Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let Us Play

Personally I’ve only got the one religion, the Gunners and I’m grateful that at least nowadays my chosen footballing faith is largely devoid of the sort of fanatical divisiveness that results in other religious extremists being responsible for so much of the world’s wanton death and destruction. Nevertheless, unfortunately Saturday morning proved to be one of those rare instances, when I was forced to attend an alternative temple, not wanting to upset one of my Spurs pals, by selfishly blowing out his son’s barmitzvah.

I might’ve been feasible for me to make it to the Midlands in time for KO at the Hawthorns. But instead of a risky mad dash up the motorway to the Black Country and the potential wrath of my pal for slipping away from the synagogue prematurely, I lingered for the fervent supplications of my Lilywhite mates regarding Gareth Bale and their own simian-like prophet’s speedy return to fitness, before a leisurely stroll around to our own stadium, to join a couple of thousand Gooners watching a live beamback of the Baggies game, amidst the plush environs of the Arsenal’s “Prawn Circle”.

Compared to its evergreen state these past forty years, the recent strangely mutable nature of the North London landscape was made manifest last Thursday night, as by contrast to our customary indifference, we Gooners prayed for the continued distraction of Spurs’ Europa Cup involvement and the subsequent euphoric eruption across all social media, concerning a mounting injury crisis that couldn’t have possibly been scripted better from our perspective.

Meanwhile all that really matters at this stage of the season is for the Gunners maintain the pressure and thus far we’ve managed to keep up our end, by reeling off the victories. Albeit that we’ve been fortunate in our last two games to have met the utterly dispirited Royals and a Baggies side seemingly having already put their feet up, satisfied with their mid-table security.

I was hoping that Saturday’s long awaited hint of some Spring sunshine might prove the catalyst for the Gunners to begin to produce some classy entertainment but our encounter with West Brom started off as such a low-key affair, as if both teams were principally focused on not losing the game and neither laidback outfit demonstrating the intensity of a team that was desperate to bag all three points.

I’m somewhat reluctant to pass judgement based on the TV coverage shown on the screens dotted around Club Level because with the cameras tendency to follow the ball, one lacks the overall perspective offered by being there in person. What’s more, for some strange reason, watching on TV always proves to be a far more stressful experience. I’d hoped that this might be alleviated by being sat with a large audience of Gooners, but in typically reserved British fashion, my fellow fans politely applauded every positive moment and groaned and moaned with every gaffe.

So as I sat squirming in my seat for 90 minutes, kicking every ball, there was actually little difference to watching a game indoors. With the Gunners seemingly doing their utmost to gift West Brom an opportunity to drag themselves back into the match over the last 20 minutes, by the end of it, I was bellowing frustrated blue murder at an inanimate black box, just as if I’d been sat at home in my armchair.

The postponement of Chelsea v Spurs has presented us with an opportunity to steal a march on our rivals by winning all three matches before Spurs next league outing. Yet if Saturday’s TV perspective offered one pointer, it is that Fabianski is bound to eventually come unstuck as a result of his lack of authority. And judging by the body language of the likes of Sagna and our positively flat-footed midfield, who failed to put any pressure on the ball as we desperately clung on to our victory at the death, we could badly do with the impetus offered by the return of the commited likes of Wilshere and Jenkinson.

2 comments:

Big Mal said...

By being too poor to advance in a competition Arsenal will now qualify for the same competition and be too poor to advance very far next year and on it goes......... no trophies, no glory.

Bernard said...

Too true and aside from the prospect of finishing below Spurs and the likelihood of having to endure all that agonising "Arsenal watching Eastenders" type stick, should they qualify for a precious seat at Europe's top table instead of us, there's plenty to be said for the argument that failure to qualify for the Champions League is just the sort of medicine we need right now, in order to persuade the suits at the club that it's revolution what's called for not evolution.

Considering how much AW was getting slaughtered earlier in the season and how comparatively he's likely to be lauded for having turned things around, if we end up with a top four finish, unfortunately this will inevitably end up offering him an excuse to continue to try and kid us that our squad is not that far away from competing and thereby affording him with the ammunition to merely add another couple of mediocre signings.

When in truth, perhaps what we really need is the sort of disaster which might be indisputable proof of the overall lack of quality in the current squad, as perhaps it won't be until such time as the suits find themselves badly hit in the pocket that they might eventually be persuaded that the year-on-year decline of our outfit, during AW's somewhat miraculous juggling act, simply can't continue forever and that the only means of persuading our few remaining stars to linger in London N5, is by convincing them of our ability to compete, by going out and investing in a couple of marquée top-shelf signings.

Mind you, this is a bit of a Catch-22, as although the Scousers somehow convinced Suarez, it's going to be that much harder and a lot more expensive to attract top talent to the club, without the promise of them being able to play on the biggest footballing stage?

Nevertheless, you have to wonder if this might be the only circumstances which might finally put an end to the current frustrating cycle of squeezing under the wire every season as an also-ran, with no realistic hope of every achieving success, merely being satisfied just to be included amongst the European elite as nothing more than a regular participant.

From my most humble perspective, this says everything about our clubs ambitions merely to maintain the status-quo as a successful "sustainable" business, by a board that is sadly totally out of touch with the priorities of the club's support and who not only pay lip-service to our desperate need to be satiated by glory, but who's lack of emotional attachment to the Gunners means that they also wouldn't dream of risking their lucrative dividends in the pursuit of same!

I hate to harp on about the benefits of the German model but I can't help but notice how many clubs in the Bundesliga seem to have a hierarchy of "been there, bought the t-shirt" career-long ex-stars, who obviously must have a better appreciation of their fans priorities than many of the Arsenal's businessmen and who I assume wouldn't dream of trying to appease the faithful by offering the feeble sop that while we still might not have any silverware to celebrate, we should at least be proud of our healthy bank balance!

If good financial management was a measure of success, I would be supporting NatWest not the Arsenal (a bad example perhaps, but you know what I mean)!

Big Love
Bernard