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Monday 25 April 2011

Least They Shoot Horses!

Considering the scenes of an increasingly tormented Arsène Wenger, writhing in anguish on the touchline these past few weeks, I’m sure if he was a four-legged filly someone would’ve felt it an act of kindness to put him out of his misery! With each passing week and the recent catalogue of lapses in concentration that have proved so costly, our manager has looked more and more as if he’s buckling under the weight of his responsibility for the Arsenal buck.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only Gooner at the Reebok wishing someone would put me out of my misery, before another depressingly long schlep back to North London. As has been the case these past half-dozen seasons, on thinking about this post mortem of our dead parrot of a season on my way home, it occurred to me that it would probably go unnoticed if I forwarded a previous piece from the penultimate month of any of the past few seasons, as quite frankly it’s been said so many times before that the needle playing this particular broken record has been ground right down.

It’s not exactly rocket science. You only had to look at the Gunners reaction to going 0-1 down just before the break, to fully appreciate the crucial missing ingredient amongst Arsène's talented troops. The worse thing is that , there are at long last some signs of those staunch, game-winning character traits in the likes of Wilshere and Sczczny.

Yet watching the Gunners trudging back to the halfway line to restart the game on Sunday, with no-one turning to shake their fist at their team-mates, to demand that defeat to Bolton was unacceptable and in fact absolutely no communication amongst the players whatsoever, I worry that with no big personalities on the pitch to encourage these youngsters, the flowers of their fervor will be defoliated, before they’ve ever had an opportunity to truly blossom. How long can such kids be expected to want to sweat blood for the Arsenal’s cause, when the more phlegmatic demeanour of some of their much higher salaried colleagues suggests it doesn’t matter nearly enough?

Masochist that I am, I arrived home to watch a replay of the highlights on the box and for a brief moment it seemed extremely thoughtful of the BBC’s program announcer to issue a Gooner related warning “Scenes which some viewers may find disturbing and some strong language…tragedy unites a club and its community”. But then I realized I’d rewound the Sky gadget all the way back to the beginning of the drama about the Munich air disaster that was on just before. Nevertheless, such a “heads-up” was no less appropriate, as supporting the Arsenal has begun to feel like being stuck in an eternal loop of M. Night Shymalan horror movies, with the same plot, blood & gore and the same inevitable tragic ending.

Don’t get me wrong, unlike some of our more splenetic supporters, I’m not an advocate for wholesale change. I don’t know about all those whose seats at the Emirates cost several thousand more, but at a 1000 quid my season ticket seems blinding value for a guaranteed pitch to watch some of the best footballing entertainment on the planet. All, or nearly all the ingredients are there for great football, but we continue to lack the crucial catalyst of genuine leadership that inspires the camaraderie of a truly great “team”. I have to laugh these days at our pre-match hugging ritual and its transparent insincerity, amongst a side that still hasn’t discovered that rapacious, run till you drop ability to fight for one another.

Aside from our on pitch frailties - the absence of some sergeant-major who could drill our defence to the point where they’d be terrified to show their face in the dressing room, if they failed to mark touch-tight and our incredibly frustrating reluctance to take responsibility in front of goal, when instead of attempting to welly it into the net, we opt for yet another, infernal, far more awkward slide-rule pass - it’s off the pitch where our complacent satisfaction with our proximity to success, which seems to pervade the club.

When it comes to a miserable lap of dishonour at the last home game of the season, does a board which seems to focus more on the business of football than the football itself (with their willingness to spend more on Club Level refurbishment than in the transfer market) really believe we Gooners will be raising the rafters chanting “we all love our sustainable business model”?

To end on a more cheerful note, the back of this particular camel broke on my arrival home from blowing a two-goal lead in the midweek Derby match, with the straw (must’ve been the one le Gaffer wasn’t clutching at!) of discovering I’d dropped my iPhone outside White Hart Lane. No sooner had I hung up from calling to request the phone be blocked, than my Ma was on the phone. Someone had found my phone and called “Mum” in my contacts. Apparently, on seeing my Arsenal screensaver, the lad who picked it up had said “it belongs to a Gooner, we better give it back”. The odds of it being picked up by a fellow Arsenal fan (and an honest one at that!), amongst 30,000 of the enemy were incredibly long.

Such honesty deserves far greater reward than the validation of another fruitless season up at Bolton. As much as I’d hate to gift the title to the Blues, now it’s utterly meaningless as far as the Gunners are concerned, doubtless young Zak will get his just deserts when we stuff Man Utd on Sunday?
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Anonymous said...

Time to be heard....