Archive for April 4th, 2011

Football is back. And nothing has changed.

30 comments April 4th, 2011

I feel like I’ve been away from football for a good while. Circumstances in my personal and professional lives have conspired to force me to take some time away from the blog. Fortunately, the timing of the international break has meant I haven’t missed as much club action as I otherwise would.

Throughout my ‘time off’, I’ve felt unusually unenthused by the prospect of the season’s finale. Going in to yesterday’s game with Blackburn, we were nine games away from the end of the Premier League, with the title in our hands. And yet I couldn’t muster the appropriate level of excitement.

Perhaps I foresaw what came to pass yesterday. I’m not claiming to be any kind of psychic – a blogging Tiresias or footballing Mystic Meg. The simple fact is you didn’t need to be any great visionary to predict what happened.

On a day when United stormed back from 2-0 down at half-time to win 4-2 at West Ham, we slumped to a second consecutive home 0-0 draw. Unlike against Sunderland, we can’t claim to be unfortunate. We were poor. With Chelsea also failing to win at Stoke, United will probably look back on their result as the day the pendulum finally swung irreversibly their way.

A week or so ago I wrote in an email to the venerable Arseblogger that I couldn’t help but feel like our season was over. It was the sort of sentiment I’d normally avoid making public: it’s not good for me or you to allow the gloom to settle.

But for me the game was up as soon as we failed to win the Carling Cup. That game at Wembley was hugely significant, and in it every fearful suspicion about the team’s soft core was reaffirmed.

Beating Barcelona 2-1 at the Emirates was signposted as a turning point for this team. What no-one envisaged was that it could be a turn for the worse. Of the nine fixtures that have followed that one, Arsenal have won just two. One was against Leyton Orient. In the same spell, we’ve crashed out of three competitions, and are all but out of contention for the fourth. It has been a spectacular demise.

Spectacular, but not surprising. This is what happens to this team. They flirt with success, only to make an inappropriate move and be publicly rejected. It’s never a polite, “it’s not you it’s me” rejection, either. It’s a hard slap cold across the face.

The truth is it’s becoming boring. There’s been a lot of talk about empty seats and empty voices at the stadium on Saturday. That’s because fans are getting tired of the same old same old. Part of football’s attraction is the diversity of narrative – that every season tells a different story.

Not if you’re an Arsenal fan. The plot is more clearly laid out than an episode of Ballamory. And fans are tiring of it.

The longer it goes on, the more grating it becomes. When Arsene first started his project, Arsenal fans knew they had to be patient. It’s easier to get behind a team of young underdogs. When they’ve matured, and we’re constantly being told they’re ready to fulfil their potential, it’s all the more frustrating.

I’m not saying the season is entirely without merit. If we can finish second, above big spending sides like City and Chelsea, then that’s an achievement. But it’s not enough, especially considering the position we were in a month or so ago. Since then, the wheels have come off, and between now and the end of the season they’ll probably roll way off the track.

Forgive this stream of consciousness. But I had to get some of it off my chest. That, I suppose, is what the blog is for.

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Cesc Fabregas
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