Stoke 3-1 Arsenal: Over To You, Stan

Seeing as this season no longer seems to hold any interest for our players (with the notable exception of Robin Van Persie) I see little reason to continue writing about them. And yet here I am, sat forlornly in front of the keyboard, listening to the lovely Au Revoir Simone and wondering if it ought to be au revoir Arsene.

What is there to say that hasn’t been said before? I could right another screed about our inability to defend set pieces, but, honestly, who wants to read that? Particularly when the manager says fixing that five-year old problem is going to be a piece of piss.

We [have] conceded, I think, 21 from set-pieces and only 17 in open play. Less than anybody else in open play [but] we have been caught on set-pieces. Today, [Kenwyne] Jones didn’t even need to jump to head the ball in. That is something we have to correct. It is the easiest thing to correct in the game but you still must understand the flight of the ball and want to be first to the ball. I feel we are sometimes a bit naïve.

Ha! A bit? Oh Arsene. Maybe I could write about how it baffles me that we can hustle, chase and press against Chelsea, Barca and – wonder of wonders – even United, but that when we face anyone we deem technically inferior, we seem content to keep the ball and probe endlessly on the assumption that chances will eventually come, like some sporting version of Waiting for Godot. Waiting for Gilberto? That’s just depressed me more. How I miss The Invisible Wall.

Anyway, this morning’s Arseblog pretty much has the crushing familiarity angle covered off. As usual. The timely bastard.

If only I could find a light and pithy take on things. Maybe that would cheer everyone up. Something creative and inspirational. Like this. Bugger. Well done, Fever Pitch. Well done.

Given that Djourou seems to have blown up like a Bond villain’s base in the final reel – all three goals yesterday can be placed on his balsa wood shoulders – I could do a transfer thing about missing out on Chris Samba in January I suppose. But I have about as much enthusiasm for writing about Chris Samba as I do for going on a date with Chris Samba.

Or, I could try to write something positive.

Ha ha. Just kidding. This place is the last bastion of the upbeat, and even Siân seems to have downed tools today. If you’re looking for good news, the best I can offer is that Sami might stay.

Hmm.

I guess what I should do is write something which mirrors the performances on the pitch. It’d be all lazy bullet points, half-formed arguments, no real conviction to the overall thesis and a predictable lack of imagination. But the obvious worry is no-one would notice the difference. So instead I’ll just kiss my lucky rabbit’s foot, snort another line of dried four-leaf clover, and pray to the dark gods that our absentee landlord actually has some ambition and doesn’t just see Arsenal as a cash cow.

(As cows go, you’d imagine Arsenal would be weirdly skittish. “Is that a fox? I thought I saw a fox. Fuck it, STAMPEDE!”)

My suspicion, unfortunately, is that Silent Stan sees Arsenal as a club that can largely be left to its own devices under Arsene’s stewardship, finishing top four each season (it’s like a trophy!) to ensure the Champions League lolly keeps on coming. Unless that prize is lost, it’s hard to see him ordering, or even encouraging, the kind of bloody cull that many fans seem to crave. And anyway, I think it’s worth noting that most of the recent failures have been remarkable by the absence of Rosicky, Denilson, Almunia and the other piñatas the fans love to hammer. Which isn’t to defend those players, just to say that the supposed best XI can’t be absolved from blame either.

The prevailing thinking among fans now seems to be that just buying new players (older! Harder! Less stampedey!) isn’t going to be enough. Because the malaise at Arsenal runs deeper, and only shooting Pat Rice into space and replacing him with the ghost of the man who coached the Rorke’s Drift five-a-side team will do. There’s probably some truth in the need to refresh the coaching. Maybe. Who knows? I definitely don’t know.

What I will say is what I’ve said pretty much for the last three years. I’d like to see us try to bring in players with a more experienced profile, simply because that approach hasn’t been tried. And as Gunnerblog notes, doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome is madness.

[Aside: as this is being written Suarez is tearing Fulham apart, and Schwarzer has thrown one in his own net. One of those players should’ve been wearing an Arsenal shirt, I’ll leave you to work out which. Clue: It’s Suarez.]

Villa at the weekend, then. Maybe I’ll see if big Chrissie Samba fancies it. I could take him to Nando’s first. Treat him real special like. He can whisper to me about reading the flight of the ball as we stare into each other’s eyes over a chicken in pitta (hot, cheese, peri chips) and dream about what might’ve been.

– TDC

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