An elderly uncle passed away on Saturday and following several decades of familial animosity, I really didn’t fancy attending the funeral, for fear of forgetting exactly who it was that we were, or were not speaking to! Nevertheless, after enduring the torture of our humiliation at Old Trafford a few months back, the news of his imminent internment on Sunday actually left me contemplating whether a trip to the cemetery might prove less traumatic than another afternoon riding the Arsenal’s emotional roller-coaster.
Surely it wasn’t merely the prospect of missing out on my Ian Wright (lamb stew) Pie that swung this insensitive decision, even with the latest addition of Liam Brady Tatties (in red wine gravy) to the Piebury Corner menu? Then again, ever since the last of our full-backs went on the missing list, I’ve been heading around to most matches feeling far more enthusiastic about these pre-match culinary pleasures than I have for the prospects of a home win, with our recent harum-scarum rearguard.
Thus I was teasing my sister about the fact that she alone would have to “represent” at the funeral, whilst at the same time expressing my reservations about giving a first airing to this chi-chi Arsenal watch that she’d given me for my 50th birthday. She didn’t see the funny side, as I jokingly suggested that I’d burnt everything worn to Old Trafford earlier in the season!
This commemorative timepiece came in a very posh looking box, one of a bunch of prestige items produced to mark the Arsenal’s 125th anniversary. It’s stamped 74 of 1886 (the year of the club’s inception) but without any paperwork, I went online for more info (waterproof, how it works etc?) and naturally not to establish how cheap I've been, by comparison, with any of her pressies!
The “Deluxe CXXV Box” caught my eye in the online shop. Along with such matchday essentials as a tie, cufflinks and a cashmere scarf, you get a signed Arsenal shirt and this bellowed everything that’s wrong with the brazen commercial machine that’s become of the beautiful game. Time was that one had to earn a shirt signed by the entire Arsenal squad, by putting in endless hours, hanging around outside the training ground, or before and after games, whereas nowadays, they’re on offer to anyone who's happy to part with a paltry 600 quid!
With the club shop selling trinkets costing more than most fans’ season tickets, to the sort of punters who can afford Raymond Blanc’s 200 quid pre-match grub, on top of their £5 grand season tickets, exactly what planet does le Prof live on, when he comes on TV after a defeat to a mediocre Man Utd (also deprived of their fair share of significant individuals!) to tell us that he can’t justify buying players for the remaining ten days, until one of our full-backs returns to fitness.
In case Arsène hasn’t noticed, we’ve blown 9 points since the start of the New Year. Unless Wenger actually believes we’re about to beat Milan, Barca et al to finally win the bloomin’ thing, if those 9 points end up costing us our highly-prized pitch at the Champions League trough, his parsimony is going to look like a seriously false economy, when all the corporate high-rollers flee our luxurious facilities in their droves and the deserted environs of the Exec Boxes and Club Level become a difficult sell, when we’re hosting the Albanian champions on a Thursday night.
Le Prof’s scientific brain might not be able to compute such intangibles as the complete & utter mood dampener and the loss of momentum on Sunday, resulting from the replacement of the hungriest player on the pitch with the laziest SOB in our squad; but surely such basic accounting principles aren’t beyond him (and the board)? Arsène’s managed to work the oracle of Champions League qualification for so many consecutive seasons, without serious re-investment in the squad that perhaps he doesn’t fully appreciate the consequences of sliding past this significant tipping point; where we’d be left in the same Catch-22 situation as all the other mid-table dross, competing for second rate stars because we can’t attract the best, without the promise of the big stage.
After a first-half on Sunday where he’d battled in vain for high-balls surrounded by three opponents, with no-one in a red shirt within 20 yards, even if he’d managed to get a sniff, in Van Persie’s shoes, at his peak for perhaps a couple more seasons, I really couldn’t blame Robin for wanting to engineer a rapid exit. The worry is, if we’re destined to lose our one remaining genuine world-class star, without material reward to show for a veritable resurgence between now and the end of the season, the Gunners might already have reached the point of no return?--
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