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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Gervais of the Arsenal

After an exclusively non league season so far it felt strange to be heading up the Piccadilly Line to Arsenal and the heady world of the Premier League. A strange journey it seemed too for the Southampton fans in my carriage who were worried whether the train would be stopping at all stations and so missing the stop at Gillespie Road. Leaving the train I walked up the tunnel behind a Soccer! couple who enlightened me with the following conversation:
Woman: I don't actually know who we're playing today
Man: Neither do I, I don't know any of the players either
Emerging into the fresh air I saw the old adage about fools and money proved again as I followed a man in his 50s wearing a purple away shirt with Podolski 9 on the back. Grow up man! The rules of football merchandise are quite easy: adults should never wear replica kit unless actually engaged in sporting activity.  A scarf and woolly hat is permissible providing the temperature has fallen beneath 10 degrees celsius. Otherwise you run the risk of featuring in the hottest timeline on Twitter at the moment.
Most puzzling of all was the person sitting on my left wearing one of those split friendship scarves showing the colours of both teams. Rules are a bit different here: souvenirs scarves are permissible at a Cup Final with  details of the match but only the colours of one team.
Anyway onto the football and for the second Saturday in a row I saw a goal fest. Having lost in two winnable situations late on against Manchesters City and United, Southampton looked a bit more circumspect going forward but this only served to heap more pressure on their frail defence and it was no surprise when Arsenal took the lead, Lukas Podolski powering through the midfield having initially appeared to have lost the ball before laying a pass left to Kieran Gibbs whose return was bundled over the line by Jos Hooiveld. Podolski soon doubled the lead with the goal of the game, a free kick bent round the wrong side of the wall which left Kelvin Davis grasping thin air. With the Saints in disarray Gervinho collected Mikel Arteta's pass to charge at goal down the right wing beating the hapless Davis inside his near post. Gibbs then completed an usual double when another cross was diverted into the net for an own goal, this time by Nathaniel Clyne. At this stage I was seriously contemplating another 8-0 win but as half time approached Wojciech Szczesny decided to join in the fashion for defensive lapses by dropping a cross at the feet of Daniel Fox who fired the ball into the empty net.
This sparked something of a Southampton revival after the break but normal service was resumed with nineteen minutes to go when a superb piece of play by substitute Aaron Ramsey saw the Welshman turn his man and hare towards the byline where he squared the ball for Gervinho to add his second. The Ivorian departed soon after following the best performance I had seen from him in an Arsenal shirt. If you added his consistent wing play to Theo Walcott's pace you really would have a player. The programme revealed that Gervinho's real name is actually Gervais. I wish he would revert to it. It seems a suitable nod to the making of the Gunners in the 30s by Herbert Chapman.
Walcott himself scored the final goal picking up the loose ball after Thomas Vermaelen's shot was blocked. Speaking of the Belgian, it was impossible to see if he was wearing his captain's armband due to the blue band on the new Arsenal strip making it appear as if the entire team had entered into the kind of democratic Socratic experiment which the late bearded Brazilian embarked on at Corinthians in the early 80s.
The Southampton supporters reacted with little grace to their thrashing and it was a pity that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's last minute shot went narrowly past the wrong side of the post having been booed by some of the away fans throughout. Instead the Ox and Walcott showed real class at the end of the game by going over to applaud the followers of the club which gave them such a great foundation to their career.
Overall a good run out for Arsenal in a match trickily wedged between an international week and the first Champions League game. Aside from Gervais' performance the highlight was Per Mertesacker, so classy at the back and a real threat with his head from corners. Furthermore it was a million miles away from the last time I saw this fixture, a frustrating 1-0 win for Southampton at Highbury in a game where a young Niall Quinn faced the embarrassment of being substituted after he himself had come off the bench.

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