23 November 2014

Three things Arsenal MUST do to salvage its season!!!

With only 26 fixtures left, the final run-in is already here and there is simply no time to waste, no margin for error, not when a mere 78 points are still available. Having played to this point like a Championship side just happy to have been promoted, a yawning, unbridgeable chasm separates us from Champions League play—two points. Two. If that figure doesn't set your faces to stun, well, have a seat and put your hair in curlers for this one: We're eight points off the pace set by Man City, who sit second with 25 points. Never before in the history of anything ever has any side closed such a gap. Heck, that eight-point gap might as well lay down and take a nap, becoming the symbol for infinity along the way. Before that can happen, though, here's a SHOCKING recipe for how Arsenal can save its season for complete and utter annihilation.

  1. Consider not getting injured quite as often.
    Look. I know that it creates a magical storyline, one that brings that solitary tear to the eye, when a player, presumed dead, magically and phoenixianly, resurrects himself and inspires the squad to glory. It's a role that Abou Diaby has played to the hilt lo these many years, one that others have reprised time and time again, so often that Gooners no longer fret over injuries. When a Gunner goes down, we sagely stroke our chins, cluck our tongues, and shake our heads, knowing full-well that the histrionics are just that and nothing more. The player is never injured; he's merely setting himself for a curtain-call wherein he reappears, like a new signing, to entice and remind us of what might have happened had he not chosen to miss out on 3-4 weeks 6-8 weeks half the season. Instead, it might make more sense to set aside the melodrama and just stay on the pitch. We all savor the anticipation of an injured player's return, honestly, but it might be worth the formation of a committee to study the possibility of whether it might be worth reevaluating the current philosophy around getting injured.
  2. Be open to the idea of more-frequently scoring more goals than we concede.
    To this point, we've been polite to a fault. It's all too clear that we've eschewed emphatic victories out of a gentleman's concern for showing up one's opponent and of either being a congenial guest or a welcoming host. After all, who would invite in or pay a call to someone rude enough to reveal himself to be better than his guest or host? Manners do dictate, after all, that we downplay our virtues so as to avoid any awkward social entanglements whereby it becomes necessary to apologise for our successes or compensate for others' failings. Would you invite into your home a guest who refuses to wipe his feet, who belches at the dinner table, who engages in intimate relations with your spouse or life-partner?  Along similar lines, would you feel comfortable hosting again a guest whom you caught peeking in the medicine cabinet, rifling through your correspondence, buggering your hamster? Unlikely, at best. Enough, though, with the metaphors. At a risk of exposing ourselves as lacking in good manners or proper upbringing, we might do well to consider the idea of assessing whether or not it might be advantageous to occasionally upend social norms, and—dare I say it? I do—upstage our gracious hosts as well as our invited guests.  As always, though, one must mind one's manners and only exploit such opportunities as are made available.
  3. Remember that those who disagree with you should be abused with reckless, ruthless abandon.
    In polite, refined society, differences of opinion are usually best-expressed when stated in unequivocal terms, with little regard for nuance, contradictory evidence, or the basic humanity of those who disagree. Instead, it is far better to treat those whose opinions differ—even in the subtlest of shades—as the most vile, contemptible subhumans that they most assuredly are. Whether you pin all of this club's woes on the manager, or whether you ascribe this club's struggles to the larger machinations of other forces, above all, treat anyone whose opinions fail to match yours as vermin undeserving of compassion, mercy, or decency. The sooner we purge the unpure, after all, the sooner we shall claim our destiny. Or something. I lose track of who the enemy really is. That's okay, though, because the point of this point is to encourage you to set aside evidence or civility. After all, all that's missing from our campaign thus far is a Shakespearean orgy of back-stabbing recriminations through which we scarify ourselves and emerge, purified, on the other side. If you can humiliate a fellow Gooner to the point of tears, so much the better. Far better to be at each other's throats than to offer full-throated support, after all.
More seriously, can we remind ourselves of just how afflicted we've been by injury and to what degree we've suffered as a result? We're playing a left-back as a centre-back. We're playing a 19-year old with 41 top-flight appearances out of position. Ramsey has reverted to his 2012-self. Walcott is out, as are Giroud and Koscielny and Özil. If anything, our torrid start to the 2013-14 campaign, which culminated in winning the FA Cup, has only raised expectations rather than slaked them. Our frustrations and fears and expectations might not afflict the players on the pitch, but, most certainly, they don't help. They feel the pressure. It must crash down on them like waves on a beach, constantly, unceasingly, remorselessly pounding down, over and over and over again. Each missed chance, each conceded goal, multiplies exponentially until every single decision magnifies to a scale that defies comprehension. 

Then again, it might be worth reminding ourselves that, but for a few glitches here and there, we're only inches or seconds away from something much more memorable. Split-second decisions are much easier to analyze after the fact, after all. We're teetering on the brink of something, that's for sure. However, the way I see it, we're tilting towards something special, not away from it. But for a few moments of madness, a few short spells of silliness, we'd be riding high. We may still be before long. 

Until then, can we sheathe our swords or at least stop stabbing each other in the back? Whatever we may believe about Arsène or the board, tactics or strategy, we have to believe in the club itself. Whether we like it or not, we're all in the same boat for the foreseeable future. As Nick Carraway once put it, "tomorrow, we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." That past seduces us, suggesting that we can again become what we once were, and maybe we can, but not if we're at each other's throats, scratching and clawing at each other as if we're our own worst enemies.

For as disturbed and depressed as I am by our performance on the pitch, after all, I'm despondent at our behavior off it. I don't really care where you stand on the AKB/WOB spectrum. Managers, like players, will come and go as circumstances dictate. Rather than hoping for success or failure for how it impacts the tenure of manager or player, support the club itself. For better or for worse, that does mean supporting those who play on the pitch as well as those who patrol the sideline. For now.