Wenger Boys Gunned Down

THE MEDIA consensus was that relegation bound Boro were going to get battered by an imperious Arsenal who wouldn’t be muscled out of victory in the far North a second time in a week. But what do they know? The real cognescenti were the ones waving their betting slips at the end, the few Riverside regulars who threw the compelling logic aside and gambled on Boro’s historic perversity.
Boro to win… 11-2; Boro to win 2-1… 25-1; Downing first scorer and Boro to win 2-1… 225-1. Result. And everyone who put their money where my doubt was deserves the kudos that goes with queuing at the payout window. I was sat with a coupon that had a quid on Boro to win 3-0 at 100-1 in my pocket at the insistence of my wife. How we laughed. No chance I sneered. It was more ritual dance than conviction. Yet after the second went in she never stopped texting with a mixture of gloating at facing down the form book to call it right and anxiety that they had eased up and were showboating. Stop fannying about and get the ball forward – there’s money riding on this!

In hindsight Boro’s win was almost inevitable. The visitors on an unstoppable run, unbeaten all season, top of the table, Champions elect and with a history of banging four, five, six, seven past us; Boro struggling to score, without a win in three months and an alarming tendency to fold under pressure… what else was going to happen? Boro are coupon busting run breakers.
There was an echo of Steve McClaren’s last season when with the fans in revolt the team had hit rock bottom with a spineless collapse at the Riverside to Aston Villa that had prompted the watershed Red Book throwing incident. Next home Boro ripped apart champions and table-toppers Chelsea then lumbered onto a run that was to end with the gloriously chaotic surge to the FA Cup semi-final and Eindhoven. Not that I’m saying for second that people should book hotels in Wembley for the second weekend in May, but, hey, this is Boro we’re talking about. So get your daft quid on them losing at Derby next week. Some observations:
Boro Braveheart Starting To Deliver: What a difference a goal makes. Tuncay has the ability, the passion, the workrate and the touch of magic to play his way into Boro’s heart. The Riverside is crying out for an heroic figure with the heart, zest and trickery to at least go some way to being a Juninho substitute.
The former Fenerbahce semi-divine dream weaver has had a tough start but has shown in glimpses – at West Ham, at Old Trafford – that he has the potential but against Arsenal he was magnificent: he chased, he squeezed, he tackled back, he crossed, he passed, he dribbled and tricked and turned in areas that hurt Arsenal …. and he scored. Hot on the heels of a crucial goal at Reading he showed an alertness and hunger in the box to drill home another which in terms of this season makes him practically a goal machine.
And he enjoyed it too, lapping up the adulation of the crowd after his goal and on his exit from the pitch having ran himself into the ground. He ticks a lot of boxes and if he can keep that kind of display up then he can be the galavanising presence that transforms the season in the way Carlos Tevez did at West Ham after a sticky start last year.
Teesside Steel: Boro showed the whole package against Arsenal and hinted at what was possible with a full strength team that is highly motivated and well organised. They showed pride and passion and a real bite combined with some exquisite moments of devastating skill that ripped apart a very good side.
They got into Arsenal’s faces early and made the game scrappy, forced the table-toppers to compete on Boro’s terms and then having earned the right to play took advantage with some incisive movement that made Arsenal look ordinary. For long spells they bossed the game, there were a string of excellent individual performances – Tuncay, Aliadiere, Downing, O’Neil, Boateng and Woodgate – contributed to an inspirational team display. In truth Boro could have won far more convincingly.
The national press will dismiss the result as a blip by a ‘lacklustre’ Arsenal team having a bad day at the office but it was far from that. It was a thoroughly professional display by a well drilled Boro side that set the agenda and more than matched one of the best teams in Europe on every level. We out-thought and out-fought them and it was brilliant to watch.
Crowd Pleasing: The Riverside atmosphere was the best of the season and showed a renewed sense of unity between crowd and team, a rejuvenated resolve that suggests that not only are we all in this together but that we are all determined to get out of it.
Of course, the early goal helped – in the symbiotic relationship between atmosphere and display, it is the lads on the pitch who most convincingly set the tone – but you could sense walking up to the ground that the bitterness and dischord of the Villa game was gone to replaced by a new determination.
Once Boro were ahead the crowd grew in confidence and delivered what is needed: a non-stop vocal expression of undiminshed support for not only the team but for those individuals who have taken some stick in recent weeks. Stewy Downing, barracked to the point of distraction in recent games, had everyone back on side and chanting his name with an awesome display. Tuncay, dogged by Turkish tittle-tattle that he is disillusioned on Teesside, was visibly buoyed by the reaction to his goal. Fit again Julio Arca and Robert Huth returned to rapturous applause.
And most pleasing of all, the underfire boss who polls suggesting 70-80% of the Teesside public wanted sacked a fortnight ago got to revel in a genuinely supportive atmosphere in which he got a warm namecheck and even responded happily to Bruciesque requests to “give us a wave” and did so validated but without any hint of bitterness.
You Don’t See That Often Do You?: When was the last time you laughed because the ref seemed to give everything Boro’s way? I can’t remember an accumulation of little decisions so blatantly facouring us since Cardiff. I am not legally allowed to suggest that Howard Webb was ‘a homer’ but it must be pointed out that when Arsenal fans started to chant “1-0 to the referee” I was tempted to join in.
It started with the penalty which in real time and from his angle must have been a difficult 50/50 call and on a bad day could easily have been waved away. Then followed a string of bizarre decisions as Boro were given goalkicks that should have been corners, throw-ins going the wrong way and crunching tackles and niggly trips going unpunished while Arsenal seemed to be pulled up for almost identical challenges.
Not that I’m complaining. And it wasn’t all one sided as if you wanted to be churlish you could ask why Eboue wasn’t at least booked for his slap across the chops of Pogatetz (although to be fair the ref was probably gobsmacked at the transparency of the Alpine hardman’s pathetic face-clutching theatrics) and how the hell he escaped a red in the second half when he left his foot in the air after a clearance then raked his studs down Stewy’s ribs.
And when was the last time we saw Boro taking the mick out of the table-toppers with “ole” ringing around the stadium at the sequences of passes and touches and back-heels as the team gleefully stroked it about nonchalently to the amusement of the crowd. I can’t remember.
**Apologies to anyone who has had problems calling up, reading or posting on the blog over the weekend. There was a technical glitch that meant new postings weren’t visible to many people, including me. It was, as our geeks explained “knacked.” Normal service is now resumed.


