Tag Archives: lose

The Ties That Bind Us

Published in Goonersphere.

The once vibrant setting had lost its colour, and now the stark greys dominated his eyeline. Listless noises filtered to his ears, but he paid no heed.

Hands stuffed in pockets to shield from the unforgiving wind that buffeted around his surroundings, his body language was not solely due to the harsh weather though.

He had been warned by his friends that this was a destructive relationship, that it had been doomed for years. Blindness goes hand in hand gleefully with love though, and he had blundered on, ignorant of the perilous path he was taking.

He had invested his life into this hazardous duopoly, and the scars had begun to show. The hurt that currently enveloped him had transformed recently from the all-encompassing misery of years gone by, into something akin to the numbness you receive at the dentist. 

Were they aware of the pain they had caused? Why did he continue to plough on when on the horizon was the very real threat of sorrow? 

He lifted his head and sighed. 

It hadn’t been all bad. The very nature of his bind was down to the memories which he clasped to him. The adoration he exuded toward his beloved had bloomed in the perfect storm. Technicolour snapshots of happier times was the matinee which played through his mind when his brain sought escapism, and it normally was the ideal medicine which he was always keen to sup from.

Right now though, in the aftermath of another blowup, another stumble in the relationship, the montage of bliss did nothing to avert his mind from the darkest of clouds which would soon overrule all in his mind. 

The rocky terrain which his faith in their liaison now sat on was down to the series of moments his partner had disappointed him. They say it is the hope that kills you, and he had hoped it would change, but the destructive behavioural pattern had shown no sign of changing, until recently.

He had puffed his chest out and goaded the very friends who had denounced his affections. A few weeks ago, the relationship had been in the rudest of health. It appeared to the majority, even his doubting pals, that the habitual mistakes that had blighted their friends partner had been erased. 

That seemed so long ago as he stood in the same spot he had done for the past half an hour. He had ruminated on every second of the latest calamity, and as painful as it was, it had also served as an awakening. 

The fact that he would go into work and be the butt of the jokes, and be castigated for never learning, and how every weekend carried the ominous threat of ruination. It was the epitome of being a supporter.

The very word means ‘to support.’ Through the good times he had enjoyed, it was easy to declare your love for your chosen team. It was in recent years though, that had defined exactly what it meant to be a fan, a Gooner. If he even entertained the idea of cutting the ties which linked him and the club every time they struggled, then the ties weren’t strong enough to begin with.

He had angry thoughts and things he would like to change about the dynamic of the team, but he would never, ever stop supporting the club. 

They may be the root cause of many a lost weekend, arguments and pain, but when you choose a club, it is for life. There are some who wish ill on the very club they claim they support, but isn’t that an oxymoron, he pondered?

He could never even begin to think of hoping for a bad result, it just didn’t fit. He would go on and continue in the same vein of the last twenty or so years. He would look forward to next week and a victory.

A lady in a hi-viz jacket approached him, and said that the stadium was closing. He nodded and made his way down the concrete stairs. 

Next week may conceal another bout of anguish, but it also held the very tangible possibility of redemption, and the moment the ball hits the net from an Arsenal player – those seconds that your stomach lurches into your throat and you lose all sensibilities as you bounce around like a loon – were what makes these instances of gloom worth it.

He left the stadium with a little bit of hope again. 

Arsene Wenger – Life In The Old Dog Yet

Your family dog is more than a mere pet. 

Through the experiences and time you share, this furry bundle burrows its way into your heart. They become family.

Which makes the inevitable ending all the more difficult to endure.

That last trip to the veterinary surgeon in your car is steeped in pain and tears. The severing of the bond between you and your dog is painful and will leave scars.

Anything that has been in your life for a prolonged amount of time and has given you joy – the conclusion to such a heartwarming tale is always going to be scripted by what seems like a nefarious sort.

The above shares many similarities with Arsene Wenger and the season we have just played.

