Friday 27 December 2013

XMAS SPECIAL, West Ham 1-3 Arsenal [Elia's house, Sydney]

No turkey, stuffing or sprouts to be seen.
Good morning/afternoon/evening [delete appropriate]. I hope you all had a great Christmas break and enjoyed the calorie consumption and usual garbage that fills our TV boxes at this time of the year.

For Christmas dinner, in the UK and US at least, you'll generally gorge yourself on turkey, goose, mini sausages, brussels sprouts and about fifteen different kinds of potato. It's the same story every year, you graze from dawn until dusk on food that equates to twice your body weight, and by the time you're done, you've consumed more as a person across a two-day period than most Asian families do in a week.

Christmas in Australia is something a bit different from the norm. As the temperature in Australia is usually sweltering, a traditional festive dinner here is not what you would associate with back home, people aren't slaving away next to an oven or saucepan for hours on end because they'll all combust before serving time arrives. I was lucky enough to be offered a place to stay for a few days over Christmas with Elia Eliopoulou, the guy responsible for the Sydney Gooners supporters club. As you can guess by his last name, he's of Greek descent, so the turkey was replaced with souvlaki and the goose with ham. It was a fantastic feast enjoyed with his family and, whilst it will never ever beat my late mother's Christmas dinner coronary-fest, it was a nice change and something welcomed given the climate!

An Australian-Greek-British Christmas
So, with Christmas out of the way, it was time to once again sit down and watch Arsenal climb back to the top of the Premier League. The venue of choice this time round was Elia's house, as it was a 2am start and neither of us had the energy, after the usual Christmas proceedings, to venture away from home.

The game itself was, initially, hugely frustrating to watch. As the rest of the house was asleep I had to refrain from cursing, at the top of my lungs, towards the TV every time we failed to string a few passes together. Some people will complain, but I thought we were pretty abysmal for the majority of the first half. We looked like we were short on energy and short on ideas, and we didn't seem to have the faintest idea of where the goal was.

There were two key turning points in the second half that saw us move up a gear. The first was West Ham's goal, which gave us no choice but to start pushing forward, becoming more direct in the process. I was screaming for us to do this in the first place, there just seems to be a bit of hesitancy to attack at the moment, unless absolutely necessary. With a midfield of attack-minded players, this has to change, we have to become more ruthless in and around the box and I'm hoping with more regular inclusions of Podolski and Walcott, this will happen.

The second turning point was the Ramsey injury, you could see the change in pace the moment Podolski came on and this tells you that Ramsey's beginning to experience burnout, mainly due to the amount of full games he's been playing, but also because of the amount of grass he's been covering in those games. It's a big loss, he's our top goalscorer and player of the season to date, and, despite the last couple of performances you simply don't want him sitting on the treatment table. However, it gives us an opportunity to change the shape of our starting XI and try something different. I think it will will work in favour of our upcoming fixtures, you could obviously see that it worked against West Ham.

So, we regain first spot in the Premier League, having lost it for all of 48 hours or so. But, with Man City beating Liverpool, we can't afford to slip up in our next game at Newcastle. It's time to start showing the doubters what we're really made of.