Will the lads be busy tomorrow working out how to crowd out Modric and Bale on Sunday? It seems, to the contrary for the likes of Song, Sagna, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sczczny, as they'll be busy filming a car TV ad with the ballet dancers from our company!
I told the lads I work with to make sure they tape the lino down properly, or else as usual our lot will be blaming the playing surface. And I sure hope they prove more entertaining in tutus and tights, than they've been in footie boots of late. I've warned the dancers, in case our woeful form is catching (not to mention the plague of injuries)
Meanwhile I neglected to post out Monday's pieces, so here's my tuppence (more like fifty guineas!) worth of whinging
Come on you Gunners
After umpteen years, my Spurs pals have been reveling in their opportunity to return the compliment, with their teasing invitations to the Arsenal’s premature end of season party. My somewhat implausible rejoinder has been to suggest that the catastrophe of our last couple of results was all part of a masterplan, to lull our North London neighbours into a false sense of security.
If Wenger can somehow wangle a result against Spurs at the weekend it would indeed be some compensation for the ignominy of our mauling in Milan and for lying down like lambs at the Stadium of Light. Or more’s the point, it would at least avoid the unthinkable prospect of having to come to terms with a Derby day defeat, which added to our current state of despair, is likely to leave most Gooners feeling like the end our Arsenal world is all too nigh.
Nevertheless, while a respectable result against the auld enemy on Sunday might redress the balance of most Gooner minds, it certainly won’t mask the fact that our current squad appears to be a million miles further from its intended destination, than we’ve been at any point over the past six success-starved seasons.
We actually contemplated making our exit before the final bell in Milan (if it had been a boxing match a sympathetic ref would’ve stepped in to end our suffering long before!), if only to avoid the insult of having hypothermia added to our humiliating injury, while enduring our interminable and entirely unnecessary detention long after the final whistle. The only Milanese likely to have wanted to give us a good kicking were the Inter tifosi who’d been hoping we’d trounce their rivals, rather than gifting AC with a confidence boosting rout.
The main reason we lingered to the bitter end was because we feared winding our way down the never-ending spiral walkways of the turret in our corner of the ground, only to find ourselves held back at the bottom. So as I sat with my head in my hands, amidst the sub-zero thin air at the summit of an empty San Siro (save for a couple of thousand masochistic Gooners), I pondered upon the excuses Arsène might be making to explain away our abysmal display.
To his credit, for once Wenger labeled this woeful spade, a spade but I had to laugh at his analysis of us having only a 2 or 5 per cent chance of progressing to the quarterfinals, as if he’d plucked these precise statistics straight from an Excel spreadsheet. After Spurs lost 4-0 to Real, Redknapp wasn’t anything like so rational, when he suggested that if they scored a couple of quick goals in the return leg, anything could happen.
Although we came out of the traps against Sunderland like a team possessed, as if they’d been on the receiving end of a serious kick up the backside, the fire in our bellies was soon snuffed out. Personally I knew the game was up, when the first of three defensive reshuffles left us with Laurel & Hardy in situe at centre-back.
Encouraged by the media, there’s an increasing clamour coming from those Gooners who are growing ever more certain that Arsène’s past his sell-by date. Judging by our manager’s despondent mood in the post-match press conference, with project Wenger crumbling around his ears, their wishes might come to pass sooner than they think!
Meanwhile every time the Gunners hit the skids, the name of Usmanov raises its ugly head. There remain plenty of highly principled Arsenal fans who refuse to accept the prospect of the club selling its soul to someone who’s alleged to have sat at the devil’s right-hand. But such principles are costly in our morally bankrupt sport, especially when they involve the rejection of a high-roller who’s leapfrogged Abramovich into 2nd place in the Sunday Times rich list.
Rumours abound that Usmanov already has access to the shares necessary to take him past the 30 per cent threshold. And if he hasn’t, I’m sure the administrators at Rangers will be oblige, in their efforts to maximize the return on the Arsenal shares gifted to the ‘Gers by a quirk of history.
I’m certainly not an advocate for success at any cost. Such crucial defeats only feel quite so unacceptable because we were beaten by sides who simply wanted it more. But compared to not seeing hide nor hair of an absentee US landlord, who only appears interested in counting his shekels from the comfort of his Missouri mansion, at least the Uzbeki demonstrates a tangible attraction to the Arsenal, watching most matches from the exclusive environs of his plush “superbox”.Moreover, aside from any potential benefits from Usmanov’s deep pockets, his involvement might result in David Dein riding in on his red & white charger. With his oil-slick obsequiousness, I’m not exactly Dein’s no. 1 fan, but I don’t think it can be any coincidence that the silverware drought dates back to the day he was shown the door.
Many will argue that we’d now be playing at Wembley if Dein had his way. While this idea was abhorrent at the time (heaven forfend the thought of actually having to travel to get to home games!), where would the Gunners be now, without having been encumbered by the costs of our new stadium. What’s more, Highbury was my much adored second home, but as an anonymous punter in a far more sterile arena, I don’t feel anything like the same emotional attachment to the new gaff and in truth, I’m not really sure that playing at Wembley would’ve felt that much different.
It seems blindingly obvious that Wenger has becomes less effective since the demise of the chalk and cheese partnership with his old pal. Whatever his faults, as an Arsenal man, Dein was always willing to go the extra imprudent mile, for the pleasure of seeing a talented star perform in his beloved red & white and to further the Gunners’ cause; whereas with his “sustainable” mantra, Gazides and Wenger are like two-peas in an overly pragmatic pod, trying in vain to squeeze the barmy world of the beautiful game into an idealistic business model.
With Club Level renewals due next month, I have to wonder if those at the club are fully conversant with the potential consequences (on and off the pitch) of a continued slide towards mediocrity. With Wenger managing the minor miracle of maintaining our elevated status over 15 years of plenty, many will have never experienced a genuine period of famine. On the assumption that RVP is unlikely to want to continue keeping the entire club afloat, even if we should qualify for the Champions League (without improved prospects of ever actually picking up the big-eared prize), there’s a school of thought that suggests that it might not be in our best interest to scrape into 4th place. since this would only offer encouragement to maintain the current status-quo; when what’s really required is the sort of complete failure which might guarantee a rethink.
Based on our current pitiful form, myself I can look no further ahead than a week of penance, in hope of earning sufficient credit for the gods to smile upon us come Sunday and a one-way plane ticket out of the country, in case they don’t!
e-mail to: londonN5@gmail.com