Arsenal 2-0 Latics
Saturday 24th November 2007

Thank Peter Houghton that the last week is over and done with, that football is back again and that we can (hopefully) start to get over the latest bout of sweet, amateurish, chaos to sweep through the club.  As it happens I quite like the fact that, in this world of slick, corporate Football inc. that our club can still come across as naive and all that.  However I can’t help but feel that, whatever our public perception is, we’d benefit from a bit of a sharper edge in the background.

At least we’ve had Brenda Spencer fronting this week’s bumblings.  Whatever your concerns about her abilities, you can’t deny that she comes across as a local lass, who cares about the club.  When she talks about ‘Steve’ you can imagine her as a kind aunty and see that somewhere, in the heart of things, there is still a fairly tight knit club trying to survive in the big, bad modern world.

Or maybe I’m just an old romantic, seeing what I want to see.  After all who wants their football team to turn into a Chelsea or a Man United?  Yes you want what they have on the pitch, but off it, it’s just not cricket (well, football, but you know what I mean) and hey, at least we’re not Birmingham City.  

Forgetting the unlikeliest image rights clause since the Iain Dowie Halloween mask debacle, Birmingham have shown themselves up to be every bit as shambolic as ourselves this week.  Two hard nose business men as owners and yet neither of them knew exactly why, at the last minute, they might not get the reported £3m pay off they were expecting from losing their manager.  

Whatever you think of Dave Whelan if he was about to miss out on a fiver he’d want to know why, David Gold?  He just didn’t seem bothered.  As it turns out it was all Karen Brady’s fault.  She’d ‘forgotten’ the little matter of the £300k advance that she’d paid Steve Bruce.  Once she’d remembered it, there was the little matter of the piece of paper she’d signed saying that Mr Whelan’s £3m had covered all aspects of the transfer to get around.

Whichever way it ended up, it was sorted by Friday morning, in time for Bruce to join the lads in London and inspire them to a 2-0 defeat at the Emirates.  If that seems a strange thing to say, never mind, because it’s true.  Saturday’s performance was a stark contrast to the one they’d put in up the road a couple of weeks ago and apart from the new manager little had changed.

Ok so a mixture of flu, injuries and (maybe) a bit of “oh no the new manager doesn’t like me” saw changes to the line-up but, Pollitt aside, each of the starting eleven had already proved themselves feckless at some point this season.  You can only assume that there was a bit of ‘proving yourself for the new man’ about their attitude, it’s hard to see how quarter of an hour with Bruce was enough to undo the malaise that has left us in the bottom three.  Then again, maybe he is that good.

Despite a much improved performance, the result was inevitable.  Having watched Arsenal wait it out against way better teams than ours this year, you just knew that the goal would come.  It may have taken a while, but allowing yourself any thoughts that Latics might have got something from the game would have been futile and there’s no chance that you’d catch your correspondent doing anything like that.  Especially not in the 82nd minute, not me, no siree.

Alright, I’ll admit it.  It wasn’t Paul Scharner’s fault for failing to track Gallas into the box, nor was it Bramble’s fault for not picking him up.  It was me and my childish enthusiasm in thinking that the majority of the hard work had been done.  For looking at the clock and thinking “come on, you can do this”.  On second thoughts, let’s stick to blaming Scharner, it’s tidier.

At can, and will, be made about the fight that Latics managed to put up in this game, but there was a lot in their favour.  A  new manager and a no-win game can breed a lot of good will, but games against Arsenal aren’t the bread and butter of our season and we should be wary of getting carried away. 

If we can take some of this grit forward to the City game, build on it and, hey let’s go crazy, get some points on the board then maybe we can start to look forward to the rest of the season.  Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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