Once again I find myself at a loss to know where to start after another shambolic defensive display in which we managed to toss away a two-goal lead. Hey, at least this time there were goals. Six in total, which I believe constitutes a thriller. At this point I’d be happier with the dancers from the Thriller video playing at the back.
Today, instead of my usual berth in the North Lower, thanks to an invite from a Fulham-supporting family friend I watched the match from the rarified air of an executive box. This also meant that rather than the fellow doomers I normally stand with, I was accompanied by Rachel, the fragrant wing of the Arse2Mouse alliance. It was her fifth live match, having come to support the club essentially by the osmosis that prolonged exposure to me brings, and her record to date is decent (if some way short of ‘lucky’): two wins, one of which was against United, and three draws.
Anyway, rather than bang out my usual diatribe, touching inevitably on lack of investment, tired tactics, and… Weirdly, not Dowd, I’ve decided to do a mini QA to see what a relatively fresh Arsenal fan, who isn’t exposed to all the nonsense of the football press, or the deranged ‘debate’ of Twitter, makes of the team and the matchday experience.
Q: After Giroud headed the first goal, to be honest against the run of play, (and astonishingly from a corner), you remarked that “we’ve scored too early”. It’s one of the great football truisms, but what made you think it?
A: Because it gives us too much time to mess things up! You’re always tense once the afterglow of a goal has worn off, worried about what the other team are going to do in response, and the trouble is I think the Arsenal players are the same. I’d rather they did 80 minutes of not much and saved ten of goal-flavoured brilliance for the end, the other way round is just too much for my Noob Gooner nerves.
Q: I also found it interesting that you said even when we’re winning, you don’t feel like we were winning. Nonetheless, we scored again, and ridiculously at that point I said we could relax. Like I’d never seen this team play before! Sure enough, Fulham got a goal back from a corner. Were you surprised by how easy it looked for Fulham?
A: I think I said to you that at one point it looked like it was a game of piggy in the middle, and that was true for a lot of the game. The sad thing is it doesn’t surprise me, I think teams play us now knowing they’re going to face a competent (not amazing or intimidating, just competent) Arsenal, or a scared and scatty Arsenal. As soon as Fulham realised they had scatty Arsenal they made the most of it. I feel like you suckered me in to liking Arsenal. When we first started going out they were good!
Q: I make no apologies. Sure enough, Fulham scored a second goal - and I have to say it was an excellent move, though Vermaelen and Podolski were horribly exposed on the left, as is very much the way of things these days. But let’s not talk about that. When I suggested you help write this, you told me you should be the site’s Official Olivier Giroud Correspondent. In fact, during the game you also told me: “I wish this was like Spartacus and I could just have him ordered to my quarters.” What did you make of the strapping eligible gallic millionaire with the oh-so-thick hair’s performance today?
A: I can answer this with confidence because I watched him *the whole time*. Seriously, he’s Arsenal’s prettiest player ever, right? Anyway, unlike a lot of the men in red today he just tried so damn hard. He covered more ground than anyone else (which explains those thighs) and when something went wrong, even when he wasn’t anywhere near it, he would throw his hands up or punch the ground - he really wants it. And I know you said he had some bad misses, but that’s only because he’s putting himself out there so much, refusing to play it safe. If we hadn’t had him today we wouldn’t have had much at all.
Q: You make him sound like a maverick cop who breaks the rules but gets results. Funnily enough Dave, who also occasionally writes here, also called Giroud “a willing runner”. I thought it was faint praise at the time, but sort of see it now. I agree he had his best game in an Arsenal shirt today, but still think he ought to have buried that header at the end – even if Twitter tells me it was a tricky chance. Were you surprised he didn’t take the penalty, given that he was on a hat-trick?
A: YES. And I bet he was as well. All French and smouldering, a look of handsome but pained confusion on his rugged and yet well defined…
Q: I get the picture. I think it was because he previously had a penalty saved against Coventry, and so has dropped down the order to take them. In fact Twitter also informs me the manager says Arteta is first on the list, followed by Cazorla. It’s all very well saying ‘Giroud is the striker’ or ‘his confidence was up’, but imagine if he’d grabbed the ball off Arteta and missed. They’d be… Well, about the same amount of moaning as there is now. Actually, I snuck a look at the internet during half-time (during which we were served a selection of chocolates – I chose a Bounty), and people seemed upset that the home fans had been booing. What do you make of people booing their own team?
A: I know, and Lindt at full-time. Why can’t we have a box? Yes, the booing. It must be hard for the players to hear but frankly if you’ve paid £1000 for a season ticket and you’re forced to watch that sort of performance, you should be allowed to boo. And maybe throw water bombs. How else can fans make their unhappiness heard? I doubt Arsene is checking Twitter much.
Q: You say that, but he’s probably a massive troll. I bet he’s got about twenty profiles and keeps tweeting stuff about how Coquelin is going to be better than Yaya Toure, all signed off with #goonerfamily. I don’t know what to say about the manager anymore. Part of the reason for doing this QA format was to avoid having to assess his position. I think I’m scared of upsetting a lot of the virtual friends I’ve made through doing the blog, who are generally more positive than I am, by coming out and saying Arsene’s time probably ought to be over at the end of the season. I saw someone tweet ‘Arsenal are fucked if Wenger leaves’ and then followed it up with ‘Arsenal are fucked if Wenger stays’. It probably sounds a bit dramz, but that’s roughly how I feel. What about you?
A: I can’t imagine he wakes up every morning with an Arsenal chant in his heart these days, it’s probably been pushed out by all the blood pressure medication. And if you don’t have that burning passion for the job anymore, then however good you are at managing the books your choices are going to be based on the wrong things. Arsenal need to win things, as many things as possible, even if that means spending a little recklessly or throwing the formation out of the window. And I don’t think Arsene has it in him, not anymore. I do love his duvet coat though.
Q: Really? You’re the only one. He gets hammered for that coat, as if it’s somehow indicative of the current malaise.
A: It’s so cosy, it looks like you could curl up in it and have the best nap ever. I bet there are secret Werthers Originals in the pockets too.
Q: Steady. Not in the current climate.
A: I don’t care, you told me to be honest!
Q: Okay , two more questions. When Berbatov stepped up to take the penalty I was certain he’d score. When Arteta stepped up to win the match with the last kick, I was equally sure he’d miss. Why is that? Am I just a miseryguts?
A: Pretend I’m saying this in my most soothing voice - you’ve been hurt before, your trust glands are all backed up. I think you just prepare yourself for the worst case scenario with Arsenal, and maybe rightly so. And every part of my brain felt like we should have got that last minute penalty, every film or TV show I’ve ever seen made me sure it had to happen! Which is why I am the idiotic sunshine to your big black correct rain cloud.
Q: You were laughing at how doomy the people in the Tube queue were. One chap said it’s the worst Arsenal side he’s ever seen at the Emirates. He’s probably right. It certainly feels pretty unlikely they’ll finish fourth. However… Did you enjoy the day out?
A: Yes! I still get impressed by the size of the Emirates, and the crowds (even if they were skittish like coked-up antelope today) and the singing. And I love seeing the boys on the pitch, maybe it’s because I can’t wander off to start playing Assassin’s Creed, but I always feel much more emotionally involved when I’m actually there. Besides, it *was* a draw. With the way Arsenal are playing, it could actually have been worse. And did I mention the Lindt chocolate?
PS Here’s a picture Rachel took at the start of the game. It’s lovely.