Saturday. Small and insignificant matter of the North London Derby to be played out. The nerves, anticipation and expectation hardly kicks in until the morning of the game. I'm actually struggling to inspire myself for yet another 50,000 word epic war cry of an article calling for our players to show an abundance of desire, passion, determination, hunger, tenacity, organisation, cutting edge, end product, professionalism, concentration, never say die attitude and belief. Because as a set standard, all of this should be present from the off.
Yes, yes, injuries have a knock-on effect to formation and tactics (what tactics? Running around a lot and kicking the ball works just fine, right? No need to jot that down on a clipboard). And yes, yes, we always fail to get it right in the build up to this game and then fail despondently on the pitch. I can never understand this knee-jerk the players manage to achieve. At the swamp, we tend to defeat ourselves. Turning up in flip-flops rather than military certified boots, sinking deep in the cesspit.
In the 4-4, we packed a jet-pac to escape drowning.
Last time out, not even half of the team bothered to show up and the ones that did rolled out the red carpet on the marshlands allowing our inbreed hosts to skip joyfully on.
The Carling Cup game should be discounted altogether. Hey, that's what they do, right? Although it serves its purpose as testament to how times are genuinely changing - not in terms of us progressing ahead of them (because we haven't) but in terms of how far they have fallen. Granted, they are still in that degrading pack of three up top, but anyone at the Lane on the night would have laughed out loud at the sheer ecstasy their fans displayed, proclaiming just how important the CC is via their emotions. All of a sudden it matters. When we now suddenly refuse to take it seriously. Their fans, textbook in gloat, describing the game in WengerVision in how their kids beat our first team. Ooh the irony.
But enough with past misdemeanours and misadventures.
Blood and thunder is what this game was forged with in creation. To turn up and roll over for them, it's unacceptable even though it's hardly surprising when it happens. At the Lane last time out (I'm talking about the 2-1) we got it spot on tactically and were fantastic in terms of our will to win the game. We punished them whilst they played pretty football in and around the box without doing much and when they did push and pressured we had a formidable Gomes in goal to shut shop, other than allowing a consolation goal to creep in. We did not choke and when you place it alongside the Chelsea victory that followed, it was all pretty special. An awakening. So hoping we're not snoozing this weekend.
At the Emirates we do like to implode. One good omen this time round is the lack of a Robbie Keane pre-match declaration of victory. There is still time for someone to shag it all up, I'm sure. I hardly take much notice of the talk that goes on before because its just sound-bites and reflexed answers to questions that aid in quotable headlines, always exaggerated for additional effect. Like most games, but it's not a necessity for me to get caught up in a game that hardly requires the help of hype.
Re: the injuries and formational tinkering, I'd rather not linger on any ready made excuses. It's not like Arsenal are without problems. They're inconsistent, can make hard work of trying to walk the ball into the net and are quite obviously beatable at home. It's evenly matched. At least it will be if we turn up with chests pumped out. Nothing worse than clumsy implosion. Would rather lose the game playing out of our skins than lose it cheaply gift-wrapped.
JD might be back. Hudd is out for three months. Agent Gallas will no doubt score an own goal and rip off his shirt to reveal red and white colours then sit in the middle of the pitch crying his eyes out confused and alone. Ten home fans will sing to themselves in the far corner, reciting from their hymn sheets whilst the rest tuck into their half-time ribs. Jenas will score a brilliant brilliant individual goal. But we'll be 7-0 down at the time and when the final whistle is blown, we'll be demanding a dvd from our club shop for the plucky comeback that saw the game finish 7-6.
We need a win. Not just because its them lot but because Christmas is almost upon us and we have to remain anchored to 5th/4th spot so that after reinforcements in January we can truly give it proper go (I'm still holding onto us kick-starting our season any time now).
We need to win, we need to end this ridiculous run of away day blues against the former monopoly, we need to discover sustained swagger. And rather than worry about our defensive frailties, let's just make the most of their defensive frailties.
Momentum. About time we embraced some.
More journals to follow in the build up to the game.