Facing many doubters before a ball had even been kicked, Wenger stuck to his tried and tested formula. For some, this tired approach had been unravelled by his rivals on countless occasions and it was a blatant sign that the Frenchman’s obstinacy would again be a hindrance to our ambitions.

Come December, and we were top of the Premiership. 

The naysayers may have been silent at that point, but the aspersions they were casting were not without merit. 

Wenger had indeed let the team down with some questionable decisions in the past, and his beligerence in the transfer market in years gone by had allowed our competitors to steal a march on us. This fine pedigree was showing signs of strain, and from January through until April, Wenger – aided ably by his players might I add – conspired to see the Gunners slide into mediocrity, and we were dipping more than a toe into the dark pools of awful and unexcusable. His hangdog expression and the team he created being sent packing with their metaphorical tails between their legs, only added to the analogy – this dog needed a show of mercy.

The team failed to function even on the most basic of plains. Five yard passes went astray.  Players appeared to be unable to lift themselves out of this funk – or maybe even were unwilling to. Teams began to systematically target us, and the losses to Bayern Munich, West Brom, Watford, Liverpool and Crystal Palace, glared an obtrusive light into the inadequacies of the team.

Wenger then changed tack. For the first time since 1997, Arsene opted for three at the back, which gave our wing-backs free rein to bomb forward. A subtle shift in position for Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the flowering of a player we always knew we had but had rarely seen. Ozil relished the space out wide and the space to float. The system worked – but why had it not been used before now?

Again, it was used as a stick to beat Wenger with. This once fine canine was now consigned to the cupboard under the stairs, as we perceived it to be past its best. 

Even the most staunch of Wenger fans could not deny that he was beginning to look like he was in the car boot, on the way to that ill-fated meeting with the vet. The long goodbye.

It wasn’t the formation change that really emboldened the critics though. It was Wenger’s reluctance to outline his future. 

Ex-Arsenal pro’s who had always backed the manager, questioned this approach. Uncertainty has never been the best bedfellow for consistency and a clear mental approach. If players who had signed for our club thanks to Wenger could not predict if he would be there next season, then surely a departure en masse would be the future for our summer?

Wenger should have came out and let everyone know his intentions, and as weeks went by, even the upturn of our fortunes in the League was not enough to stave off the journalists. Every Press conference became a witch-hunt, with barbs aimed at the manager, of which he swatted away but not without becoming a little rattled.

This was all of his making though. If the experts, writers and Gooners were exasperated by this refusal to confirm or deny his future – just imagine what the players would be thinking?

Then, our iron grip on the Champions League places each year was pried away from us, by our own hands. Our poor showing was chief conspirator as Liverpool sneaked in ahead of us. Now, all of a sudden, the Top4 apparently meant everything to top clubs, as papers, radio shows et al feasted upon this latest Wenger failing. 

It was akin to coming home and finding your old, faithful companion, solid to the end, had left a mess on your rug in the living room. His age had left him no choice, but it was fast becoming untenable. Soon would come the time when you would be forced to drive to the vets.

This FA Cup win however, has shown that there is life in the old dog yet. 

Before I get lynched, may I add, that I still think that Wenger would be best suited for a glorious farewell. He has served the club in the right way and kept our traditions intact. He has also given us expectations of glory and a stepping stone into the next generation of football. Without him, Arsenal would not be where we are now, which is a top club who have the ability to compete for the biggest trophies.

His switch to 3-5-2 though, and his adapting of certain players into other roles, has reminded us that he still possesses traits and assets that mean he can still steer the Good Ship Arsenal to sunnier climes. 

His masterminding of our 2-1 FA Cup win over Champions Chelsea was a big slap on the shoulder to all of us. Wenger had to make do without the majority of his defence, a 32yr old who had not started a game in 13 months, and his opponent which had blew everyone away in the Premiership.

Yet we absolutely blew them away, from the first to the last minute. He is still capable of producing a team that can duke it out at the top, but the question of whether he can maintain such excellence still resides over his head.

If, as we all expect, Wenger is given another contract – then there will be the inevitable sighs of derision. Another season of underwhelming repetition, and Wenger taking us further and further away from the big prizes. 

