We’re still nothing more than pacemakers

IT’S BEEN a highly entertaining first few months of the season, with so many sides capable of playing with the sort of panache that has enabled them to take points from anyone, on any given weekend.

But, in some respects, it’s felt as if we’ve been treading water, waiting for one of the big guns to kick on. The question is, are the Gunners merely pacemakers, or can we prove ourselves to be something more, when it comes to the crunch?

Certainly not on the evidence of our performance at Old Trafford. After yet more foolhardy full-back play presented “3 for a tenner” with a flukey lead following 40 minutes of too tentative sparring, United sat back in the second half and invited us to do our worst.

Once again, sadly our worst wasn’t nearly bad enough. It was as if the Gunners were firing BB pellets,offering little more than a mere stinging sensation as they bounced harmlessly back off Utd’s defence, while we prayed in vain for an attack of the calibre of Clint Eastwood’s Magnum, capable of punching the sort of hole that might mortally wound Fergie’s mob.

With most Gooners having few illusions about our tenuous sojourn at the table’s summit, we’d have gladly settled for a draw. But it’s also as plain to us as the red nose on Fergie’s miserable mush that unlike the competition, Wenger’s side simply doesn’t possess the resilience to set its stall out with containment as its principal ambition.

Doubtless Arsène will turn to the stats, to argue that we deserved better. But for all our possession, in playing with the handbrake on, the Gunners never brought the sort of vitality and pace to this party.

It’s a contradiction in terms to accuse an indolent Arshavin of recklessness, but if our diminutive Ruski deserved to be booked, then surely Rio’s full-frontal assault was nothing less than ABH? But then you know you’ve endured another night of unfulfilled expectations at the Theatre of Dreams, when the highpoint of the evening was some hearty “fat, granny shagger” ribbing of Wayne Rooney.

This was in response to the red mist that descended as Rooney lost his rag, when for once “Fergie’s rent-boy” ref failed to rule in the home side’s favour. I’m unsure whether the 70,000 Muppets heeded their manager’s request in his programme notes to desist with the paedo chants, or if it was merely the Arsenal’s impotence which failed to inspire the home fans wrath.

But just as I expect the Gunners to rise to le Gaffer’s defence, by producing the goods on the pitch, I often fear that we might end up regretting rubbing the likes of Rooney up the wrong way with such inflammatory antics.

With the incessant shenanigans of Nani and Anderson and relentless appeals from the terraces, I suppose Webb’s seemingly fatal intervention was inevitable. Mercifully we can take some comfort from a solitary cause for optimism, in the promising league debut of a young keeper, who might just have the necessary presence and personality to fill this gaping hole in the Gunners armour. Now if only Arsène could chance upon the Premiership Holy Grail of an equally charismatic outfield player, the sort of character who might appreciate the significance of Rooney’s miss and who’d recognise this as the moment to step up and try to inspire his teammates to turn the screw, by grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up