dean might not have been in such a rush to send him off.

If anyone is culpable, it’s probably Alex Mcleish, as you can be sure the most common pre-match instruction issued to teams competing against this gifted Arsenal squad is to “get your foot in early on, just to let them know you are there”, as many sides attempt to make up for any perceived deficiency in their ability, with their physical commitment.

It doesn’t benefit our team for our manager to be adopting a victim mentality and Arsène’s hard-done-by attitude obviously doesn’t endear us to the rest of the footballing world. Beside which, it comes across as hypocritical considering the malicious way our own players went after Nani only last week at Old Trafford.

I’m truly gutted for Eduardo, especially since he was only just in the process of establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the Premiership. I was also somewhat shell-shocked as we exited St Andrews, wondering how on earth the Gunners had failed to offer up the three points as a tribute to their team-mate. Not to mention being a little bemused as to why on earth Adebayor had to go and upset the gods of superstition by having his barnet cut and where on earth Alex Hleb has left his shooting boots!

I pray that the loss of Eddy’s goals doesn’t prove too costly to our title challenge and that our Brazilian striker proves as determined a little bugger off the pitch, as he is on it, enabling him to make a record breaking recovery without any complications.

There are only two possible scenarios. Either we are about to crack under the pressure and our campaign is suddenly going to be derailed. Or Le Prof is going to have to earn his corn, by inspiring the troops to prove they are made of stronger stuff and instead of using Eddy’s awful injury as an excuse, it will be the catalyst that encourages us to kick on, thereby ensuring Eduardo’s injury wasn’t in vain.

* Bernard Azulay //goonersdiary.blogspot.com

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