Terrace Talk: Arsenal - Arsene Wenger’s loyalty pays off as players show fight

An afternoon which started with a huge social-media hoax about The Gobby One getting the boot ended with the Scousers stealing our thunder by sacking Brendan Rodgers. In between, we’ve witnessed the sort of complete performance from the Gunners against Manchester United that we’ve been waiting for, ever since Fergie sought refuge in his pipe and slippers.

Admittedly we’ve turned them over in the Cup at Old Trafford but we’ve waited a long time to inflict quite such a comprehensive defeat, against the comparatively mediocre incarnation of the Mancunian side in recent times. What’s more, it’s that much more hilarious that it should happen after they’ve spunked the best part of £300m in their seemingly vain attempts to redress this situation.

Seeing the Arsenal literally leave an impressive looking midfield on paper — Schweinsteger, Carrick, Mata — for dead in that sensational opening 20-minute spell, there was the distinct sense that we were so pumped up, as if our players truly felt they owed their manager proper recompense after our midweek fiasco against Olympiacos.

Doubtless they will have seen Arsene’s embarrassingly petulant pre-match press conference, where his aggressive reaction to the media rat-pack looked to be that of a man afraid his faith in our existing outfield squad may prove misplaced. Yet unlike Mourinho, in public at least, Wenger’s loyalty to his charges has always remained unwaveringly constant.

In return, time and again, when the chips are down and the pressure upon Le Prof has been mounting, they’ve invariably conjured up the sort of breathtakingly magical football that has instantly silenced his critics.

Obviously it would be too much to expect the Gunners to be able to reproduce such peerless football in every encounter. Yet with the chant of “can we play you every week” resonating around the stadium, the inevitable question arises as to why we can’t consistently reproduce this sort of swagger against all our immediate rivals.

On the face of it, the two-week interlull between now and our short trip to Watford couldn’t have been more badly timed. And yet after the recent relentless run of matches and after having left everything out on the park yesterday, I’m sure the players will be grateful for a bit of a breather. Additionally, it will offer recuperation time for the significant likes of Koscielny as well as for Arteta and Flamini. With the latter the only alternatives to Coquelin, the Gunners would’ve been right up cack creek if Franny had also succumbed to injury.

It’s also interesting that we have the Arsenal AGM next week and I’m certain the board will be mightily relieved to be meeting the shareholders after a fabulous victory that leaves the team lying second in the table. I very much doubt that they and our manager would’ve faced nearly such a convivial reception if we’d failed against Man United.

Nevertheless, despite parting the stadium with suitably puffed chests following the thrashing of the Red Devils, this welcome glimpse of some consistency in our league campaign only adds to the conundrum of our Champions League malaise.

I’ve no doubt there’ll be questions at the AGM as to what good a £200m cash surplus does for us when we are losing to the lowly likes of Zagreb and Olympiacos. Then again, we’ve grown so accustomed to taking our European bow before the business end of this tournament that as far as I’m concerned, progress in the Champions League is only ever prolonging the agony.

However, our struggles so far do mean there is the looming spectre of the Europa League due to a third-place group stage finish and all that entails as far as the potentially negative impact upon our Premier League prospects of a Thursday/Sunday schedule.

Personally I’d much rather write off our European challenge completely than to find ourselves schlepping to meaningless fixtures in far-flung outposts of the continent.

However, it would be wrong to dwell on any such disappointment after such a perfect weekend, where the goalfest at Man City was the only slight dampener.

I’d much rather reflect upon our manager’s probable glee at the sight of his nemesis’ seven-minute post-match grovel, followed by an Arsenal performance that will only have rubbed salt in the trigger-happy Abramovich’s wound.

Then again, while we Gooners are entitled to head into work with a skip in our stride this week, I’m long enough in the tooth to know not to gloat so much that I can’t stomach a deserved portion of humble pie should Sunday’s heroes fall on their faces next time out.


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