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Tuesday 14 February 2017

Coming Down To The Bierkeller? But We Haven't Started Our Symphony

Too much to hope for that the Allianz Arena is actually an
orange spaceship designed to transport Trump
to Mars (one way!)?
            It's hardly a mood of optimism that abounds, with the Gunners about to head off to Munich for Wednesday night's Champions League encounter in the spectacular Allianz Arena. I've no idea about Bayern's recent form, other than their league table suggesting the appearance of them making their habitual stroll to the Bundesliga title. Nevertheless, no matter what the outcome of Wednesday's game, when it comes to the most glamorous of footballing stages, at the very least, one would expect the Gunners to do themselves some justice with their performance.

            Although I must admit that it often feels most galling, whenever the Arsenal manage to raise their game, amidst all the grandeur and in the spotlight of these massive Champions League occasions because it leaves me so much more furious about our failure to show up consistently on the less glitzy stage.

            I shouldn't really be whinging after a 2-0 win, with us having just pegged Spurs back this past weekend and the Lilywhites having seemingly run up the white flag, in their abysmal failure to mind their three point gap at Anfield. Who knew that a more abject display than our own humiliation at Stamford Bridge could be quite so hilarious. Moreover, at least so long as the Gunners are winning games, hopefully it will provide a timely, albeit temporary interlude to the incessant, acrimonious white-noise of the Wenger debate.

            One could make an argument that it is far easier to motivate oneself to play a top-six competitor than one of the league's current bottom feeders. Yet if there was one thing that struck me after watching Saturday's games, it was that while Jurgen Klopp might not prove to be the Scouse Messiah, he does at least appear to possess the wherewithal to provoke a reaction from his troops, following Liverpool's terrible run of poor results. By contrast, to my mind, there was very little about the way the Gunners went about the task of subduing the in form Tigers, in Saturday's early KO, in the decidedly subdued environs of a shivering, far less than full Emirates that suggested an emphatic response from our players, to the dent they should've suffered to their pride, following successive, embarrassingly flaccid displays against Watford and Chelsea.

            There's invariably a reason why clichés become clichés because their frequency of use suggests there's some substance to the words. I found myself pondering that old adage about the need to change either the team, or the manager every five years. Pretty much everything we've seen from the Gunners since that all too brief spark of form back in the autumn, seems to shriek of a glaringly obvious sense of a squad going through the motions. If the Arsenal's form over the course of the winter was portrayed on an ECG monitor, it would be the worryingly consistent waveform of a comatose patient. A representation of a team that trots out every few days, to climb upon a ninety-minute treadmill, totally oblivious of a leadership soundtrack which has been playing in their ears for as long as they've been present in London N5.

            Even Alexis' relentless bursts of energy appear to be on the wane, as his unbridled enthusiasm seems to be ground down over the course of each season, with the tediously repetitive and seemingly inevitable nature of the Gunners' perennial fall from grace. I had always hoped that Alexis' intensity would prove infectious, inspiring his team mates to try and match our Duracell Bunny's work rate, but sadly the exact opposite seems to be true. Despite adding to his tally with Saturday's brace, with each passing game Alexis appears to suffer from creeping insouciance, as we see his shoulders sag ever lower, with his permanent smile seemingly sapped from his phizog, while one by one, our silverware dreams are steamrollered by far hungrier "team" units.

            As sad as I'd be to see Sanchez go, if I'm entirely honest, I could hardly blame the Chilean for wanting to make his exit. The man is an obvious winner and his frustration at the apparent inability to inspire the same voracious, run until you drop, shit or bust appetite in his teammates is patently apparent. Considering how briefly a footballer's flame flickers, in his shoes I simply wouldn't want to sacrifice any more of my peak playing days to the Arsenal's contented cause of also-ran mediocrity, if there was an opportunity to play for a club, which matched my ambitions for trophy-laden glory.

            Then again the pain of losing such a rare, joy to watch footballer might be somewhat tempered, if by some miracle we had a hope of snaffling Aguero from Man City. How much fun would that be, if Aguero was to stick two fingers up at the magus Guardiola, by scoring thirty plus goals in red and white, on route to the Arsenal's league triumph??!! 

            Having stamped his authoritarian mark on Man City, in his efforts to make it his team, surely even Guardiola has got to come in for some stick, if after dropping Aguero for Jesus (and Hart for Bravo!), City end the season empty-handed?

