Sunday 2 February 2014

Southampton 2-2 Arsenal [The Fox, Auckland]

My final game in the continent of Oceania (or Australasia depending on who you are and where you come from) has arrived. Arsenal v Crystal Palace. I'm really, really fortunate to be staying with Chris Jack, the Grandson of Arsenal legend David Jack, in Sydney. It's a great way to bow out of this vast country before leaving for the pandemonium of Hong Kong and the rest of South East Asia on Tuesday.

But, before all that, a little bit about my last few days in New Zealand; I was staying with Surrey-born Gooner Neil White for a few days in the suburbs, trying to recover from the booze-laden weekend with the Essex lads who I met during the Coventry match.

The Southampton match kicked off, once again, at 8:45am. Being a mid-week fixture however, we weren't expecting a massive crowd. You see, there are a few problems with watching Premier League football in New Zealand, which in turn makes it more challenging to get fans together to watch live games. Firstly, the time differences for watching them can be even worse than in Australia. A law was also passed recently by the NZ government which means that no bar/pub can open between the hours of 4am and 8am. When you consider that the only legitimate way to watch Premier League games is by going online and logging into a paid subscription of 'Premier League Pass' (ludicrous, I know), it makes for a pretty fragmented and often unreliable viewing experience. [By the way, what was the Premier League thinking when they awarded sole media rights to a broadcaster that has no TV presence whatsoever?]

Auckland Gooners. An all-British lineup.
Anyhow, there is no active Arsenal supporters club in New Zealand at the moment, the above issues certainly don't help the matter. There are many fans around however, so the Southampton game was a good opportunity to get some more people together in the hope that it would rekindle the Gooner Family spirit in Auckland, and in turn New Zealand as a whole. I have been to so many places on my travels where I've witnessed the joys of being part of an active supporters club. It's not just the football, it's the community efforts and the camaraderie. For want of a better word, it's a fellowship, and it's something that the NZ Gooners are missing out on.

I suppose it might have been a bit easier to get these new 'fellows' fired up if it wasn't for the fact that Arsenal played abysmally for all of four minutes against a very resilient Southampton. I'm not a football tactician (despite being an EA Sports FIFA veteran) but even I know that our midfield had no dynamism whatsoever. It was a tactical #fail by Mr Wenger, putting Flamini and Arteta together (with Wilshere, Rosicky and Ramsey injured) in midfield and asking the latter to do a playmaker role. I know the man with lego-hair had a creative responsibility at Everton, but it was a recipe for disaster when asked to play in an advanced position for us, when all season he's been playing the anchor man who sweeps up loose balls and disperses them without hesitation. It would be like asking Özil to play right-back. I think Arteta has lost his pace over the past season too, and that makes him a questionable starter in any position other than a direct replacement for Flamini.

Of course that's where he'll be starting for the next few games as the Frenchman went all Semtex on Schneiderlin, which certainly didn't/doesn't help matters going forward (excuse the pun). 

It's all but a disaster though, yes Man $ity may be a point ahead of us but let's not get away from the fact that Chelsea play them soon. Plus, we still have blood and heart in our squad, whilst they have oil and aircraft parts in theirs. Also, please don't all throw your toys out the pram over the general non-happenings of the transfer window. Yes, there may be a slight boo-boo somewhere with the Källström's fitness debacle, and we didn't manage to tie down the Draxler and Vucinic deals, but we've come a long way without them so far and I'm convinced we can take the battle all the way to the wire with the two sugar-daddy clubs. Keep the faith and for f***'s sake get behind your team.

Until Asia then...



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