The league table never lies. The Gunners are marooned in the doldrums of 10th place because based on our recent run of dreadfully pallid displays, that’s exactly where we deserve to be. Most disconcerting is that where in the past there’s always been promise aplenty of better to come, in a calibre of player capable of putting wind in our sails and breathing some life back into our season, there appears to be a lamentable level of apathy, arrogance and a basic lack of quality amongst our current incumbents. Thus it’s hard to envisage exactly where the inspiration is going to come from, for a resurrection from mid-table mediocrity, no matter how Arsène shuffles our current pack.
I’m unsure if opponents have sussed out that the Arsenal’s passing clock cannot tick, so long as they apply sufficient pressure upon the mainspring of Miguel Arteta. Or if we simply can’t afford to carry passengers like Gervinho and Podolski, leaving only 8 outfield players frustratingly, flailing in vain for incisive creativity, against the far more integrated likes of Laudrup’s Swans. At times during the first-half on Saturday, the Gunners’ laboured impotence compared to our guests’ elegant fluidity, was so embarrassing that many of the tourists might’ve been forgiven for thinking that the teams had already swapped shirts.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and on the day of a relatively unimpressive “We Want Our Arsenal Back” protest march (exactly which Arsenal…the dour doctrine of George Graham, Terry Neill’s single FA Cup in 7 seasons?), it was somewhat ironic that Swansea should turn up, to remind us of the graceful geometery of an artistic passing game that was previously responsible for making the Gunners the preferred choice of viewing for all aficionados of the beautiful game.
It always infuriates me when Arsène’s post-match mitigation includes the “physically jaded” absolution for such lifeless dross. With 60% of the season still to come, Swansea showed no signs of tiredness. Fatigue is so rarely a factor for teams buoyed by success that surely it’s obvious this is a mental issue. Moreover, by pointing out our players’ proximity to his fabled “red zone” and reiterating this in the media, the problem becomes self-perpetuating, as le Gaffer gives them license to perform as expected.
Mercifully we discovered sufficient energy second half to muster some attacking threat, but we were devoid of momentum during the first forty-five. Our limited time in possession was solely dedicated to passing the ball sideways and backwards. No-one was willing to take the opposition on, as we sat back, waiting for Swans to part, like the waters of the Red Sea and present us with an open invitation to approach their goal. After all, why should we tax ourselves further, when our lord & master is waiting in the wings with a ready-made excuse?
Our squad should be forced to join my stage crew for two shows in the theatre on a Saturday, followed by an all-night changeover, for a taste of real exhaustion. In return for the obscene rewards these fit young footballers receive, I really don’t think it’s unfair of us to demand that they bust their balls for 90 minutes a couple of times a week.
Yet no matter how badly we perform, the Gunners are “my” bad and I don’t hold with booing our own. Instead I stood to begrudgingly applauding the Swans at the final whistle. Sadly their slick, stylish performance only served to highlight quite how far we’ve fallen from this perch, as a result of the year, on year decline in our squad (and we’ve got to do it all over again with Swansea, but at their place in the FA Cup!).
However football has and always will be cyclical and most fans only have their memories, or their fantasies of mere fleeting moments of glory, to tide them over endless seasons of forbearance. The Gooner contingent amongst those fickle modern footie fans who demand instant gratification, can’t comprehend the fact that we are now paying our dues, for having savoured such a gratifying period of the most entertaining brand of the beautiful game that it has ever been my privilege to witness these past 40 years and which was the envy of football lovers everywhere.
It’s only because Arsène set this bar so high that the likes of the Black Scarf Movement are throwing their toys out of the pram now (frankly I’ve yet to even see a black scarf at an Arsenal match!). They mask their anger in rants about the corporatization of our beloved club. Yet in truth football is all about results and if this Arsenal side is ever going to be capable of stringing a run together, you can be sure it would silence all such white noise.
I don’t disagree with some of BSM’s basic tenets, but I’m not about to join them pissing in the wind. So long as there remains umpteen thousands waiting to grab our season tickets, as ever, the board will continue to pay the same token lip-service to our wishes. Besides, how many of those marching on Saturday in favour of a seat on the board for Red & White holdings, were also amongst the “Love Arsenal, Hate Usmanov” sheep, protesting back in 2007 against accepting the Uzbek’s ill gotten gains?
As much as I might despise it, football is big business nowadays and we might as well be protesting against the invention of the wheel. Sadly there is no going back to shanks’ pony, no matter how cuddly and intimate life was back at Highbury, compared to the cold, clinical machinations of the corporate behemoth that has become of our club.
Here’s hoping the weather in Athens is better, as I’m not particularly optimistic about the footie!
e-mail to: londonN5@gmail.com