Just One Game – And Player Thoughts

Arsenal 1 – 0 Swansea: Thoughts

With the amount that has now been said and blogged about the 8-2 loss to ManU, the psychology of Arsenal after the 8-2 loss to ManU, the way we’d react after the 8-2 loss to ManU, and the fantastic new cut of hair of Rooney during the 8-2 loss to ManU, it’s nice to finally have a result to focus on rather than the 8-2 loss to ManU.

I share Arsene’s comments of the Friday press conference (and post-match comments) that sport is about what comes next. And you can only live in the moment and look forward with optimism. Yes, remember the glory of the past, but to sit and sulk on a past defeat is about as useful as a slug in a salad.

So, today, we should be happy for the 1-0 victory, over a solid and underrated Swansea side who may well feel slightly aggrieved to have returned to South Wales pointless. The win was the most important thing for us, and the clean sheet the second. People who are claiming that we should be hammering newly-promoted sides with a fistful of goals surely can’t have an understanding of manifold elements to any football game or season, and as the ever-excellent Arseblog points out today:

I know we live in a world where reactions are instantaneous and expectations are high but I really think we need to step back and look at where this Arsenal team is.

Exactly. Yesterday we had the uncertainty of new players thrown into the mix for a game which was pencilled in as “Arsenal’s season re-starter.” You restart a season with a win, and you build from there. We sit 11th in the Prem with four points from four, and we’ve a tough game against Dortmund on Tuesday. There’s no doubt we’re walking uphill. The players have their hiking boots on and it’s going to be a trek. For the moment the joy-to-watch, scoring-with-ease, rampant Arsenal we love to see is MIA.

Let’s not expect it to return so quickly, or expect the players that have come in to the squad to immediately pick up where the impact of Cesc/Nasri(/Henry/Bergkamp?) left off. Some people still think we’ve a right to be challenging this season. A right to win games, and at least reach certain stages in certain competitions. We’ve never had a right to challenge for anything, and this season should make that abundantly clear. We need to earn every positive result, and we need to take every positive result as a step.

That breeds confidence, and confidence is a magical, but ultimately helpful beast. Confidence breeds itself, and if it’ll help the “Shit! Shit! Shit!” crew two rows behind me to regain some semblance of composure every time the ball vaguely moves in a direction towards the Arsenal goal, then I hope that Mr and Mrs Confidence hop on the good foot and do the bad thing like no Confidences before them. Speculating on the copulation of non-quantifiable mental states. Time to move on.


Some interesting news. I’m trying out a new ‘Player Thoughts’ summary of the players’ performances on game days. The first one is here. Hope you find it a worthy read!


The Twelfth Man

[September 2015 – I’m playing again…]

As another year passes, it strikes me that if I were professional football player I’d be in the prime of my career. Further, if I were a professional footballer at Arsenal I’d be looking ahead to tomorrow with a passion to make an impact, and to – as my father would say – have a say.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter, or who has taken notice of the favicon image that displays near the address bar when you visit this blog, will notice my fondness for the number 12. On the one hand it’s a nod to my belief in the power, joy and community of sporting support. But on the other – more impacting one – it’s a firm point at my days as a club player in SE London/NW Kent. I played in very competitive and then, as the years moved on, less and less competitive leagues.

I played in teams against Liam Ridgewell and Ben May. I won some trophies (the now defunct London Youth FA Cup being the crowning glory), had some great moments, and scored a few smart goals. From the age of five until the age of 16 I pursued my dream of  being a footballer, but in reality the closest I ever got was a failed borough trial and a dead leg.

I was never quite goo..well, determined enough. Often the first name on the bench in the days before squad numbers, I wore number 12. More recently, in Sunday League, I stuck with it as a nostalgic nod to my footballing past. And, should I ever get a number on the back of an Arsenal shirt, that’ll be it.

Of course these days I’m old enough to realise that I didn’t have the bite required to make it anywhere past the amateur level. My father (and others, less biased, believe me) told me I had all the skill (blog names don’t magic themselves up), but not the controlled aggression. Absent in me was the warrior attitude looked for in youth players of the late 80s/early 90s. Then I hit my mid- teens and, already demoralised, had a growth spurt and was well on the way to Mertesacker heights. A winger, over 6ft? No chance. I stopped playing, and only returned years later for what I knew was just the joy of the sport.

Becoming a professional footballer. A young, naive, pipe dream it may have been, but it doesn’t make me care less about football. I’ve realised that I shouldn’t let heavy defeats beat me up. That I have another profession to pursue and can detach a little to safer, sane grounds. And these days, I’m doing just that in the hope I can strike at some quite different goals.

But, Arsenal, all of this doesn’t make me want to be on the pitch at the Emirates very much less. Like Gazza at the end of his career feeling he could “still do a job” when obviously his time had passed, it doesn’t stop me seeing the balls I’d attempt to play when watching games, and it doesn’t stop the irrational hope that somewhere in an alternative universe a version of me may have achieved what I couldn’t.

I’m writing this now because Arsenal’s season has a chance to kick-start tomorrow. And if, by the slimmest chance, any of the players managed to come across this piece, I’d want them all to know not that I’m unhappy I didn’t make it to a position where I could have a say on the pitch tomorrow. But that I am happy they’re in a position in which they can. I’d want them to know that all of us Gooners, all of us 12th men and women, are behind them. And that this time next year another year will have passed.

Time waits for no man. It won’t be sympathetic to unfulfilled dreams. It won’t ever do you any favours. Yet it will let you “have a say”.

Arsenal, make no mistake, we’ve a massive game tomorrow. So guys, go out on the pitch and do what millions of us that can’t be out there wish they could. Try to have a say. And we will love you for it.

Arsenal vs Man Utd Sun 1st May 2011
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