Sunday, 28 April 2013

THERE'S SHOW BUSINESS LIKE NO BUSINESS



So that’s that. Another point gained in the slow jog to a Champions League spot and another game undefeated. A draw against the newly crowned champions that somehow encapsulated a number of issues that have been scrutinised, analysed and postulated over in a season of, by and large, mediocrity for the Arsenal.

The returning ex player who left for glory or was it money or just the little boy inside. Good periods of possession but failure to turn that possession into goals. Defensive errors alongside some excellence at the back. A team that rose to the occasion on occasion but fell short of taking all of the spoils. Lack of cutting edge when it was most needed. Shortcomings in terms of substitutions and missing pieces of a jigsaw.

The sideshow over the guard of honour was nothing more than tomorrow’s chip paper and the vilification of our former captain was restrained on the whole.


Is the twenty something point gap between the two sides that pronounced on this showing? I think not. What is worth bearing in mind is that we really needed the points whereas United probably only wanted the points. Once titles have been clinched end of season tussles seldom give an accurate measure of the opponents relative quality. Having said that, the Arsenal drew with the champions and that is fact.

Three games and nine points must now be the mission statement before another, no doubt frustrating summer: our ace in the hole the Sp*rs v Chelsea game.

The bigger question is how and when do we start to turn this fixture into something more meaningful? This fixture and its corresponding one at Old Trafford used to be the only show in town: nothing matched it. Unfortunately one half of that famous double act that was box office dynamite no longer has the star quality to draw the adoring audiences. one half is not about show, it's about business. Many performers fall from grace but the true greats return for more curtain calls. 


Sunday, 21 April 2013

OUR THING


Cosa Nostra Italian pronunciation: [Koza Nostra], Italian for "our thing"

This season, more than most, has seen discussion about other clubs at an all time high. It’s almost as if Arsenal supporters are distracting themselves from the real issues at home by looking elsewhere. The on going disputes with our noisy neighbours carry on with fractious insult from both parties, there is a sense of glee at the failings of the Russian’s project club and sympathy for once mighty Liverpool. It seems to me that the club with whom we once tussled for Premier League supremacy are almost an after thought. Their inevitable march to a twentieth title was something to be observed from afar: perhaps with wistful nostalgia for the good old days of Keane v Vieira. Not now though. Aston Villa may not be the pushover that clinches the title before United come calling so there may be an ugly intruder looking to set up camp on the Emirates pitch come this time next week. An intruder who was given a firm leg up by the powers that be at our club. An intruder who was given a set of keys to the kingdom when we gave (yes I know the Arsenal received a fee, but you get the general idea) him the means to capture the throne in the shape of Robin Van Persie: the missing piece of Manchester United’s 2011/12 jigsaw that saw them lose out on the title on goal difference.

The Arsenal are the masters of heaping embarrassment on home fans as witnessed at Anfield, White Hart Lane twice and at Old Trafford, and the very real possibility of having to grin and bear it ourselves is now a reality. If Manchester United win the title before next week or in the following weeks they will have deserved it; I believe that the team that wins the title does so on merit, what I see next Sunday as is an opportunity, an opportunity for our players to show us fans something. If United come as Champions then we should do things the right way, give them their 'props' before kick off and then look to put them to the sword. But if they come  one result away from clinching the title, what better motivation in a lacklustre season than saying “Sod that for a laugh! Are we going to let this lot prance around on our turf at the final whistle while a travelling fan hands them an inflatable Premier League trophy? Well are we?!"

The thought of it should hurt every one of our players, they should be aghast at the thought of cringing in embarrassment on seeing the Mancunians lord it up on their day out in the Big Smoke. Let there be no confusion: above all else we need the points, and if in getting those points we put their celebrations on hold, or mute them all the better.

Should the worse happen, for me there will be a feeling of a final capitulation. When we emphatically prised the trophy from Old Trafford there was an inevitability that those we had conquered would be back to fight another day. Can we say that there would be a similar feeling on Sunday? 

Before I get accused of rampant negativity the facts remain that the Arsenal have accumulated 16 points in just over a month: which is great form in anyone’s book. The Arsenal playing at home to Manchester United still retains a certain jen es sais quoi and certainly we the supporters will be more than up for this encounter. Sunday is about denying the enemy and securing a morale boosting victory. The days and weeks ahead are the time for looking at the bigger picture at Arsenal (and boy, does it need looking at) on Sunday let’s see some defiance, lets see some bloody mindedness, let’s see the Arsenal deny another club, who may be needing those points, the chance to write a chapter in the history book at our expense by any means necessary. Even if they arrive as the newly crowned champions lets not see that as an anti climax, let's beat the Champions.

We win titles at the grounds of our enemies. That’s OUR thing! That's the Arsenal way.



Wednesday, 10 April 2013

PRETENDERS OR CONTENDERS TO GREATNESS


"Greatness is not measured by what a man accomplishes, but by the opposition he has overcome to reach his goals" -Dorothy Height


Muhammad Ali’s greatness was about many things: charisma, ability, cultural significance, power and technique, his greatness was also measurable in terms of his opponents. Ali existed in an era of supreme competition. Foreman, Frazier, Norton, Patterson, Liston, were all there in front of Ali and he still retained a place at the summit. In that context the Arsenal’s classic teams were competing against other great teams; a Manchester United side that is probably the best in their history and the Liverpool sides that made Anfield a fortress. The Arsenal won things consistently in a Premier League era where teams like Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Villa, Blackburn and many others had sides were far better than the current versions.

The great teams to compete against are currently not in our domestic league; they are in Europe. The rarefied atmosphere that greatness really exists in is the late stages of the Champions League. To be great at this moment in time means to be competing on an equal footing with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Dortmund.

The soon to be Premier Champions  reflect the relative qualities of the Premier League and perhaps we are currently of commensurate quality to the league we play in. What we need to do, as I believe all other Premier League clubs should, is to aspire to greatness. Certainly with the vast amount of money flooding in to the league next term there has to be a move towards this aspiration.

The 2013/14 season looks like being a huge season for a number of clubs. Chelsea will be appointing a new manager, Manchester City will be looking to wrestle back the title, Liverpool will have given Rodgers his first season and be looking at him to deliver, Spurs’ season may rest upon whether they qualify for the ECL or have won the Europa: certainly AVB will be expected to build upon his first season, Everton’s 2013/14 is all about life with or without Moyes,  Manchester United will probably look at a last opportunity for Ferguson to get that third Champions League trophy, Swansea will be expected to push for a top four finish and the fight to stay in the league will be even fiercer given the financial stakes.

And what of Arsenal? Wenger’s final contracted season may see a do or die attitude or will it be about leaving a sustainable legacy? Who knows what will happen. I certainly don’t.

We can certainly do no more than keep our momentum going for the final few games and ignore what others are doing; the one game at a time mantra has never been more apropos.

What is clear is that next season is a pivotal season for the Arsenal; that’s something that is often said but this time it’s actually true. Whether it’s in the Champions League, The Europa League, The Premier league, The FA Cup or the League Cup  What the Arsenal need to do is reach for greatness and in order to do that it must be at the expense of the mediocre not because of the mediocre.

Picture Via: http://arsenalphotos.tumblr.com/post/16177988298/i-love-this-match

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