56 thoughts on “Wenger Boys Gunned Down

  1. AV – have you heard anything about a deal for Cattermole plus cash to Sheff U for Beattie?
    **AV writes: Wild speculation surely? Hasn’t everyone that counts said Beattie is going nowhere?

  2. John
    I watched the first half of the Rangers match and thought Cousin had a shocker. Poor control, dreadful passing. Just the chap!

  3. AV – yes, but this is the same Bryan Robson who said ‘I thought the lads did really well until Stoke scored’
    Stoke scored after 90 seconds on the way to a 3 – 0 win.

  4. Ian, John
    The Harry Redknapp quote about buying a Crotian player (I can not remember his name) comes to mind when you talk about Cousin.
    The agent said to Harry after the game ’10 million would not buy him after that performance’
    To which Harry replied ‘Yes and I’m one of them’

  5. Dear Simon Mitchel, Wheater’s comments about ‘running his guts out for 70 minutes’ are trying to tell the fans to keep shouting and push the team on all the way. NOT that the team deliberately give up after 70 mins.
    He is trying to create some symbiosis mate between the team and the fans. Okay it is a scripted clip but his commitment makes me believe him 100percent!
    As much as the team need to be confident for the full 90 so do the fans and express that vocally .[Arsenal match apart that is]
    Holly Juninho, That Arsenal match has made me sound like a GIBBO disciple…. I have seen the light!
    Up the BORO !!!!!
    PS Great news Fab Rock is not banned for the Derby match. Same team same performance. Continuity and consistency are the way forward.

  6. Ok the world has gone mad….i see today the boro are close to signing dica from Steau for 3.5 million ….omg!!!!! Being an expat living in bucharest i find this unbelievable….he is dreadful!!!!
    I see him everyweek on TV and he has not managed to learn to tie his shoelaces never mind the art of not being offside!!!! Which he is 40 times a game.
    What a joke and a total waste of money….if southgate see’s him as the answer the guy needs the asylum now!!! There are some fabulous players here but Dica is not one of them!!!!

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