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Monday 4 April 2011

A Sad Sunset On Yet Another Unrequited Season

I fully appreciate that there can be no condoning Wayne Rooney’s outburst to camera at Upton Park on Saturday because kids everywhere will doubtless end up imitating the angry little gurrier. Nevertheless, I have to admit, what I wouldn’t give for just a soupcon of the same raging intensity from some of the Gunners.

More than likely it should be his manager apologizing, as I can picture Man Utd’s master manipulator, pulling his striker’s strings at half-time, sending Rooney out after the break, hell bent on sticking it to his detractors, thereby almost singlehandedly salvaging Utd’s monopolization of the table’s summit.

Considering it’s always felt such a fanciful proposition that a paper-thin Arsenal squad and perhaps the most mercurial and erratic image of the Wenger vision was on the verge of ending our barren run, by bringing home the Premiership bacon, it perhaps wasn’t so surprising to see the good ship Gooner finally holed below the waterline, in a home game against Blackburn.

I had my feet up on the couch on Saturday morning, enjoying the coverage of the cricket World Cup Final. In light of what transpired, I kind of wish I hadn’t bothered turning over to have my chain yanked, with hope springing eternal when the Hammers took a two-goal lead against Man Utd at Upton Park. But being all too familiar with their own team’s frailties, even the Irons fans would’ve bitten your hand off for a draw at this stage and what followed was the inevitable wind up of West Ham’s second-half capitulation.

It was tiresome enough watching on TV as Man U displayed the sort of game-saving determination, which Fergie’s sides seem to be able to reproduce perennially, when it comes to dragging themselves over the Premiership finishing line. But it might’ve proved a far more leisurely and less irritating afternoon all round, if I’d ignored the football entirely and lingered to savour the vicarious thrill of the climax to events in Mumbai, instead of trotting around to the Emirates, only to endure yet another disappointing reaffirmation of the Arsenal’s inability to do likewise.

It didn’t exactly augur well when it all went tits up at the Boleyn and pessimist that I am, after such a disappointing turn of events, I half expected the game against Blackburn to be a point-dropping banana skin. Despondency is beginning to feel like that unwelcome Gooner relative, who insists on making an appearance at every family function. Sadly we’ve grown all too familiar with this party-pooping guest in recent times and thus we’re well accustomed to coping with our annual failures.

However it would’ve been far easier to accept if fate had dealt us another bum steer. But what really left me baffled was that we were once again the masters of our own misfortune and I must’ve been powered home by the steam venting through my lugholes, positively boiling over with Rooney-like indignation at the Gunners abject failure to throw the kitchen sink at Rovers.

Ignoring the fact that we’ve stumbled our way through the season (along with all those other clubs who’s managers might’ve benefited from the aid of a guide dog!), we rocked up on Saturday in the knowledge that we’d somehow arrived on the kerbstone of greatness, only nine wins away from this squad carving their names in Gooner hearts by inscribing their very own page in the history books.

With the competition still fighting on various fronts, my only demand was that we witness the blinkered, “eye on the prize” focus that demonstrated an appreciation of sort of desire and fervour necessary, to take that one big step towards a trophy. It seems Arsène was no less flummoxed and for once our Emperor had the good grace to appear in front of the cameras and finally admit to his stark-bollock nakedness. But for all his erudition, football is not rocket-science.

Saturday was the 10th anniversary of Rocky Rocastle’s tragic departure from this mortal coil. Staring up at the banner hanging from Club Level to honor our heroic no. 7, you couldn’t have wanted for a more stark reminder of the sort match winning personality that’s sorely missing in the current squad. Rocky and various other stars of that same vintage would’ve spent the entire game cajoling and encouraging their colleagues, constantly reminding each other of the prize they were playing for.

Contrast this to a complete lack of communication amongst our current squad and an absence of leadership that leaves our youngest prodigy shouldering the greatest burden of responsibility. The not so golden silence is such that I’d even be grateful to have uber-lieutenant Lehmann out there barking orders from the back.

It’s scant solace to read in the programme that our new Club Level restaurants are up for some design awards, when the money might’ve been better spent on preventing the implosion currently taking place on the pitch. Still if all else fails, at least I’ll be travelling North this weekend with the comfort of knowing that whatever transpires against the Tangerines, we intend to tarry for a few days to pleasure ourselves on Blackpool’s famous beach. Never mind the crowds, heaven forfend Tottenham triumph against Madrid, at least I’ll be far from the maddening taunts of my Spurs mates.

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Uncle Mike said...

As an American raised to think 1-0 was, in this sport, considered an offensive outburst, I was very late to the party when it came to accepting the world's game. And, as a result, I didn't know David Rocastle was alive until well after he was dead. But it says something about the current club that a man who's now been dead for 10 years was a more inspirational figure on Saturday than some of the men actually on the field. In some cases, he was even more lifelike.

If Wenger is perplexed, he needs to take a page from the great American football coach Vince Lombardi and tell his men, "We may not win, but we will not be losing with the same people." Let them all think their jobs are on the line if they keep performing this badly. He is not a heartless martinet, the way Bertie Mee and George Graham proved they could be. Maybe it's time.