I’ve borrowed this subject matter from ‘Talking Reds’ column in The Gooner issue 233 (out now at all good fanzine vendors around Arsenal Stadium), as it is pertinent to this weekend.
You’ll recall that in January Arsenal went 2-0 down to Liverpool, but pulled back to draw 2-2. You may also remember that the celebrations for Theo Walcott’s equaliser went on for some time. Time that you might think would have been better spent using the momentum of a two-goal comeback to try and get a win. Not celebrating goals seems to be the trend these days; trust Arsenal to be different.
This is not something new for Arsenal either. In the 2008 Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg at Anfield, Walcott set up Adebayor for a goal that put Arsenal into the lead in the tie overall. Cue ecstatic and long-running celebrations on the pitch. Seconds after the restart Liverpool won a penalty, which they scored to put them through.
A year later Arshavin scored his and Arsenal’s fourth goal on 90 minutes. The team over-celebrated, delaying the restart and losing any momentum. Liverpool equalised before the final whistle went.
The same season Man Utd came to Arsenal for the CL Semi-Final. C Ronaldo scored to make it 3-0 on the night, 4-0 on aggregate, with half an hour left. Time for a good old celebration maybe, because the game is as good as won? He ran towards the United bench with this in mind and before he got anywhere near hugging distance he was told in no uncertain terms to get on with the game, with a red-faced manager gesticulating angrily at him to clear off.
These last three incidents were relayed by Arsenal shareholder Ian Tanner to Arsène Wenger at the last shareholders’ Q&A with the manager – which was in 2009 also, as Arsène has been sulking since because someone dared to suggest that night that Silvestre was not a top, top super quality signing.
At the time (and just before the Silvestre question, obviously) Arsène generously conceded that Ian was right, but the likes of Theo would be less likely to over-celebrate when they were more experienced.
Well here we are in 2013 and the lesson does not appear to have been learnt. Where is the focus on the game? Where is the determination to play for 90 minutes and celebrate afterwards? It certainly doesn’t seem to have been instilled in the more experienced Theo. When you’ve scored two in three minutes the opposition are clearly rocking. Don’t spend time shaking your fists and gurning at your adoring public, concentrate on delivering the knockout blow. Let the fans celebrate, that’s their role. The celebration I want from the players is on an open-topped bus followed by the balcony at Islington Town Hall in May.
On Sunday Arsenal play Spurs. The last two times in this fixture, we have gone behind but run out comfortable winners. It is probably too much to expect that we will knock five past them for the third time in a row, but given Arsenal’s slow starts and poor first halves recently, I won’t be surprised if we go behind. In the previous games we’ve managed to claw our way back into it fairly quickly, but that isn’t always going to happen. The last thing I want is to go behind early, spend 80 frustrating minutes waiting for a decent Arsenal goal attempt before finally equalising, then see Bale knock in a 30-yard winner because the whole team has switched off thinking the job is done.
Tottenham must and should be put in their place. There’s more chance of that if the Arsenal team play with intelligence as well as skill and heart.