03 April 2015

Oi, Scousers! Get yer knickers in a twist over this...

Dear Scousers,
I come in peace, or more likely, you've arrived here suspicious at best. Lay down your arms and trust me when I mean what I say. I'm not here to wind you up—much—and any attempts at that are meant as playful banter, nothing more, nothing less. As you and I both know, we have a bit a of a brouhaha on our hands, one that means a great to both our clubs. Should you win, the fight for a top-four spot gets tighter than Dick's hatband. If we win,we get to brag about climbing to second. Let's both leave a draw out of this as I think we both agree it would help neither of us. What's it going to be, then?

First, I owe you one thanks and two apologies. Those numbers might change over time, depending on how many glasses of scotch I get through, here. Thank you, then, for selling off Luis Suárez. Not because it stripped you of one of the world's most-mercurial talents, leaving you weaker even after using the transfer-fee to reload. Instead, I'm grateful that you rid the Prem of that scumbag. It had to hurt, knowing that he'd go on to various glories with Barcelona, but you did the right thing and I respect you for making what must have been a difficult decision. There's no room for his ilk in this day and age, and Barça's reputation has fallen faster than a a cheap prostitute's knickers around here (I'm referring to their reputation. I'm a happily married man). Next, an apology. Sorry for our role in the whole Suárez mess. For what it's worth, I was dead-set against the move even before that infamous 40m+1 business and even moreso after the Chiellini Incident. Google "Dracu-Luis" if you want more...

Moving on, I apologise that Steven Gerrard's final season with Liverpool hasn't gone better. I genuinely respect the man and wish that things might have turned out better. This does leave me in in a bit of a tight spot, though, as I'm not sure I can see past the end of my own nose. I can't quite bring myself to suggest that Liverpool should win on Saturday or win the FA Cup. Sorry for that (not sure if that's a separate, third apology already or a corollary to the second apology. Scotch...). The man deserves a send-off worthy of the name. To me, he represents the possible end of an era. Will we ever see another one-club man of his stature? Yes, I know that Tony Hibbert is hot on his heels, but, let's face it: Everton are not quite the same kind of club, are they? He could've been a contender, but he is somebody, never a bum. Gerrard, that is.

Here's my official second apology: I'm sorry for how Sturridge's injury-woes have sabotaged your season. Trust me: that comes from the heart. We at Arsenal know all too well the impact that injuries can have on a campaign. "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men" and so on. We'd seen the impact he's had since his latest return; what might he have meant in a full season? News that he might in fact be available for Saturday causes the bum to clench a bit. It's not even that he poses such a direct threat, but how he can unshackle your entire attack. Shorn of his services, you've had to depend overwhelmingly on Sterling, who's been good but not quite up to the task. Then again, in his own words, he's just a "kid". Had the Sterling-Sturridge duo enjoyed a full season together, who knows what they might have achieved?

As to Sterling himself, I don't know what to say. The contrast between he and Gerrard seems stark. Then again, Sterling strikes me as a symptom of a problem, rather than its source. He must be hearing all sorts of voices murmuring and muttering (Barça...Bayern...Real Madrid...). Speaking as one who's experienced the trauma of seeing a talisman betray, ask yourself this: do you want a player who's willing to dig in and fight for the club, or one who's willing to bolt the first time someone waves a wad of cash under his nose? We've seen a fair few favorites bolt, and it's been heart-breaking and stomach-turning, but we know that legends are made of sterner stuff. Somewhere between the polar extremes of Gerrard and Sterling and the eras they represent lies some kind of happy medium. I just don't know where it is or who it would be.

On the near-horizon, there's a match to be played. There will be time enough to sort those socio-economical and pseudo-philosophical issues. For now, let's set those aside and get down to old-fashioned football.

Thanks, as always, for your visit, and add your two cents to the comments-section, and don't be afraid of a shout-out via the twitter, reddit, or facebook links below. 'Til next time...