Sack Them All

I was in a pub in South London yesterday with a fellow gooner and a Spurs fan. The defeat endured by the latter against City was far from enjoyable, proving that money can – if nothing else – buy you footballing quality. It also proved that facing Man City in any competition this year is a very scary prospect indeed…about as scary as our own prospects in the Premier League apparently.

We were in trouble, is the thing. In a way our injuries, suspensions an lack of quality replacements precluded yesterday’s defeat, but not the scoreline. Who thought it wouldn’t be hard? Really? Still, anyone who has seen the captain’s post-match interview will find it hard to disagree that the result is anything other than “honest”. There were turning points – RVP’s penalty at 1-0 down for one – but you can’t come out of  an 8-2 game and make excuses.

At the same time hammerings happen in football. It’s something those who’ve been around the game for more than five minutes, or just around Arsenal since before the Invincibles, will know. OneArseneWenger made this comment on Twitter after the game:

In 2001 we got thumped 6-1 by Utd at OT… the following year 75% of that same team won the Double… Never Say Never.

It’s true. So to anyone like the Gooner sat behind me during the game who called for Wenger’s head and then, when I questioned him, proclaimed “Sack them all”, I think a dose of perspective is needed, along with a big heavy stick of rationality.

If you want me to break down the scoreline, let’s not forget that the two goals Rooney scored from free kicks were absolutely, undoubtedly, world class. As were the two that Ashley Young scored. You can argue that inexperience might have conceded the fouls, or far too much space, but in any game fouls happen and in any game shots are made. Theo gave away a penalty, Park wasn’t closed down, Nani beat an offside flap (sic), and Welbeck simply out-muscled Djourou as the big Swiss and Koscielny proved once again our reliance on Vermaelen for defensive grit.

We were hammered, we can’t complain, we can’t make excuses, but it’s also imperative that we don’t self-combust as fans. I love Arsenal, but supporting a team is as much accepting the heavy losses when they happen as it is about accepting the moments of brilliance when they shine through. I don’t believe that anyone in or around the club took any joy from yesterday, and it’s a reminder to anyone thinking that we have a right to win games and be successful that the reality is distinctly otherwise.

The squad needs a shot in the arm, and I refuse to make any comment about our aspirations this season until the transfer window closes. A heavy defeat occurred and we’re all unhappy about it. But it happened. We need to deal with it, and we need to move forward.



Slump It Up

Oxymorons on a Saturday, lovely. It’s relevant though, because Sir Alex doesn’t want United’s blip to turn into a slump. Well, I have two things to say on that point.

The first is that you can’t really call United’s current run of form a blip or slump, bearing in mind the first team players they currently have and have had missing. Frankly, it’s been incredible what they’ve achieved with a seemingly below par, part ageing, not exactly awe-inspiring squad. They’ve often missed Vidic or Ferdinand, not forgetting Park, with Nani added to that list thanks to Carragher, and Valencia out since September. Calling the current situation a blip or slump is to forget how well they did to go so many games unbeaten, to progress in the FA Cup and to deliver in the Champions League up to this point. Fair play to them.

The second thing I have to say is…well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for me if that form departed them now. With the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford to be played this evening, and with United having a ‘tougher’ run in than Arsenal, a loss of the form they’ve had thus far wouldn’t exactly make me grumpy. Sure, I’d rather Arsenal beat a full strength United squad in this game and in the final Premier League standings, but then I’d also rather match officials show some bloody common sense (*cough*). Because if an imbecile in a mankini gets on to the pitch and decides to act as a prat during a football game, the joke wears thin after a little bit and he deserves to be dumped to the floor. And whoever does it should be the toast of all the non-imbeciles. Although, I am implying that match officials generally aren’t and after this week it’s hard to support that view.

Anyway, my point is this: With the previous seasons of Arsenal falling away due to injury and misfortune, it’s hardly unfair for that to happen to United and for that to benefit us. I’m not saying it should go that way, but you can only play the players you have. And when those players aren’t exactly delivering, then it’s only right your rivals take advantage of that situation. Needless to say, I’m not exactly pessimistic about the Arsenal right now. Beaten and out of two competitions respectively, we’ve a firm footing in two others. And with the international break coming up, we could go into it with our heads held high.

Unlike UEFA, which really wants to take a long hard look at itself in the wake of an atrocious decision that ruined the end of an intriguing contest, and the unbelievable public support of it afterwards.

Legends Are Made

(*Now with updated first link…)

As a Gooner, the hardest goal to take being scored against my beloved Arsenal will probably always be this one.

It’s not so much that my United supporting friends would bring it up for years to come, or even that it came moments after Dennis Bergkamp missed a penalty – although my love of Bergkamp did make it particularly hard to swallow. No, the reason it will always hurt is because as a young wannabe pro-footballer Giggs was my idol.

It’s not even particularly hard for me to say that as a Gooner. He was a left-footed winger in the classic style of wingers, and that goal was the sort of goal I dreamed about scoring. The importance of it, the style of it, and the way it looked so effortless; all things that a kid of sixteen years would want to do in a sport he adored.

“Keep an eye of Ryan Giggs, Kev”

My dad told me that as a boy of eight or nine, roughly two years after the welshman’s 1991 debut.

“He’s the player you want to keep an eye on. See how he finds space, always moves, intelligently uses the ball…”

And I did watch him. Despite my love of Arsenal, I watched him right up to the point that I decided I could no longer realistically want to be a professional footballer. I watched him when I decided I wanted to write for a living instead, and I watched him right throughout my late teens, and early twenties at university.

I still watch him now of course, and that I can is a testament to a man who has never accidentally shot a colleague with an air rifle, or obviously gone out to elbow someone in the head, and somehow get away with it (yes, I mean Wayne Rooney). What has he done? Well, he’s stayed in great physical condition, and continues to pose a threat and ‘do a job’. He’s never really courted celebrity (apart from some odd Fujifilm and Quorn adverts…but anyway…).

Not only that, but in appearing during the defeat against Chelsea – which I hugely enjoyed, for obvious reasons – he equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of appearances for United. That doesn’t alone make him a footballing legend. But, that he’s achieved such a long and rewarding career in all those appearances might. And that I still rate him as one of my favourite ever non-Arsenal players in spite of scoring ‘that goal’, probably does.

In my book, anyway.


p.S: For more Giggs check this:

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