It’s been quite long since I penned down something about my beloved Arsenal Football Club and this has duly raised eyebrows on twitter and other forums, both online and offline. Admittedly, this sabbatical of sorts has been deliberate. Why? Well, let’s just say interest is often fleeting, and we fanatics can be quite a fickle lot. Anyway, I’m back…or rather, circumstances have necessitated this.
Well, it’s that time again, when I write off, albeit heavy-heartedly, Arsenal’s title credentials. In fact, this has come even sooner than usual. Normally, I’m driven to do this sometime from November to around the festive season. Yes, you can call me the proverbial prophet of doom and I won’t mind because in real sense my other sober self has often called me this every season. And it hurts. So much. Even as I’m typing this away on my computer I’ve had to play blaring music if just to drown my soft cries. Anyone would find it hard to do a title eulogy of sorts this early in the season about their team.
Last Saturday we went to Carrow Road for what would seem to be a routine collection of three points without much fuss. I mean, prior to that Norwich City hadn’t won any league game and Arsenal didn’t look that bad either. On top of that, our number 10 and the jewel on the club’s crown, Jack Wilshere would be part of the matchday squad for the first time in a million years! Ok, not exactly a million years, but you get the drift, aye? Why wouldn’t any Gooner be (overly) optimistic? Due to unforeseen circumstances (some of which I engineered myself) I was unable to watch the match. I wasn’t overly bothered anyway because I knew we would win. Instead I followed it on the ever so reliable twitter or as I like to say, TLTV (Timeline Television).
Of course Norwich won the game 1-0.
Even without watching the match, from the tweets that flooded my timeline courtesy of the vibrant Gooner Twittersphere, it was obvious that it had been an abysmal Arsenal performance. Granted, stand in keeper Vito Mannone was hugely at fault for Norwich’s winner, but no one really put up a fight worth their weekly wages. They went, swam over like the slippery characters we’ve always known them to be and got beat. At the end of it, I knew damn well that I had missed nothing from absconding. In fact, I was convinced that I could direct a simulation of that display (without having seen it) and come up almost 95% accurate. It was that typically disgusting and over time I’ve sat through many similar agonizing 90 minutes that I thank the gods I skipped this one.
Some may say that I’m just being a sensationalist brat by declaring Arsenal out of the title race and probably they are right. Though I may ask, were they ever in it in the first place? Of course, the three month period between the end of last season and start of this one when Arsenal topped the log (alphabetically) doesn’t count. After eight games, we are ninth, ten points behind table-toppers Chelsea. Of course there are still 30 games to go and as the cliché goes, anything can happen within that time. And I agree completely.
Then again, it’s not only Chelsea that is contending for that title as there are two other heavyweights. Yes, they are Manchester United and the holders, Manchester City who are currently 2nd and 3rd on the table. What is the likelihood that Arsenal will pip all these three to the title? I’m a pretend actuary, but even I won’t dignify that question with a calculated probability figure.
Ladies and gentlemen, in as much as the English Premier League is unpredictable, the winners are just as predictable. From my EPL experience, most if not all of the time, the eventual league winners at this point of the season are usually in the top 4. You can quash this all you want but can you look me in the eye and tell me I’m lying? Oh wait, you can’t see me. The truth is, from now till the end of the season, the occupant at the apex of the log is going to be interchanging among Chelsea and the Manchester's. Don’t worry, I’ve not come back from the future, I’m just saying.
Why sell Robin??
At the start of the season when the club sold Robin Van Persie to (of all teams) Man United, I instinctively concluded that we had eroded almost all the gains we had made last season. I mean, we finally had a goal-machine of title-winning caliber that with the addition of the silky Santi Cazorla we could mount a serious assault at the title. Then for 24 million pounds we gave him away to the Devils that only missed the title by a whisker last season. Honestly I’ve spent days and nights trying to dissect this deal and make sense out of it but I’ve failed miserably. If I had the time and means, I would persuade the International Criminal Court at the Hague to classify this sale as a crime against humanity and open proceedings. It doesn’t shock me that at times I’d still prefer to watch Robin set up and bang in the goals for United rather than watch his ‘replacement’ Olivier Giroud stutter and flounder painfully. I’m sorry; evidently I’m not yet over the Persiecutor.
On our day, we can beat anybody. That’s a fact. Also true is that on a not-our-day, we can be bullied, stifled, be beaten and left for dead by anybody. Is that title-winning material? I don’t think so. United are weak at the back, but they have the deadliest offensive quartet in the land in Rooney, Welbeck, Chicharito and Van Persie. They may leak the goals in, but they can also score literally at will. Yes, their midfield is probably their weakest link, but they are battle-hardened and so it doesn’t really matter. Chelsea have probably the most settled defense (so far) and possess the most potent midfield trio of Hazard-Oscar-Mata who are never far from an assist or goal. They are so good that they are turning a woeful Torres into something decent. God knows what would happen if El Nino raised his game just a little. The champions City for me are still the team to beat. So far, they’ve been far from their best yet they are unbeaten, just 4 points adrift of the top. In due course they will shift gears and the others had better beware. Plus, with the Sheikh’s deep pockets, Mancini can always add what is needed in January to tie up the job.
But of course we can always pretend that we have a world class ‘keeper, a flying English winger who shouldn't step up to center forward, an Brazilian-named Ivorian who is smashing as the focal point of our attack and an elegant French super striker who is still buying time before he won’t stop scoring. We can pretend that we have a Plan B to beat a United and a Stoke in consecutive weeks. We can pretend that we will win the Premier League. ‘Yes, we can’ is not Obama’s only, right?
Seen it all
I love Arsenal so damn much, but I’ve seen it all, I’m not even sure I want to witness another crash and burn rendition again. And it has a thick aura of inevitability firmly around it. Anyway, we will still make more money than all the other teams. That’s a good thing, yes? If Arsenal wins the league title I’ll be the happiest man in the world. True story.
However, if they don’t, at least I’ll have seen it coming and prepared for it. Have an amazing remaining 30 league games, won’t you?