Arsenal fans must sometimes be shocked to realise that they have real, actual lives to balance with the clusterfuck of unpredictability that is their team’s football season. I was certainly shocked to learn last week that people expected me to do other things than sit and swear in front of the telly; and have consequently been able to take breath a grand total of five times in the last few days as real life caught up.
But Arsenal matches have been going on regardless of petty things like life, and my army of Times New Roman soldiers will now dutifully charge towards the trenches of LadyArse in an attempt to spread impulsive knowledge and outlandish hyperbole. Forward, men!
Buck up Djourou
I’m not going to describe the Blackburn or Shrewsbury matches in any great detail, but both of those matches just reinforced a very worrying fact viz. Johan Djourou seems to be having problems.
I can’t put my finger on the exact time that he started acting jittery; his partnership with Koscielny was quite imperious from Christmas till March last season and held us in good stead in matches against Chelsea, Barcelona and the like. He was so calm at the back, preferring to play the ball out of defence at all times, beating many an attacker with a shimmy or fake before sending it forward to Wilshere and co. The erstwhile midfielder in him was still fairly comfortable, as was evident in his distribution and occasional runs forward.
The first time I noticed a wobble in his assured step was against Bolton last season, a 2-1 loss where Djourou frankly had a shocker. He was beaten to many headers, gave away a very untidy penalty after being schooled by some Bolton player I can’t recall, and I think he was the one partially culpable for Bolton’s winner as well. The time he spent on the ball, which hitherto seemed like an unruffled defender taking stock of the situation, now felt like wound-up dynamite ticking away. The shimmies and fakes soon lost their confidence and effectiveness. There have been quite a few games where Djourou looks like a Swiss deer caught in headlights of incoming attackers, and the one thing our defence doesn’t need is more panic.
It’s quite a conundrum as to how he’ll get his form back though. The only way to get back into the groove is via more game-time, and more game-time means more time spent staring terrifyingly at headlight-centre-forwards. A vicious circle of there ever was one. The Carling Cup can provide an avenue for him, but his first half performance against Shrewsbury left much to be desired.
Expecting last season’s Terminator Djourou would perhaps be too much, but I do hope he at least settles in some sort of equilibrium soon. Average Joe performances I can stomach, but if he has any more clangers, then (whisper it, whisper it) I think we may need to consider pushing Squillaci up the order.
Yes, for reals.
I’ve often called news reporters and media people the filthiest names under the Sun, names that would make Cartman look up from his packet of cheesy poofs and say ‘Dearie me’; but in the cold light of day, online tabloids and journo hacks are bound by the need for more hits and sustained traffic. It’s a need that is kind of justified in today’s dog-eat-dog world, but this race for more viewers has resulted in honest journalism falling a bit by the wayside and its place being taken up by hatchet jobs and sustained one-team attacks.
When a team X is in trouble, the standard Internet user is more likely to type ‘X crisis bollocks lose nuclear EXPLOSION!!’ on his Google excursions than not. And that is what your Daily Mails, Suns and Caught Offsides cater to. Even though Arsenal’s attendance versus Shrewsbury was the highest in the Carling Cup third round and in fact higher than what Man City managed to pull for their Champions League game against Napoli, one customary post-game search yielded a swarm of articles bemoaning Arsenal’s ‘shockingly low’ crowd pulling capability, growing disillusionment among fans, photoshopped pictures showing Wenger laughing maniacally in a straitjacket…you get the drift.
It’s quite an interesting situation. Arsenal play poorly, fans are disappointed. Fans read reports of the game and opinion columns by supposed plutocrats that so unerringly reinforce and magnify the flaws in the team, backroom staff, medical team, groundsmen and mascots that the disappointment only worsens and, in some cases, spirals into anger. It’s a cascade of Catch-22s that result in utter confusion. Is Alan Hansen saying your team is shit because your team is shit, or are you led into thinking your team is shit *because* Alan Hansen says it’s shit?
Case in point: am I the only one who thought there was actually some contact when Gervinho ‘dived’ against Newcastle? I’m not saying he was bulldozed or anything, the contact was definitely very light and his fall bordered on simulation, but no worse than what we see virtually every game now. I’m seeing the replay again, and there is contact before the Ivorian goes down. If I can see it, then Sky Sports can definitely see it, but the only news articles around are about how Barton rejected Arsenal advances because of the ‘Gervinho incident’. People don’t want to hear about ‘good Arsenal’ so why should the media write about it? When Owen Coyle backs Wenger, the headlines become ‘Owen Coyle surprisingly defends under-fire Arsenal manager’. There is selective blindness, it’s the way of the world, it doesn’t happen only to our club (No it doesn’t. Different clubs have their crisis periods at different times and that’s when the hyenas of the pen duly pounce) but we have to learn to circumvent it.
Bolton game next. All I’d say is, believe in what you see on the pitch. Take all match reports with pinches of salt, including mine. Especially mine.
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