When beauty beckons
The lure of beauty is unmistakably the strongest force known to mankind, something that even the humongous ‘G’ force of mother earth would lose miserably to. Men all over the world would agree to this as they have all faced that raw magnetism of a pretty woman and literally been driven insane by it. There emerges a blind faith in everything that hides behind that beauty. The sooner we recognize the truth, the far lesser will be the misery of an anticlimax. This entire line of reasoning can be applied to the game of football too.
Quality not Quantity
I grew up watching football but it was always the superstars who captivated me more than the team itself. There was no televised club football then and so with whatever little I saw of the international matches it used to be very difficult to pick a team and support it. It was not until 2002 that I really took some interest to club football. I used to wonder how players can gel together and combine to play when there is no thread of commonality running through them like playing for national colors. I was proven wrong, as game after game after game I did come to understand that the quality of football that was at display was far superior to the international matches and there was indeed one common thread – love for the game.
There was one particular team that really did grab my attention and they are known to their loyal fans as The Gunners. In almost every sport that I follow, the one to serenade me has been the true exponent of the game rather than an extractor of best results. In tennis it used to be Edberg and Sabatini who have not won more than a handful of Grand Slams but who just made the game appear a little more beautiful with their deft volleys and single-fisted backhand strokes. The Agassis and Nadals are great champions and nobody can even dream of denying it but it is my humble opinion that these are not the men who solidify the reasons for the game to stand the test of time. However there are players who are true geniuses who blend the aesthetic value of the game into their armory and still embellish their wardrobes with a plethora of awards and medals. Sachin Tendulkar, Roger Federer and Michael Jordan have all been there and done that.
Rise and fall at the Emirates
Let us shift our attention to the mere mortals for now and Arsenal was one team which really fit the bill of every syllable of “playing for the gallery”. It was during the great FCUK (not a typo) that was rampant at the club with Frenchmen in the form of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and Robert Pires and of course Arsene Wenger at the helm of UK club football. Call it a well-oiled machine or imaginative clockwork, these players on the field pulled off a thunderous make-over to the already beautiful game week in and week out. They entertained the galleries and added silverware to their cabinets too. The things that were going for them so greatly were the huge crop of talent both on the field and on the bench but that guiding light was without a shred of doubt the great ‘King’ Henry himself.
Arsenal reached the pinnacle of their footballing supremacy when they were leading 1-0 during the UEFA Champions League Finals and suddenly with a few mistakes from the goalie everything just seemed to vanish into thin air. The departure of Henry was the last nail on the coffin and to this day the Gunners have been recuperating worse than a patient from an irrevocable coma. Years have come and gone, players have come and gone but the look of disappointment on Wenger’s face and fans’ hearts is here to stay. I still recollect this piece I had written on my blog called “Juvenile Delicacy” where I had argued amongst other things that Arsenal in 2008 started playing a wonderful style of football with greater efficacy without the compulsion of manufacturing moves for the experienced Henry as he had then decided to move away to Spain. I believed then that Henry’s move would act as a blessing in disguise by providing the freedom to Van Persie, Fabregas and Rosicky to express themselves a little more freely in footballing terms that is. What I had forgotten to understand was that the exuberance of youth is no good without the experience of the seasoned.
Crop of talent, come a cropper
Players like Walcott and Nasri really do produce some scintillating moves, runs and goals but I believe Arsenal fans have arrived at appoint where this delight of touch football is just not good enough, as they deserve much more. To many outsiders, cricket fanatics who read football in the papers, and teenage kids flaunting a spiked Mohican-like hair-do, Arsenal came closest to winning the League title this year than previous years. But only a true analyzer of the sport knows that this was probably their worst. I was witness to some the most heartless displays by the men from London during this season. An old adage ends something like this “When character is lost everything is lost”, and that is precisely what Arsenal lacks today, the strength to rise above its challenges. I remember that during the 2009-10 season they probably had the most number of comeback victories after trailing by a goal, however this time around they seem to be playing like amateurs who just cannot defend a lead. We are all sick and tired of hearing about how Arsenal is so delightful to watch and their wonderful passes just act like candy to the eye. Then when a team like Barcelona faces them, the Gunners are given the kitchen sink treatment.
The Plea of a fan
Dear Mr. Arsene Wenger, this is my request to you and knowing you for the past decade, this is going to be like light hitting a wall. Please go out there and stop purchasing strikers with weird names and French connections. During the next transfer window, I would appreciate if you could make a few additions to strengthen the back four. Allow Mr. Cesc to be sold as nobody wants a player whose heart doesn’t beat for the Gunners. The boat of yours might be just fine with all its specifications, but just fix that rudder Sir. Our arsenal is loaded with toy guns, but what we need is real pistols if not canons and bazookas. Sir, I am sick of Man U fans shouting “In your Face”, so let us get our game phase on. And finally if you still believe that this team of yours is young and fraught with talent and there is not a thing to worry, then I suggest you get yourself a broader Red Tie, so that you can at-least entirely cover your face in shame come the new season in 2011-12.