Can he throw away his stance, his blinding faith in those who have let him down, and get the players we need to complete the Arsenal jigsaw? 

Can he show the adaptability he has shown in the last third of our season? 

Can he begin to break free from the shackles of beligerence as he sees the opportunity for a glorious farewell? 

These quandaries still haunt him and they are there because of his own mistakes. 

We can doubt him, and our season just passed warrants this. What we cannot do though, is question how much he adores the club and what he is still capable of. 

A short term contract is probably on the cards, and we need to support the man whilst he is still at the helm. With backing and maybe a change in approach which he has begun to show, then we could surprise everyone.

This dog has shown that dreaded trip to the vet is not quite on the cards yet.  There is life in the old dog yet.

Arsenal Vs West Brom – The Warm Up

It’s Christmas Eve, but despite the festivities elsewhere, there are precious few who are full of good cheer as Gooners.

Two consecutive defeats have happened before in our past, but few of our losses have been so surrendered so voluntarily as when we lost to Everton and Manchester City.

It has left many who follow our club wondering if the positive start we had made in the season was another false dawn, and that the same frailties that have blighted our seasons gone by still course throughout our team.

One of the few things to raise optimism is that with the defeats coming in the thick of the fixture congestion, we have an opportunity to remedy the losing run in quick fashion. 

Next up is West Bromwich Albion.

Our two losses have coincided with the loss to injury of Shkodran Mustafi, who will again be out of the team. Gabriel is again expected to deputise. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out with a hamstring injury, but Aaron Ramsey has recovered from a similiar ailment and is in full training. It may come too soon for the Welshman, but a spot on the bench is not beyond his hopes. 

Danny Welbeck is another who has returned to training, and what the England striker brings to the team cannot be underestimated. This game will not be within his sights, but a first team recall is nearing after not playing since April. With The Ox out and Welbeck still nearing a return, it should mean that Alex Iwobi has another chance to return to a semblance of form, and the same goes for Mesut Ozil.

The German has been firing this season, but a player of his talent was strangely anonymous in our last two games – both of them we lost. A player such as he has been through critical moments before and will return to his best, but it is not unfair to expect a little more from a man who is capable of destroying a whole team with one pass or movement. He has had a great season so far, but all eyes will be in him to see if he rises above the critics as he has done before.

The opponent could have been easier, as any team managed by Tony Pulis will test the fibres of their opponents, and the Baggies are a threat at both ends of the pitch.

West Brom have a reputation of a rock solid defence, but have only one clean sheet in their last fourteen. They will be helped by the return of Jonny Evans however, although James Morrison looks to be out. Salomon Rondon will carry the weight of goal expectation for the away side, and aerially, he will run the rule over Gabriel to see if he has the mettle to survive in the Premiership. If he dominates, then Rondon could very well see the long term prospects of the Brazilian at Arsenal hampered.

Arsenal also have a problem keeping clean sheets, and Petr Cech hasn’t managed one in his last eight – his worst run in his career. If the Gunners manage to keep out the Baggies, it will be a well deserved end to that run of leakiness. 

Let us not forget last season when Cazorla missed a last minute penalty to earn a paltry point – West Brom will ensure we put in everything to win. 

West Brom in their defeat to United last week really tested Mourinho’s team, and were ridiculously well drilled. It was only down to an Ibrahimovic moment of brilliance, and a deflected shot that Pulis’s men were undone. They will rock up to The Emirates with a gameplan, and the perfect way to undo this would be an early goal.

An early goal would also dispel any negativity in the stands, so Arsene Wenger must instruct his team to go full throttle from the off. That is when we see the best of our side, so hopefully a win and an entertaining show are in store. 

Chelsea are nine points clear, and Liverpool and City have overtaken us. Not only this, tottenham are but one point behind. Three points or bust.

I will be at the game, and an in-depth review will follow the game. It would be much easier to write about a win….

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal

Predicted Team – Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis