It’s almost as if the BITS-Pilani internet connection foresaw it with mystic eyes. As soon as the Arsenal-Manchester United match shuffled to its conclusion, after all three goals, missed chances, TheSubstitution™ and ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’, the World Wide Web gave notice and discreetly left the premises of my college for days on end. To this effect, I was spared from engaging in any virtual swordfights in the after-party as AKBs feasted on WOBs flesh, and Wenger-detractor gutted Wenger-defendant with many-a-machete. As I arrive now, later than Freddie Ljungberg into the box, I find a house cracked and divided and digging into each other’s throats, Edward-Cullen style. Stop for a minute and gather round, for I am scattering pearls of astuteness and understanding. Or exercising the word processor at any rate.
Planting derrieres on fences
I realize that, owing to my arriving at the post-United shindig sinfully behind schedule, anything that I say here will be lumped into the ‘Already heard it’ category. But blogging duties dictate that I form some sort of opinion on this matter, so I shall patiently bear all ‘Ho, hum’ noises coming my way and have at it.
I didn’t like TheSubstitution™ when it came. On the face of it, replacing your best performer on the night and one of the few players who looked likely to win us the game, with an erstwhile consistent performer who now wears the look of a despondent gas giant, looked like a strange decision. Wenger said later that Chamberlain had felt his calf and was tiring, yet iron-clad eye-witness reports from the stadium deny having seen any physical letting up from the English teenager. This eccentric decision, coupled with Ferguson’s rebuttal substitution of bringing Park on a mere six minutes later, resulted in their winning goal with Arshavin left flailing like a failed Russian gymnast as Valencia glided past.
Having said all this, casting an unbiased eye over the post-match pyrotechnics from Arsenal fans leaves one with a tinge of embarrassment and no small amount of frustration. A newcomer to football would have been forgiven if he thought Arshavin had come on, jiggled his way past Koscielny and Mertesacker, gone in between Szczesny’s legs and tapped the ball into the Arsenal net. Everyone agrees that he didn’t cover himself in glory for the goal, but what I find surprising is the air of obviousness that abounds when people talk about how Chamberlain would have tracked back. He wouldn’t have. He didn’t do much tracking back anyways, and would have been instructed to remain forward for the last twenty minutes of the match. One also must acknowledge Vermaelen going AWOL as Valencia marauded through, and Koscielny and Mertesacker being caught out of position. TheSubstitution™ decreased our chances of getting a winner, but it didn’t enhance the chances of their scoring as much as online bullies would have you believe. That goal was a product of collective ineptitude rather than a single Russian’s laxity.
Tim Stillman, sensible man that he is, speaks about sizable dollops of grey area in between the extremes of black and white; and he’s right. Going berserk over something like a substitution and calling for the manager’s head doesn’t reflect well on you, and the fan-base as a whole. You were probably one of the people doing this when Chamberlain was signed. At the same time, thinking that the manager is impervious to all criticism while threatening the fan-base to forever ‘Support, support, support!’ or risk being labeled a disgrace is equally ill-advised. Sometimes, it’s better to plant your behind firmly on the fence and consign incidents to being just incidents, with both valid reasons and unforeseen repercussions.
Don’t trust in Arsene if you don’t want to; but at least mistrust in him for the right reasons. Not over one sub gone wrong.
Trophies in future tenses
David versus Goliath…giant-killings…minnows….form book goes out of the window…magic of the Cup…bleh. As the cliché machine goes into overdrive with the imminence of the FA Cup fourth round, I wish Arsenal had seen more magic in the Cup over the past few years. We’ve been to one semi-final, beaten Liverpool at Anfield, fluked our way very satisfyingly past Hull, but the FA Cup memory that stands out clearest is Henry rising like a French phoenix to side-foot home against Leeds in the third round this year. Now, poignant moment as that was, Arsenal deserve to have more moments worthy of remembrance than a third round victory over Yorkshire giants of yesteryear.
Our lukewarm runs in this competition have been borne mostly out of our ‘don’t-give-a-fuck’ attitude. We invariably have bigger fish to fry when January arrives, only for every cod, trout and salmon to flick us an indifferent finger by April and slither away. The situation is hardly different this year, with the fourth place carrot occupying most of Arsene’s cranium-space. Rightfully so, I realize. However, a trophy would be an immeasurable fillip to this side; it will stop our fans sucking blood from each other’s necklines, it will sow seeds of optimism for the future and it will hopefully help keep this core of players together for a while.
Villa give me the willies. We’ve managed to beat them one solitary time at the Emirates, the remaining encounters being tests in patience and lessons in counter-attacking. They’ll be without N’Zogbia, but have enough nippy wingers regardless to keep our makeshift full-backs interested. We have a couple of players returning ourselves, the nascent stages of a mass-arrival of LANS candidates. I doubt it will be ‘like a cup final’ or ‘the biggest day of their lives’ for either team, but it would be nice to win a trophy.
Or get a few more memories at least.
This post also appeared on BigFourZa------------
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