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Tuesday 3 December 2019

Are We Family?

Desolate expanses of the Clock End on Thursday night signal Emery's death knell
            Sadly I've grown so enfeebled in recent times and awaydays have become such a debilitating ordeal that I'm forced to be somewhat discriminating about which outings I can and can't manage.

            Following the almost inevitable consequences of Thursday night's thoroughly depressing defeat, amidst the desolate expanses of a half-empty Emirates and facing the potential prospect of an FL8 inspired renaissance at Carrow Road on Sunday, by hook, or by crook, I was going to make it to Norwich.

            Mercifully, I'm blessed with such kind Gooner pals, who will always do their utmost to encourage my continued attendance at away games, with their willingness to fetch and carry me, door to door, thereby trying to ensure minimal physical exertion. On Sunday morning, Jim had arranged a convenient pitstop on route, at the Bull in Barton Mills, to meet up with a mate from the Arsenal mailing list and to join up with a couple of other Gooner pals coming from Banbury.

            Yakking about all things Arsenal, over my doorstop sausage sandwich, I was listening to Michael from the mailing list, expressing his desire that above all, he was concerned that any appointment of a new gaffer shouldn't be at the expense of sustaining "the Arsenal family". He was referring to the way in which we've grown accustomed to seeing Arsenal players come and go, over the decades and from the boundless egos of the multimillionaire superstars, to the humblest schoolboy apprentice, all those who part ways with the club invariably express sincere affection for the Arsenal, as an extremely special institution.

            The anti-climax of a somewhat disappointing 2-2 draw with the Canaries certainly wasn't quite the optimistic overture that we were all hoping for, from the anticipated injection of enthusiasm that was our minimum expectation. following Freddie having been handed the reins on Friday. 

            With the Gunners getting off to a more effervescent start, on the front foot for the opening thrusts of this entertaining, end to end encounter, there was a sense that Ljungberg had at least inspired a positive reaction amongst the troops. Yet the evidence of the Canaries first riposte, with the Gunners defence parting like the waters of the Red Sea, leaving Leno exposed by one long ball down the middle, only served to remind us that even the much beloved Freddie Ljungberg can't make a mickle out of a muckle.

            Perhaps Freddie felt it was worth a try, believing he might be able to encourage a little more of a concerted an effort from the likes of Xhaka and Luiz, but myself I felt he'd made a massive ricket putting his faith in the triumvirate of Xhaka, Luiz and Mustafi, as the defensive heart of his debut team selection. Witnessing the limited amount of effort that Xhaka appeared willing to expend, I suspect the club's relationship with Granit is irreparable.

            If recent events have resulted in Xhaka losing his Arsenal mojo, I'm unsure David Luiz ever had it! I believe the Brazilian defender rocked up at the club this past summer, merely with a view to bolstering his pension. Who knows, I might well be wrong, but my instinct is that both Xhaka and Luiz no longer care sufficiently about winning games and achieving success for the Gunners, in order to be able to produce a fully-focused, 100% committed shift.

            Many believe we'd be best off playing Torreira in the holding role, in front of our defense. The whirlwind Lucas Torreira who turned up last season and covered every blade of grass would be top of my team-sheet. However, I feel it's Torreira's intensity which is his principle asset. Ever since the rumours of him wanting out, we've seen little, or no evidence of the same sort of wholehearted zest and without it, sadly he's a somewhat banal looking participant. Unless Freddie (or any other managerial successor) can reignite Torreira's flame, I fancy we might be best advised to cut our losses.

            When it comes to Mustafi, I don't know, perhaps he's guilty of trying too hard, but watching Shkodran on Sunday, if he wasn't backing off from the opposition attack with infuriating timidity, he was diving in, with his severest bout yet of "go to ground-itis". 

            Personally, I wouldn't have Xhaka, Luiz or Mustafi anywhere near our first XI from now on because it's patently obvious that the heart of this Arsenal team is liable to have a coronary at any moment. If Freddie is to be afforded the time to try and build anything, surely he must appreciate that he needs to somehow achieve a more solid foundation at the back.

            I simply cannot imagine quite how frustrating it must be for our forwards to be patiently plugging away at creating a goal-scoring opportunity, only to find that no sooner have they breached the opposition's defences than our own backline is guaranteed to fold, at the first sign of the slightest pressure.

            Nevertheless, we came away from Carrow Road clutching at the positives, content in the knowledge that at least we hadn't capitulated and hoping Freddie can build on the draw, by securing a victory against Brighton on Thursday. Meanwhile, it was while watching Match Of The Day 2, later that same night that the thought struck me that any misguided illusions of an "Arsenal family" might well prove to be an oxymoron nowadays.

            We witnessed a touching tribute from the Wolves players, in the black armbands worn in honour of the tragic passing of Benik Afobe's two-year old daughter. Yet when Afobe was with Wolves for a mere couple of seasons, after spending an entire decade with the Gunners, one simply has to question why it hadn't occurred to anyone at our club to merely avail themselves of the black tape in the kit tins, to show some sympathy for the plight of our former player?

            Moreover, watching the highlights of Leicester notching up yet another win against Everton, we suffered the irritating reminder that Brendan Rodgers appears to be receiving able assistance from Kolo TourĂ© on the Foxes' bench. 

            Following on from the likes of Vieira, Arteta and countless other ex-Arsenal stars who've left the club, only to go on and lend their experience and their knowledge to one of our competitors, I can't help but wonder why it is that the suits at our club simply don't appear to comprehend the invaluable benefits to be had from having players of this sort of stature in and around our squad. Even if this is solely for the purpose of our existing players to be able to look up at our former stars and appreciate the winning mentality required to achieve success.

            I find it hard to believe that a player like Kolo would prefer to be working at Leicester than at the Arsenal, as I imagine he'd be "weally, weally" happy to be invited back to his old stomping ground. Then again, perhaps it's foolish of us to expect our beloved club to have retained the slightest sense of a family spirit, when we're blighted by an absentee owner, who's interest in his cash cow only extends to showing his face a mere couple of times per season? If the man at the top couldn't care less, so long as he continues to receive his regular dividends, can we really expect the rest of his staff to want to go "above and beyond" the call of duty, in the best interests of their employer?

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