Lucky to be hot in the hunt

THE consensus of Gooner opinion seemed to be that it was fortunate Glen Johnson put the ball in the back of the Scousers’ net on Sunday. Up until that point, we’d been so impotent up front that it looked as if we could’ve been playing until midnight without troubling Pepe Reina’s goal.

After a week in which the dressing room code of silence was violated, to reveal the mad antics of Tony Pullis and Jim Magilton, you’d think our captain might’ve been more discrete, than to reveal specific details of his manager’s half-time rocket.

In hindsight, I find it a bit worrying, since the results of Wenger’s haranguing were hardly dramatic and we didn’t play like a team possessed after the break.

I felt that we benefited from the fact that having taken the lead, Liverpool’s commitment and focus dropped considerably and perhaps our own lack of goal threat was responsible for the home side growing complacent.

After Saturday’s surprising results left the door slightly ajar, it would’ve been criminal if the Gunners had been guilty of not doing their utmost to try and force it open, putting ourselves back in the frame as potentials title challengers. But then, as always, the margins between success and failure are wafer thin.

I can’t help but feel that if Gallas had brought Gerrard down at the Kop end, Howard Webb might’ve been influenced by thousands of Scousers appealing for a penalty. Instead of us ending the weekend elated to be going into the hectic festive schedule with renewed hope, only two weeks after our title prospects were supposedly dead after the Blues 0-3 thumping, it might’ve been Arsène suffering the sort of “Emperor’s New Clothes” scorn of the media, rather than Benitez.

The media might’ve built up Sunday’s encounter, as the clash of ‘the bridesmaids’, but in truth, compared to a bona fide feast of footballing entertainment the day before, it was a damp squib. But I’m not complaining, as Arsène’s entertainers produced a demonstration of the art of winning such a significant clash, with a performance well below par, something which may be a sign of our increased maturity. Or perhaps we were competing against a Liverpool side who’ve acquired the losing habit? As delighted as I am that this result has edged us back into contention, on a realistic note, the frailties of our injury-ravaged squad are no less apparent. Almunia certainly didn’t win friends with his feeble flap in the build up to Kuyt’s goal but I’m hoping that the more I tempt fate with my assertions that Arshavin can’t continue to carry the team as a loan striker, the more he’ll continue to make me eat my words. ! Yet as Chelsea have demonstrated with their failure to win, ever since their ‘inconsequential’ Carling Cup exit, you cannot overstate the importance of that winning momentum.

While I’m yet to be convinced we possess the squad to match Chelsea and United in the long run, if we can build on Sunday’s victory and string together consistent wins to instil genuine belief in our ability to mount a challenge and make the most of what looks the most volatile title race in many a moon, anything’s possible!

If I’m honest, I imagine like the vast majority of Gooners who wrote off the title only a fortnight ago, I can’t believe our good fortune. As I sat here on Saturday night rejoicing in Villa putting one over on Man U, I wondered if I might end up regretting it. I guess we’ll find out when we visit Villa Park Sunday week, but until then I’m most grateful to be looking up, instead of over our shoulders.


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