Background info: It had been two weeks since the birth of a pretty nondescript baby with an off-centre nose and the nascent signs of an irritating smirk on its face. The father took it awkwardly in his arms and said, ‘We shall christen him Nickspinkboots’. The mother was too pumped up on Novocain to see sense, and she agreed.
Scene: A hospital with those depressingly coloured green walls, sterile linoleum and nurses who look nothing like the nurses in Internet videos. One such nurse who looked nothing like the nurses in Internet videos came out of the operation theatre to a nervously pacing parental duo.
“I’m afraid things are quite hairy in there,” she said.
“What seems to be the problem? How is little Nicks?” the mother asked anxiously.
“It seems like his small intestine didn’t like the look of his large intestine. Harsh words were spoken, a fight was picked and they’re tangled up like anything now,” the nurse quipped.
“What are his chances?” the father asked.
“Bleak. You should seriously come and look at the total bedlam in his guts; it’s like the opposition penalty box during a Stoke throw-in. If I were a betting sort of nurse, I’d put my house and mortgage on little Nicks snuffing it before the end of the day.”
“Bummer,” the father said, and started checking the latest betting odds.
“Bummer,” the mother said, enthusiastically breaking her bangles.
As it turns out, the nurse’s betting intuition was off-kilter. I don’t know whether the situation got better because of dexterous surgery, fervent prayers or horse placenta; but my small and large intestines made their peace and seamlessly parted like the seas before Moses to leave me alive and well in my pink-booted glory. The nose is now so off-centre that it’s practically an ear, the smirk is all but permanent, and my readers are cursing the injustice of fine margins.
Arsenal’s resurgence this season mirrors mine in some ways- they’ve gone from almost biting the bullet to existing harmlessly but not really being a bee in any rival’s bonnet. August and September were like months from a parody season, with Joey Barton being the good guy, Man United playing FIFA 11 on semi-pro with us at Old Trafford, Arsenal scoring five goals in a 4-3 loss and our knights of the injury-roundtable being in full attendance. There was a procession of broken online bangles and hissy fits thrown on twitter, protest marches, unfurling ‘Arsene Out’ banners and getting used to sausages were all seriously considered, our goal difference looked like my test marks, it was parody season in full force.
A heartening upsurge in October since then has seen things stabilise somewhat, nine victories in eleven games seeing us through to the quarter finals of the Carling Cup, top of our Champions League group and making the journey from the abyss of relegation places to the plateau of seventh spot. The run has taken an expected route, with jittery and contained victories against Sunderland, Stoke and Marseille slowly making way for more convincing wins against Chelsea and West Brom. Unlike my mysterious improvement from knackered intestines though, I think we can pin-point the reasons for Arsenal’s good form of late. I think the two most pertinent ones are continuity and easier oppositions on paper.
After this summer’s cuckoo transfer window, a parody summer to match this parody season if there ever was one, it was always going to take time for the new boys to gel in with each other. Some confusion before cohesion was expected, perhaps not to the degree which we got to see, but still. And with a constant midfield trio of Ramsey, Song and Arteta feeding a mostly constant frontline of van Persie, Walcott and Gervinho, each player is learning to anticipate how the others think and move, pass or fall down accordingly. The book of superlatives has already given up trying to describe van Persie’s form, but Ramsey, Song and Gervinho have been mightily impressive over the past few games as well. Arteta has been playing a more shielding role than he would perhaps like, but we saw quality when the shackles momentarily came loose against West Brom.
While continuity obviously improves things over time, most of the teams we’ve faced over the past ten games haven’t been world-beaters. Barring Chelsea, the lion’s share of our matches have been at home, and we’ve had the rub of the green a few times. But this was exactly the sort of run an out-of-form team needed, an under-the-carpet run that goes unnoticed by most but does great good to the team in question.
The international break definitely came at the wrong time (it always does) as the players now jet off to various corners of the globe to play whatever friendly that means the square root of fuckall to most people. The run of matches after the break also seems very much within our grasp, starting with Norwich away. If Arsenal continue to graft and sweat and keep within reach of the top boys till February, it’s anybody’s game.
It’s premature to say that Arsenal are back. But the heart rate monitor, hitherto stagnant, is surely flickering. So here’s keeping fingers crossed to ward away any intestinal cock-ups that may bring the flickering to a halt.
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