Arsenal stand at a crossroads tonight heading into tonight’s crunch second-leg decider against Liverpool at Fortress Anfield™, with our season gone all Zimbabwean on us since my continued cyber-absence. I guess we’ve all learned now that Mr Jammathon is a plastic fan who is really a closet Chelsea-supporter (what can I say, Zombie managers just do it for me), but such is life.
I cannot promise this post will be followed by regular posting. We’ve pretty much ascertained that when I say I’ll post tomorrow (I’m sure I will, seeing as I’ll have a match to report on), I will get distracted by another of life’s callings. Needless to say, there have been many mitigating factors contributing to my not blogging.
These include university, family-matters, love-matters (head over heels, if we’re to be candid and if she’s reading this) as well as a few internships I’ve been sorting out with media agencies. Overriding all that, it’s been a mix of two things – ThirdGen attempting to bite off more than it can chew in the things it tried to put up on the blog; and the topic of today’s discussion: The spectre of the Arsenal-‘fan’ that has made me more than hesitant for the past few weeks to get even near the blogging tools. Heck, I didn’t even realise that WordPress have changed their layout, that’s how ‘absent’ I have been.
Yes, that Arsenal ‘fan’ that I am so bloody sick of. I’m going to sit here and lump you all into the basket. The fans who boo our own team off of their own ground, the fans who make Cesc Fabregas prefer the away support, the fans who insist on leaving those bright, shiny red Emirates’ chairs so lovingly exposed for the cameras to pick up on…
…how many times do I have to still hear that certain players are not good enough anymore? If I were to lay down my opinion here and now, I would say that there are a handful of players with no Arsenal future – through a mix of bad luck and age, Gilberto and Jens Lehmann should be leaving us come the end of the season, which is sad – Gilberto remains a gentleman with excellent conduct and sense of sportsmanship who was ousted from the side not by internal politics (as far as we know) but by Flamini’s newfound brilliance.
Jens Lehmann will forever remain a hero after his penalty save against Riquelme all those years ago, and inspite of the nasties he had to say about Almunia, will also have to leave like Gilberto – an understudy now succeeding the old incumbent.
But when it comes to the likes of Justin Hoyte, Emmanuel Eboue and (strangely) Johann Djourou, Arsenal is not going to be their happy hunting ground. Justin and Johann are lovely young men who have a gift for the game but are either not quite at the right echelon for Arsenal and/or have too many able bodies in front of them in the queue for their position.
Emmanuel is both, yet is at the front of the queue. Do not get me wrong – Eboue is an embarrassment to the side and must, must, must be shipped out at all costs – but he links interestingly into another critique I have of Arsenal’s ‘fans’.
The fans’ reviews of the recent draws with Liverpool at the Emirates saw criticisms leveled at all and sundry, it seemed. I put the limelight on two players here: Gilberto and Eboue. The latter, no blogger has yet to say, actually played well last Wednesday night. He plays well in a particular way, almost everytime he actually decides to play well – he’ll link up play, show some strength in possession around the halfway line, and then….!bam! – a dive, seemingly out of nowhere, will crop up. The team loses rhythm for a few minutes, he loses whatever rhythm he ever had, and down the drain we go.
With Gilberto – the man was a machine on Saturday. Not just in one half, in both halves. His passing was to the man, unlike previous matches where his radar has simply not functioned. He covered as best he could in front of a very leaky defence, and generally he did what his job description demanded.
Neither player blew us away with mindboggling skill or nous in their tactical placement, but they did a job (up to a point with the Ivorian). Yet again, Arsenal ‘fans’ bemoaned their very presence on the pitch in spite of their not-that-badness at the time. We’ve been ideologised into expecting better than what’s actually possible – Nietzsche would have you all for breakfast.
To the players who have outdone themselves this season – I look at Adebayor, I look at Senderos, I look at Hleb, I look at Gallas – these four players will never ever, ever please a whole host of Arsenal ‘fans’ out there irrespective of what they do. Hleb has been sensational for most of this season, but the minute he hits a low ebb of form, the knives come thrusting out in the hope he’ll be shipped off to whatever dustbin club we can find.
Senderos, despite a clean sheet at the San Siro, some lovely consistency and towering authority, is still seen (unjustifiably) as ‘I still cant help but feel Phillipe has one mistake in him per game’ – we apparently need yet another centreback to replace this bumbling fool, when the truth views Kolo Toure as the current ‘one-mistake-per-game quota enforcer.
Adebayor – I will always be a fan of yours after this season. Others will complain and moan about how hopeless you supposedly are even after scoring a minute after the very words leave the troll’s mouth. But you just cant seem to please everyone, can you? Too much of an (imagined) ego – a certain Thierry (read, almost every striker out there) has/had one of these, which is the billing for a top striker. Horrible first touch – inconsistent, more like, and the poor kid is only 23. Should be scoring three goals a match with our service – not when you have ten players behind the ball sitting against you. Why I even bothered answering that last one is beyond me.
Finally, William Gallas – the captain who wears his heart on his sleeve (HUGE plus, given he just came from Chelsea), the captain who had his contemplative moment with an advertising hoarding and St Andrew’s centre circle, the captain who is going through a lower patch than usual but who STILL improved this team so much at the beginning of the season with his kick-up-the-backside approach that we would not be anywhere near where we are at this point…is not captain material. All because of one little strop. Sure, he didnt fire the players up against Chelsea – it doesn’t work everytime. Sure, he had a cry at Birmingham, but I saw this as an incredibly good thing, unlike what the Telegraph has duped the rest of the country into thinking. Sure, he can be a bit of a tosser, but then most star performers are. He’s our captain. He’s one of the crucial reasons why we’re as high up the ladder as we are. Stick by him, you so-called ‘fans’.
The article, as you have already guessed, is a trademark rant dedicated to my favourite commentor on the blog, The Artist Formerly Known as Eboue’s Hand. I wish more fans could be like this fella – measured, bigger-picture, critical and yet supportive. Like our away support. They are the true fans. They’re the ones why Anfield is actually less daunting than the Emirates (to our own players!!!).
The match on Tuesday evening is winnable. Anfield is Anfield, yes. I hope Drakie is reading this, as we’ve had fervent arguments about the Anfield-effect. Liverpool know exactly what they have to do to go through. Thankfully, so do we, though we only know because of how talcum our defence is at the moment. We have to outscore Liverpool tomorrow, which is not as impossible task as it looks.
When the match comes around, we’ll all be writhing with tension, nerves and the faintest of hopes for the ultimate of ecstacies. I remain convinced that this team, with its demonstrated mental toughness, can blot Anfield out of their mind. If that’s the case, it can only come down to who gets their tactics and application right on the night.
Which team will it be? Smart people put their money where Liverpool sit.
I have my heart on my sleeve here. Tired as they might be, I am hoping for a Fabregas-Flamini-Hleb inspired tout at this one. Adebayor to nick the vital goal? Senderos to keep a clean sheet?
We might all be very dissapointed after this match. Maybe, just maybe, after writing ourselves off enough – we’ll just come through with a level of elation we haven’t felt since the San Siro.
Arsenal FC – prove your true fanatics right, few and far between they may be.