The Arsenal Cataclysm - The Bradford Redemption
‘You were standing in the wake of devastation
And you were waiting on the edge of the unknown
And with the cataclysm raining down
Insides crying “Save me now”
You were there, impossibly alone’
These lines from Linkin Park’s ‘Iridescent’ sums up exactly the feeling everyone associated with both the clubs, including the fans, would have been feeling when Thomas Vermaelen went to take the penalty in the shoot-out. Arsenal, already under pressure because of their league position, their performances and the contract issues at the club, were staring at the prospect of being humiliated by the biggest ‘Giant Killing’ in English football since 1992. For Bradford, who in the past decade and a half have gone from being a Premier league club to almost being relegated from the bottom most professional league last season, it wasn’t about losing but rather about what they could gain by winning. For them, the financial implications were gigantically huge.
What happened next is HISTORY!
Bradford went to win to defeat the mighty Arsenal, a team 3 divisions and 64 league places above them. If anyone still doesn’t get the significance of the achievement – Bradford, a team assembled for a miserly £ 7,500 – all but one one ‘free transfers’ – defeated Arsenal, a team of players assembled with £65 million. Easily a contender for ‘The Upset of English Football’.
For Bradford, the cup win coupled with the gate revenues for the Arsenal quarter final will be enough to even out the £600,000 odd figure that they would have over-spent due to wages till the end of the season. Further, it is forecasted that the two semi-final legs at Wembley and the television coverage of those matches will bring in another £1m which will secure the long term future of the club which has twice gone in administration in the last decade. Although on a football field it was a great victory, the financial consequences for the club are even greater. Maybe this cash injection will fuel the redevelopment of the team and the club will finally gain promotion from the 4th division of the English professional football. Who knows, maybe it can drive them even higher.
For Arsenal on the other hand, it’s a different story altogether. The once ‘Invincible’ EPL champions are dangerously close to becoming ‘Invisible’ from the title contenders list. Almost every football fan is quite confused about what went wrong with Arsenal. Maybe it was the philosophy of their playing style, or maybe it’s the heavy reliance and focus on youth, maybe it was the steady outflow of talent from the club. A disaster recipe like the one Arsenal find themselves now in is not possible because of one reason. It is the combined effect of all those reasons and more. Which leaves us wondering how such an astute manager as Arsene Wenger has missed these points consistently over the past few seasons. And if he indeed has identified the problems at the club, why has he missed a trick in rectifying those critical problems?
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have largely been criticized by the footballing world for letting such talents like Fabregas, Nasri, Song and Van Persie depart from the club. It was openly stated that it was financial reasons due to which these and many others left the club. Maybe Wenger did not give into their demands of higher wages because he was worried that the club could become another Leeds United in the making. Perhaps it was to begin with, but recently footballing reasons and lack of trophies have added to the players’ worries and maybe that is why there is such an outflux of stars from the club. Also, the ones who left haven’t been suitably replaced. Will Cazorla be able to replace Fabregas? Will Arteta ever be as good as Vieira, maybe Song could have, but even he is gone. Can Giroud/Podolski replace the void left by Van Persie? Now there is a chance that Walcott will leave too. To make matters worse, he can leave on a free transfer. There are further news reports that the club coaches’ roles are being marginalised at the training sessions. No one is sure what is going on at the club. What is certain is that if the same continues, it will only lead to a greater disaster.
We might next hear about Bradford City after 5 or 10 years due to another giant killing or we might not hear about them for a long time, but if major decisions are not taken to rectify the problems, and soon, we will surely continue to hear about Arsenal with negative headlines for quite a while.