23 March 2014

Arsène took the blame, but I can't let him take the fall...

...not when I know the true culprit all too well. It's not Marriner, much as we might want to blame him for sending off the wrong player. After all, we were down to ten men whether it was Ox or Gibbs who was sent off. It wasn't Giroud for mis-hitting that shot four minutes in, Per for playing Eto'o on side
for the first goal, Kos for failing to close on Schurrle, Ox for handling the ball... it was none of them. Not even Mourinho. So, for as humbling—humiliating, even—as it was and is for Arsène to take the blame, this is too much a burden for any man to bear, deserving though he may be. No, I cannot let this fall on his slender shoulders, not when it is I, I and my accursed jersey, that should take the blame.

It was once a good luck charm but has now become my own personal hairshirt, and I shall never again wear it on a match-day 'til it be purged through the winning of silverware.


The first glimmer of trouble came, of course, when we went to St. Mary's Stadium and drew with Southampton, dropping points for the first time since the 0-0 draw with Chelsea (a match for which I didn't wear the shirt, a circumstance that seemed to only further confirm the shirt's talismanic powers). After the 2-2 draw, I took the blame for not laundering the shirt instead of wearing it as we again dropped points. I vowed then and there to wear it over and over again, unlaundered, heedless of the blood, sweat, beer, and tears that might seep into its fibers, enduring whatever skin conditions or rashes that might develop, accepting the glares and winces of passersby who take in its ghastly odours.

Sure enough, we defeated Crystal Palace, and I thought order was restored. It was then, of course, that the Anomaly at Anfield happened. I thought to myself, "it's still clean. It needs time to conjure its magical powers." Like Samson's hair, it had been shorn of its source of strength and over time would grow back ten times over. However, it has not to come to pass. Indeed, despite wearing the shirt lo these many weeks, the club has stumbled time and again, and players have fallen in turn. The draw at Old Trafford. The first-leg loss against Bayern. The loss at Britannia. The draw at Allianz Arena. Yes, for each of these I have worn the shirt, and yes, it has reclaimed some of its former, gaminess. However, it has failed to summon its former strength despite having a hand in defeating Liverpool, Sunderland, Everton, and Spuds.

Now, with the Shellacking at Stamford Bridge, it seems painfully, abundantly clear.  The jersey, which once bestowed upon this club its awesome powers, carrying as it does memories of the 2004-05 season, is not the talisman it once was. Indeed, it has become something else entirely, an albatross around my neck as well as that of the club's. It has now played too powerful a role in two inglorious defeats and can no longer be entrusted with the club's fortunes. As such, I will not wear it on any match-day from this point forward, not until the club win silverware.

It is with heavy heart that I give voice to these words, for this is the very first Arsenal jersey I ever came to know, and it has been a constant friend and reliable source of strength. This is the first season since I came to own it that it has failed, but it has failed with such frequency that I now doubt my original plans of passing it down to my son. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I shall wear it only when there is no match to play until I am forgiven through the winning of silverware. Let the cries of the women and children be my chorus; I will not be moved. This is may hairshirt. I swore once that I would not take it off until I was forgiven. Gooners, in their boundless compassion, forgave me. Clearly, however, something else is at wok here, a larger, unfathomable power, and it bids me wear this jersey, this hair-shirt. And so I shall.