I recently made the move from Brisbane to Berlin to live meaning, among other things, a change in the environment with which I watch the Arsenal play.
For years my local stomping ground for watching Arsenal games has been the Pig ‘n’ Whistle but that has since changed to The Oscar Wilde Irish Pub . As the name would suggest, it is a typical Irish pub filled with English and Irish ex-pats who travel to Berlin for a party weekend, mixed with a handful of local Berliners and Europeans who have moved to Berlin permanently and want a place to watch English football.
One of the biggest gripes about watching football at the Pig ‘n’ Whistle was the number of Australians who, in a state of wanting to look cultured, would swear pointlessly at the big screen, bate opposing supporters in the pub or make nonsense statements like “we need to shoot more often from outside the box”. It got a bit tedious from time to time despite a huge number of fellow Arsenal fans, many of which I now call my friends, making the experience worthwhile.
Since my move to Berlin I have watched Arsenal play at The Oscar four times. Each time the games have been different and each time the people watching the game in the pub have been different. But I have noticed one thing that remains constant: the fans from the UK seem to have a bloody hard time enjoying an Arsenal game. In fact, it seems they simply don’t know how to enjoy an Arsenal game.
Arsenal beat Bolton 4-1 on Saturday. 4-1. That’s four goals to one goal. But judging from the mood of the Arsenal fans at The Oscar, you would have thought the goal Bolton scored was worth five.
The worst culprit was a young Arsenal supporter, watching with his much more polite and intelligent friend, who yelled expletives at every misguided pass, berated Andrey Arshavin for failing to score twice and, get this, whacked a coaster holder onto the floor when Bolton scored their equaliser. His half-time analysis consisted of statements like “our defence is sh*t, why couldn’t Wenger buy better defenders”.
Inevitably he was more than happy to cheer like a loony when Chamakh, Song and Vela scored the goals that saw off a very physical Bolton side, but by then the damage had been done. He and a host of others in the pub had created such a foul mood while the game was up for grabs that I was almost disappointed to see them get the opportunity to be happy.
Of course with every cloud there is a silver lining and at The Oscar on Saturday that came in the form of Julien, an intelligent and engaging Frenchman who thoroughly enjoyed the game and took particular enjoyment from the performances of Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky.
As for the game itself, there was so much to be happy about.
As Julien cleverly observed the combination between Cesc and Rosicky was superb and as much as it sounds cliched, with the Czech man in this sort of form it is like having two Cescs.
Sebastien Squillaci had a great debut, both defensively and with the ball at his feet, and his partner at the back Koscielny impressed again. The “Bolton’s-goals-are-worth-five-goals” supporters will point to his mistake for the equaliser but for me the more important thing was his reaction to his error and just as at Blackburn, it was positive.
There is something particularly endearing about Koscielny. He plays with a smile and despite an incredible rise to prominence does not give off the vibe of being the least bit overwhelmed. In his on-field half-time chat with Manuel Almunia, just ten minutes after gifting Bolton their equaliser he looked happy and relaxed, a man so far away from the error as if to have forgotten it. Leaving aside his undoubted ability to anticipate opposition passes (he made 9 interceptions on Saturday), Koscielny’s cool temperament appears to be his best attribute.
The biggest negative of the game was undoubtedly Paul Robinson’s tackle on Abou Diaby, which forced the substitute to be substituted and will likely see him out of the game for at least a few weeks. How Robinson got away with the tackle is anyone’s guess: it was absolutely horrible and Diaby is so, so lucky not to have broken his leg. That he wanted to get up and deck Robinson was completely understandable. That Match of the Day failed to show the incident in their coverage was not.
At the end of the day Arsenal won this game 4-1 and that is as convincing a victory as anyone posted in the Premier League over the weekend. We are currently sitting second on the table, two points behind Chelsea and two points ahead of Manchester United. Interestingly, just one point behind them are mighty Blackpool whose 6-0 loss at The Emirates has been their only defeat since gaining promotion.
Injuries aside things are going very well indeed for Arsenal. But you wouldn’t know it at The Oscar.
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