January gloom and Dolly Parton
We’re halfway through January and in pretty much the same place we were this time last year. Pedants will say we’re actually two points worse off, but pedants will know I wasn’t talking in numbers. Of course last year we’d completed the loan signing of Thierry Henry, who’d then gone on to re-awaken our childhoods with a winner against Leeds in the FA Cup. We’d go on (tomorrow) to lose 3-2 away to Swansea, so our troubles were of course far from over, but he gave us a magical night – and when all’s said and done, it’s the magical days and nights that make you love a football team. Others will say it’s trophies, but the winning of trophies are essentially the end product of magical days or nights. I feel basically as good after we’ve battered a team I hate, as I feel when we win a trophy.
Maybe I’ve just forgotten what it’s like to win a trophy. Or indeed, what it’s like to batter a team I hate.
I don’t know about you but after the nightmare that was summer 2011, I felt sure the same wouldn’t happen again. On the last day of last season, I remember driving home with my dad after we’d watched us crawl into third place with bloodied knees and shredded fingertips. Somehow, we’d got there. In spite of the terrible performances we’d given, and the fact the first team had been bandaged together with Sellotape, something had got us there. And don’t give me van Persie, either. You wouldn’t accept the one man team rubbish last season (which is what it was), so don’t be accepting it now that you need yet another stick to beat the club with. (“Why did we selllll himmmm?” Because he wanted to go. Champions League qualification wasn’t good enough for him with a club he loved and could have continued to play for, so he wanted to go. HE wanted to go. Regardless of how well that decision might be turning out for him, how departing players ever come out of it with more respect from fans than the manager is always so far beyond me. They left. They the rat, we the ship. Ship’s still afloat, let ‘em drown.)
The team dug deep and got the wins we eventually needed. Of course having Tottenham as our main rival for third spot helped a lot, but in spite of the QPRs and the Norwiches, there were enough Chelsea aways and Newcastles at home to keep us right up there. They made do and they mended, when they shouldn’t really have had to. You’d have thought in May that lessons would have been learned. We can’t battle through by the skin of our teeth again. Eventually, your luck will run out.
Yet somehow, here we are a year on and things look even worse. It must be said that there’s a phenomenon among Arsenal fans. We can’t simply take a game for what it is. We can’t say ‘That was poor, on to the next one”. We often can’t even say “That was brilliant, well done us.” The grand scheme of things is always there, pissing us off. I don’t know why a win can’t be seen as a good thing and that’s that, or why a win can’t be put down to a poor performance, without the set-up of the club and its management and its finances and its ticket prices being brought into the equation, but inwards it is always brought. CS Lewis could have been talking about us when he said: “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. And Twitter makes it so much worse.*”
*that part was me
We are halfway through January. I don’t know why we don’t seem to be looking to buy players. The eternal optimist in me tells me we still will because hello! An injury to Gibbs or Szczesny or Giroud or Arteta (oops too late) means a situation you don’t even want to think about. Add in the fact we have about 73 games between now and February and it’s truly baffling that we don’t seem to be very active. I love Arsene like a football dad, but presently he’s sending us all to bed at 6.30pm every night for no reason and with absolutely no explanation as to why.
So God I hope things change soon. But anyway for now, we lost 0-2 to Manchester City yesterday. It was a stupid game that was wrecked in the tenth minute when the wonderful yet ever cerebrally flatulent Laurent Koscielny chose to get his cuddle on with Edin Dzeko. It rendered the game even more of an uphill battle than last season’s struggle for third. Though Szczesny amazingly and bizarrely double-saved the resulting penalty, the red card given to Koscielny was an absolute knackerer. Mertesacker came on (ten minutes too late), and Oxlade-Chamberlain was sacrificed from midfield. Then we went and conceded two goals. Both were stupid goals to concede, and the first half didn’t produce the kind of reaction you’d probably have seen last year. It affected the crowd too, a little. I forget whether it was in the first or second half when Jack Wilshere headed away a shot from on the line and from a height that looked about four feet above his natural height, but although people were pleased with it, it didn’t get the kind of reaction you’d expect from us.
In all, the second half was much better. I personally felt City offered absolutely bugger all. That’s obviously because all their work had been done for them in the first half, but it was all us otherwise. Giroud came on earlier than the usual sub time for Arsenal, battled in the air a lot and was far more visible than Theo Walcott. I read somewhere that Giroud had more of the ball in 32 minutes than Theo did all game? Really? Annoyingly, Giroud came on for Podolski, who was having a great game up until then. I felt Santi Cazorla could have done with coming off more but I guess that’ll be down to the fact our midfield was already about as stretched as a fat person’s seatbelt. Oh and yeah, then came the news that Arteta would be out for three weeks! We all know what happened the last time we went without Arteta for three weeks. Also, evidently, Vicente del Bosque was at the Emirates yesterday. I guess Miki’s next call-up to the Spain squad will have to wait a little longer. Qué triste.
There’s little sense analysing a performance by 10 men against a very strong side because it changed the game completely, but here’s what I had to say when the roles were reversed back in October 2010:
”Obviously, the first criticism here has been that referee Mark Clattenburg killed the game off just five minutes in when he dismissed Dedryck Boyata, who I will shortly be adding to my Favourite Names list, for a professional foul on Marouane Chamakh. Er, no. That FOUL killed the game off because it DESERVED the red card he got and LED to City being left with 10 men. The only people I’ve heard criticising the decision have been City fans or the City manager and while it may have spoiled some viewers’ enjoyment of the game- well, terribly sorry about that. Besides I seem to remember fans of every other team in the world laughing their arses off at us complaining about the referee ruining the game by sending Jens Lehmann off 20 minutes into our final against Barcelona in 2006. Did anyone pity us then? No, so suck it up City.”
Yes yes alright Sian, don’t go on about it. Shit happens, and it happened, and we lost, and we really can’t afford to lose any more, so let’s not do any more of that. Sounds simple enough. Might sound a bit more simple if we go and bring a few squad reinforcements in. Maybe. Just some thoughts there.
Finally, the whole game was played amid a backdrop of boycott and unrest as Manchester City fans valiantly protested our ridiculous ticket prices. Fortunately they picked a match broadcast on Sky Sports in which to do so, so their sacrifice will have been eased somewhat. In seriousness, £62 is absolutely shocking, and it’s no wonder they sent tickets back (I don’t mean shocking like ‘OMG!’, I mean shocking like ‘Ughhhhhh…’). As for the faux-surprise from journalists when a banner criticising an organisation was removed by said organisation on said organisation’s own premises, oh sing a less obvious tune! (I don’t understand what the police had to do with it, no.)
Annoyance of the Day goes to Laurent Koscielny’s brainfart of course, but is closely followed by the busy body linesman who felt it his place to get on to Joleon Lescott to remind him to go and thank the travelling fans who’d paid £62 to come and see them win. I’m sure he’s glad the camera got his best side as he ever-so-coincidentally hollered it at the microphone.
On Wednesday we have the FA Cup replay against Swansea on and it’s a 7.30 kick off too, so we don’t even have those extra 15 minutes in which to feel sorry for ourselves. It’s a must-win, and could provide some happiness in what is turning into a very cloudy month indeed. As Dolly Parton once said, and Facebook statuses worldwide continue to say, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
I’ve no doubt the rainbow will return eventually, but for now it’d be quite nice if we could maybe just invest in one or two brollies as we attempt to ride out the rest of the storm.