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Reflections on a calm before the storm


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Quiet, isn?t it? No revelations about our owner (other than the Mirror?s feeble effort), our manager, our players (apart from ritual Lamps burning to rid the England midfield of its one resident top three world class player). Why should this be? Well, unless the British Press have decided to ease off our club out of shameful embarrassment (arguably as unbelievable as their storytelling) it can only be that there is some bizarre correlation between them finding muck to sling at us and the imminence of an important fixture.

The fact that a Rafa-small Norwich is next up, followed by the tinkling sound of Porto struggling to be heard over Barcelona?s symbolic clash with the Scousers, means we are left, scandal-wise, very much alone. I could get used to the serenity of it all, but know in my heart of hearts that it won?t last because recent results have conspired to gather like darkening clouds and pretty soon the Media will rain dance them down onto our parade?

The first few droplets came out of a blue and red Barca sky, as Samuel Eto?o supposedly bad mouthed a marvellous manager and his team (at least they were when Chelsea played them) thereby turning the Catalans into a club that is now in total disarray. And all this only days before the arrival of Benitez?s boys - what a coincidence that was!

Now, admittedly, it doesn?t take much, let alone a Constable, to paint Eto?o in a bad light, but, if it is done with disparaging brushstrokes, it?s a far cry from the affronted depiction of him after his first visit to the Bridge and the idolised one after his second. Each of these studies, drawn from the Media?s eternal anti-blue period, oozed positivism for Eto?o and his team mates, both in defeat and victory, and as he slips into truer focus prior to next week?s game, we are now seeing a complete reversal of Media characterisation. A feared predator is no longer referred to as such and negativity is the name of the game in a frantic attempt to destabilise the European Champions, with it all being done in the best possible haste to aid Liverpool?s cause.

We are also told that Ronaldinho is no longer the player he was and the infamous ?source close to the club? predicts a move for him in the summer, leaving a great space (or space for a Great) likely to be filled by that much loved anglophile Cristiano Ronaldo. Expect droplets to turn to a torrent of speculation on us next week as we are linked with massive bids for the unsettled troublemaker and a goofy one who can?t hack it anymore, but who will nevertheless snub us in favour of revitalising Italian football at AC Milan.

And all the while, squeezed in between what is bound to be two thunderous Stevie G performances, amidst squalid showers of diving and cheating by the Spaniards (can see it coming, can?t you?), will be the Carling Cup final and another flood of positive Press coverage for the ?Young Gunners?. There is, however, a silver lining to this cloud because even the BBC commentators are starting to count the number of foreign players in their line-ups and reports are beginning to filter through (at this stage in no more than a matter-of-fact tone, you understand) that it?s nearly always eleven.

Expect this mathematical revelation to be commented on for as long as the Arse stay in European competition and especially when Platini?s face appears over the top of a glitteringly starred directors box. Along with Frank Sinatra, I?ve got high, apple pie in the sky hopes that this little Frenchman is going to cause his fellow countryman a few sleepless nights in the coming seasons.

No restraint of trade and freedom of movement, pleads Le Proffessor! However, these are not rallying cries generally associated with the French, are they? - as any French farmer waving a placard will tell you. A volatile race they may be, but, come the Revolution, the French have a history of knowing that Might is usually Right and having the seat of power, in this case at UEFA, is of paramount importance. It could be such a shame for the all encompassing (sans technically flawed English, of course) Arsene - and just when David Dein had climbed onto his (less influential) G14 perch. The biggest storm of all won?t be in a teacup and maybe it?s only just around the corner.

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