            Then again, there was another marked contrast between the comfort zone of stability that exists at the Arsenal and the constant air of insecurity used by other managers to keep their charges on their toes, which struck me while watching City pip the Cherries on Monday night. When Jesus had his foot stamped on, only a few minutes into proceedings, Aguero couldn't get stripped off quick enough and was standing, waiting on the touchline to come on, even before Jesus had limped off the pitch. To my eyes, it appeared as if Jesus had to be told that he was coming off. It looked as if the Brazilian lad was positively desperate to try and soldier on, to see if he could 'run off' his knock.

            With Guardiola surprising the entire footballing world by starting the relatively untried teenager, ahead of a player of Aguero's proven calibre, it was evident quite how reluctant Jesus was to give up his golden opportunity to prove himself capable of walking on water, knowing Aguero might force himself back into the box seat, only for Jesus to end up having to bide his time, until he's presented with another opportunity to depose City's main man.

You seriously expect me to lose the toasty blanket and run
around in my shorts, when I'm earning the exact same
obscene sum for snuggling up on this bench?

            I can rarely recall any Arsenal players in recent times showing their frustration at being unable to continue in a game and I've often moaned about their reluctant looking replacements, with the likes of Theo hardly appearing desperate to get involved, judging by how long he dawdles on the bench, readying himself (in fact I'm surprised some of our prima donnas don't nip back into the dressing room for a makeup check!). 

            The Gunners might have plenty of competition for places when everyone is fit, but our perpetual 'top four' machine has been jogging along so seamlessly for all these years that there exists a far too composed absence of insecurity for my liking. Even in the event of a dramatic dip in form that endures too long even for Arsène to ignore, our stars never seem phased by an enforced period on the bench, in the certain and comforting knowledge that their turn will come around again, soon enough. It pains me to think of what some of our players might be capable of, if they were desperate to prove themselves?

            Yet as evidenced by the gossip in Sunday's red-tops, we Gooners do indeed need to be careful about what we wish for. If the Arsenal's immutability and our manager's inability to make himself heard are eventually recognised as a significant handicap by the suits, or more likely, the clamour from the increasingly vacant terraces becomes too loud to be ignored, then chances our that our prayers for a more animated leader will also fall upon deaf ears and our esteemed, inscrutable, unemotive manager will end up being replaced by another French, far less respected wet fish, in the form of Rafa!

            If such an eventuality should come to pass and le Prof ends up passing the baton onto Benitez, I might for once ignore my rule about not betting on the Arsenal, to see what odds I'll be offered on him getting the boot sooner than Moyes did at Man Utd. Surely those increasingly vociferous cries are for change, not for "chump change"?

            Meanwhile, with the away fans allocation at Gander Green Lane amounting to a meagre 750 tickets, I'm trying to avoid getting too wound up at having been one of the many Gooners on the Away Ticket Scheme who were unsuccessful in the ballot for next Monday night's match (at least it's being shown live on the box!). Coming from Bayern's state of the art arena, to Sutton Utd's artificial 3g playing surface, you really couldn't ask for a longer journey, between the two ends of the beautiful game's marvellous spectrum and it pains me to know that I'll be missing out on a rare opportunity to see the Gunners play at a venue I've not yet ticked off.

            It was always going to be an impossible task to satisfy all the most deserving fans, but what pisses me off above all else, is that doubtless only about half of these tickets ended up being allocated in the ballot to those who commit to a ticket to every away match and as always, the balance will have gone to the club's VIPs. 

            So the most loyal Gooners will have lost out to more affluent Arsenal punters, those guaranteed tickets whether they travel to away games or not, because for example, they can afford to spend £100k for their privileged Diamond Club pitches at the Emirates. As a result, my place at Monday night's encounter and those of so many others who travel to most every match, is likely to be taken by a small horde of Gooner part-timers; but then why should we be surprised that matters at the Arsenal are no more fair than every other aspect of a global society where, in the words of comedian Billy Bennett "it's the rich what gets the pleasure, it's the poor what gets the blame".

Give them a shout for me on Monday!


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Unknown said...

Really poor performance in Munich this evening. Something has to change.
The club needs new ideas. I sure wonder if the club has the courage to change direction. We're getting nowhere right now.