Arsenal Have That Blind Boxer Look About Them Again
I’m going to grow up and fulfil my dream of becoming a freestyle footballer at railway stations; I don’t care what anyone says. I will wow the daily commuters with my eye-of-the-needle two feet passes and unrivalled not-falling-on-my-arse skills. But when I arrive home (two storeys, no library and a guest room with trampoline) after a hard, sweaty day’s work completely happy and content, a small part of my mind will always be blackened by the thought of the February-March fortnight of 2011. No matter how perfect my future life is, I will always wonder what would have happened if Arsene had paid attention to player enunciation skills as well, and these two weeks from hell had been nipped in its evil bud.
If Man United were a P.G Wodehouse character (go jump off a well if you don’t read P G Wodehouse), they would be Rupert Baxter or The Efficient Baxter as he’s called by one and all. Yes he’s high-handed, arrogant and overall a bit of a smarmy cunt, but he’s efficient, oh yes. I can’t think of any team who’d play a legion of full backs in their line-up and win, which they did fairly comfortably in the end.
Both keepers had very good games, but they had people following up after their sweeping attacks while we had Denilson giving sweeping side-passes. This was frankly the least painful defeat of the three cup exits, because they were deserved victors. Fergie has drilled that weird winning ethic so deeply into the players’ brains; they sometimes forget how to lose, at least that’s what it looks like when I see them going about their job in a very well-organized and professional manner.
Looking at the run-in for both teams, I actually think we have the short end of the straw. We have six away games including ones to Stoke and Bolton, plus entertaining Liverpool and losing to Man United at home. And with red-clothed Baxters purring along competently in their horn-rimmed glasses, I’m filled with foreboding.
This is the third season in the last four where our wheels, nuts and synchronous motors (oh yeah, you just KNOW I aced my test on Monday) seem to be coming off as soon as we see the chequered flag fluttering in the distance. A potential trophy orgy has fizzled out to just the Premiership. I say ‘just’ the Premiership relative to what we could have achieved two weeks ago of course; I’d still chop off my right arm for the League.
Speaking of chop, our defence has been chopped beyond recognition. Almunia, Clichy, Koscielny and Squillaci; that has clangers written in bold all over it. Just to make sure, I like both Koscielny and Squillaci, they’ve had good first seasons in what is a tough league, particularly Koscielny who has been receptive to any mistakes he’s made and has since put in some very good performances. But when they play together, the number of defensive misunderstandings in our game increases exponentially. Contrast that with Djourou who has conceded only four Premier League goals this season whenever he’s played. I don’t know if Kos and Squill speak different dialects of French or what it is, but thinking about watching them braving it out against Delap and his towel boys makes my heart shrivel up a little.
But as this brilliant piece by Jonathan Wilson says, great teams are those who do not wallow in adversity, but try to overcome it. Last season, we were like a boxer with a bloodied eye and broken ribs for the last two months. We kept throwing blind punch after drunken punch after another blind punch, and at the outset they somehow hit their target. But our wild wind-milling blows eventually petered out and we bit the dust after the 3-2 loss to Wigan, guts splattered asunder.
Now we’re not in as bad a situation this time round. After all, we’re three points behind with a game in hand. But the bloodied eyes and broken ribs are beginning to take shape again. Adversity has knocked, not waited for an answer and entered the premises. We need to stop wallowing and start trying to overcome.
Here’s me crossing my fingers and hoping that each drunken punch and blind punch hits the target, because the margin of error now is narrower than our game when Walcott doesn’t play.
First blind punch at West Brom next.
Note: This post also appeared on BigFourZa