Friday, 26 October 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Game With QPR Previewed

Usually when I preview Arsenal games I go into possible team selection as well as looking at what the opposition might have to offer. I'll do that in today's blog but I'm also going to look at what it takes for me to get to Arsenal on one of the few occasions I manage to do so each season.

My journey starts with logging on to the Arsenal web site one month before the date of the game to try to get a ticket with my red membership. Tickets aren't quite so difficult to get these days since the move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium and the recent trophy drought. I usually pick a category B or C game to make sure the tickets can be bought.

Once I've bought my ticket I'll book the flights immediately and my first option is always the flight from Dublin to Heathrow with Aer Lingus. When that costs too much I have to opt for the Ryan Air alternative and a flight to Stanstead. It means a rather expensive train journey when I land, but it can be an awful lot cheaper to fly with Ryan Air sometimes.

The next step is to let the other Arsenal fans I'm traveling with know what flight I'm on so we can travel together. The next step is to book a hotel and try to get one at a good price relatively handy to get to after the match. I've stayed as close as Finsbiry Park and as far away as Heathrow on various occasions.

A couple of days before the flight the boarding passes need to be printed if it's Ryan Air or we can print them at the airport with Aer Lingus. An early night is usually needed the night before with a very early start to follow. That's a plan which rarely works as either life or plain old excitement at the thought of the trip usually get in the way.


This time I'm up at five in the morning to walk to the village and get the Air Coach outside my local pub. There's a one hour trip to the airport followed by the somewhat outdated facilities in terminal one which Ryan Air now frequent. It can take a while to get through security and usually there is very little time to spare in terminal one.

The flight takes off just after eight in the morning and an hour later it lands somewhere not too near to London. A ticket for the train costs a little less on the plane so I usually buy it there. The journey from Stanstead to Liverpool Street in London takes a little less than an hour and we should be there somewhere between 10 or 11 in the morning.

We quickly buy a day pass for the tube and make our way underground to North London. A spot of breakfast usually follows in some local greasy spoon for some soakage.The next stop is the club shop where match day programmes have to be bought for those not lucky enough to make the trip.

I usually buy a new Arsenal top for myself and maybe a trinket or two if they take my fancy. From the club shop we stroll to one of the local hostelries where we indulge in the customary pre-match practice of a drink or maybe even two.

We meet Arsenal fans from all corners of the world, but mostly from London. The current form of the team is usually the main topic of conversation as well as the chances for the game that day. There are always great stories to be heard of trips to away matches by those lucky enough to see Arsenal every week.

With our tonsils suitably lubricated it's off to the stadium with enough time to spare to buy a foot long hot dog there. Bladders are emptied before the seats are taken and the important business of supporting Arsenal begins. There are very few better feelings than standing next to your seat to profess your dislike of Spurs.

The game goes by so quickly that it seems like half time arrives within a few short minutes. Another trip to the men's room at half time is followed by 45 more minutes of Arsenal. I'm lucky enough to have never witnessed an Arsenal defeat in my many trips to see them play so far.

The emotions felt at home are multiplied when you're in the stadium and I'm usually hoarse from singing and shouting by full time. A win for Arsenal always makes things seem so much better and hopefully QPR will go by the wayside today.

When the match is over it's back to the pub and more great chat and drinks of course as we discuss the game and the merits of the current players. At some stage food will have to enter the equation before we eventually head back to the hotel for a very late check in. If we're lucky we might get six hours sleep but at least the clocks going back will add an hour to our sleep.

Then it's time for a quick breakfast before making the return trip to the airport via tube and railway. There's another wait in Stanstead as well as the annoying security to pass through with my head more than likely thumping from the night and day before. Finally we will be airborne just before 10 in the morning and on our way home.

It's an expensive business supporting Arsenal from afar although Ireland isn't too far away. The trip costs almost €300 before a penny has been spent on refreshments or club merchandise. My social life in Dublin may suffer as a result of lack of funds thanks to trips to Arsenal, but it's a small price to pay.

As for the game itself it is a real must win game for Arsenal with them 10 points behind the Premier League leaders already. There aren't too many options for Arsene Wenger if he's looking to change the team around as he waits for players to return from injury. The team that have looked jaded and short of inspiration in the last two games will be called upon to find reserves from somewhere.

I hope Olivier Giroud gets to play from the start as I just cannot see the point in Gervinho playing as a central striker despite being Arsenal's top scorer so far this season. If the players can raise their game above the levels shown against Norwich and Schalke they should be good enough to beat the bottom team in the league. QPR haven't won a game yet and have only managed three points in eight games.

They have found it difficult to score goals and Arsenal have the joint best defence in the league. Arsenal's problem has been scoring themselves except for the six they put past Southampton. They have drawn a blank in three of their eight games so far and they have to start creating more chances.

I think they are slowing things down too much and their seem to take the safe option far too often. I'm all for passing football but at times players have to be taken on to create space. Arsenal don't have enough space to work in when they enter the final third of the pitch and they need to find some.

An injection of pace into their passing and play is needed to make opponents work harder. Who the players are to do that is another matter but the boss has to see what players have the right energy levels to contribute enough.

I hope Arsenal can score the first goal because it could be a long hard afternoon if QPR get it. Ideally an early goal would open the game up and give Arsenal a chance to get in behind QPR.

I'm predicting a hard fought 2-1 victory for Arsenal against a QPR team who might be bottom of the table but have proved to be tough to beat. They were stuffed in the first game but all of their games since then have been very close.

Whatever the outcome I'm sure I'll have a great time and meet some of the best fans in the world.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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