Firstly, any absences in posting during the coming weeks are due to an absence of domestic broadband. Somehow, improving my service has resulted in me having none. Oh the irony.
Anyway, to business. A fantastic draw for the kids at the Lane on Wednesday - one full of hope and promise for the future, if not the present, of the club. But, it was almost so disastrous. Our first half performance was not very good. A soft goal – perhaps ironically caused by the ineptitude of two of the more experienced players on the pitch – and a pitiful own goal by a man who had a howler of an opening 45 minute conspired to leave us in a rather unpromising position at half-time. My fears that the youngsters could be scarred, rather than blooded, by such an intense game seemed to be materialising.
Yet, I was always confident we could pull ourselves back into the game. Indeed, if this season were to be named, it would be ‘the season of the comeback’. We’ve gone behind countless times this season, and, more often than not, we’ve fought back to get a draw or a win. It seems that this is a trend that all our squad members are following.
The second half performance was as good as I’ve seen by any Arsenal team this season. Spuds couldn’t live with our high-tempo, precise passing, and it seemed only a matter of time before we opened our account.
And thus scored Baptista.
His first goal came from a mixture of battling and admirable composure; his second from putting himself in a fine position to exploit Robinson’s bizarre goalkeeping error. In the end we could, and perhaps should have won, with Theo unable to convert a golden opportunity near the end.
The lily whites aren’t going to get a better chance than that to put one over us, and, to be frank, they blew it, big time. One could almost feel sorry for them. Almost, and especially not after the horrendous treatment meted out to several Arsenal fans after the game.
Quite simply, we oozed class in the second half. Whether it be Fab, who had a colossal game in the midfield, Hleb, who surely won over some of his misguided critics with a wonderful cameo disappointingly ended by injury (4 weeks out apparently – I’m distraught), or Eboue, who looked a real handful on the right wing, our boys had far too much for the relatively average opposition they were facing. As for the rest, Denilson was excellent and looks a real prospect, Traore still looks promising, despite being skinned quite a few times by Lennon, Hoyte is definitely improving, and the Beast is finally beginning to really earn his sobriquet.
My main concerns were Theo and Diaby. Diaby, justifiably, struggled in his first full start after injury as he was played out of position on the left. I have very high hopes for him, but Denilson might be breathing down his neck sooner rather than later. And Theo needs a goal. It’s ridiculous that so much pressure is being heaped on him so soon, but he needs a goal in order to really settle into the team. Whilst he improved vastly when put into a central striker position, rather than out on the wing, I just hope that his head doesn’t drop due to middling performances such as yesterday. He’s the real deal and he’s not fully showing at the moment. I think we all have faith in him though.
So, hopefully the kids can dispatch the spuds next week and a rather appetising cup final with Chel$ki will be on. Although, if the Arsenal system of developing youth were to come face to face with a policy designed around spending ludicrous wads of cash, I fear some form of nuclear explosion will occur.