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Sweet Flowers Are Slow, Weeds Make Haste

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Upon the vast body of Arsenal support there are a few moles some of which when picked at or scratched may prove to be malignant. You and I know which are the most suppurating and pestilential and have learned through bitter experience to simply stay away from their written bile. There are other bloggers and tweeters and I don’t doubt, Facebookerers who, whilst not in the revolting masochistic anti-support category,  can’t quite bring themselves to wholeheartedly enjoy their football . They seem to want to, they are finding some positives from the season and probably roared as loudly as any of us when the four and half hours of injury time at St James’ Park were finally over and Howard Webb at last exercised the pea in his whistle to bring the curtain down on our 2012/13 campaign. I’ve skimmed through a few of their public pronouncements and whilst not actually horrified have been reasonably depressed by their insipid, grudgingly nit picking, response to our players and their herculean effort in turning around a season which went from negative spiral to top of the form table.

The constant bleat is fed to them by the media and repeatedly regurgitated. Could do better. Should do better. Will need to improve next season. Can you picture Christmas morning when these ingrates were children? Imagine their poor long suffering parents scrimping and saving all year to buy them some special gift only for the ungrateful wretches to tear off the wrapping paper, turn the new toy slowly in their chubby little fingers and force a reluctant smile. Then in response to  the hopeful parental enquiry “Well, do you like it?” they reply after a long pause “Hmm. Yes. I suppose so. But really, next year I think you could get me a slightly bigger one”.

Their reaction has been such a pointless, joyless way to suck the pleasure out of what was by any reckoning a remarkable run to the hallowed top four which so many thought beyond us. Why bother following a sport at all if you cannot be unequivocal in your enjoyment of the really exciting and good bits? It’s like not enjoying your favourite chocolate bar because they changed the colour of the wrapper.

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We need to improve. That’s the mantra. Fourth is all well and good but not good enough. This also is the root of the transfer tattle tree which grows and flourishes, watered by the dedicated sports media which is in itself an enormous financial concern and therefore has to have a narrative that runs throughout the close season. I’ll tell you what. Let us just for a moment pause from pouring scorn on these hapless and sad individuals and their blogs. Let’s treat them with pity instead and see if we cannot find some common ground. You see, I think we share more than may at first seem apparent. Just because we can revel in the fantastic thrilling photo finish which secured not only the much sought after TFF but also caused the bells of St Totteringham to be rung all around the world, doesn’t mean that we can’t want or hope for more. It just makes us happier and more mentally stable human beings. When presented with a reason to celebrate we celebrate. When the quiet evening of reflection displaces the afternoon of unbridled joy we are perfectly capable of looking with an unjaundiced eye to the future and saying to ourselves “Boy that was good. But just imagine if it got even better“.

What the poor doleful semi-supporters often misunderstand is that here on the positive side of the tracks we don’t want to settle for fourth any more than they do. Just like them we actually want to win every single game and tournament in which the team is involved. Heck I want our players to win every tackle, sprint, free kick and throw in. I hate not being the best. I’m perfectly capable of understanding the glaringly obvious reasons why we haven’t been the best for a little while just as I can see how close to the shirt tails of the best we have managed to cling. We need to improve to close the gap. We definitely need to be better next season to become the best. The yawning chasm which seems to separate us from the dismally pessimistic is that I (and I suspect you too) can see that improvement is not just eminently possible but has already begun.

In a way the campaign for next season started in the Allianz Arena. Our record since then has been more than impressive. It has been nothing short of phenomenal. I firmly believe that even if we only took our form since March into the 2013/14 campaign we would be challenging for the title come the following May. If you say that Arsenal needed to improve you have no choice but to accept that they did improve. You cannot recognise an indifferent sequence of results earlier in the season without acknowledging the superb run which succeeded that sequence.  The change for the better has without question already started. What makes me even more positive is that other reasons for optimism on top of that which we have already achieved are so easily identified. And no I’m not talking about a fantasy shopping list of new players to come in and sweep all before them. Without even considering transfers  I can foresee many reasons why I don’t just think we can get better I believe firmly we will get better. Here are a few for you to chew over.

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Olivier Giroud. Remember how I waxed lyrical about his dream of a ‘beautiful adventure’ with Arsenal? I said on this very site that I’d seen in his attempt at the spectacular a hint of what OG could be about. He nearly did it against Sunderland way back and he very nearly did it again against Newcastle in the dying seconds with an attempt at an impudent finish which was touched over the bar by Steve Harper. We have all seen Olivier’s work rate, team play, assists as well as his goals; sometimes brave, sometimes predatory. What I think we will see in his second season is a more relaxed player who will start scoring with some of those audacious long shots and delicate chips. Then we shall have the kind of striker defenders detest. One who can produce the spectacular, the unexpected. Frightened, unsure and prone to over reaction opposition defences will struggle with him and leave holes for the multitude of proven goal scorers the squad now boasts.

Jack Wilshere. We all saw the potential. Remember his performance against Barcelona? You have to be honest and say this season has been a time of rehabilitation for young Jack. He is coming back after a very long time with no football, an absence from competitive sport which came at a crucial stage in his development. Just like Aaron before him he needs time to get back into the groove. Next season he will, I predict with utmost confidence, contribute far more to the team than he has been able to do in recent months. Another huge improvement for the strength of the squad and far better than a new signing because his team mates already know him and his game.

Santi Cazorla. It is easy to forget that this was Santi’s first premier league season. And of course his first at the club. Such was the breathtaking vision and skill that he brought to our midfield at times you could be forgiven for assuming he’d always been there. Think back to other Arsenal greats and remember how they blossomed in their second seasons. Imagine all that talent, experience and ability now part of a team filled not with strangers but with guys he knows, with players who’s movement and strengths he can anticipate. It is a mouthwatering prospect.

Peren Kosielnysacker. We have seen a proper central defensive partnership bloom before us in these past months. That implies no disrespect whatsoever to any other defenders at the club because I believe this particular footballing relationship is all about chemistry and I think these two guys have it. They dovetail seamlessly, the are for me, the perfect fit. When you play alongside someone you trust and who compliments your natural game, as Kos and Per undoubtedly do,  it can only make you more confident, more certain of your own game and as more matches pass that partnership simply gets better and better. Imagine our defence improving on the post Bayern run next season. Heck, how will anyone ever score against us from open play?

Lukas Podolski. Poldi apparently played with a niggling injury all season which is why we only saw him in fits and starts. A frustrating time for any player but also a deceptive time for us supporters. We obviously only saw glimpses of a huge talent and a player who in his pomp is, I believe, made for the premiership. He has all the skills, all the experience, can tackle, dribble and score and plays in more than one position. Sounds like an Arsenal star to me. So once more, remember his goal against West Ham, look to the future and imagine a fully fit Lukas Podolski doing it week in week out. Now go and wipe your chin.

I could go on with this, new faces bedded in, young players more experienced and so forth, but I’ll leave you to suggest your own favourites. I will just finish on this note. While we are discussing the ways in which this squad will improve next season, imagine this scenario. Imagine if Aaron James Ramsay continues to improve at the same rate over the next six months as he has over the previous six months. Honestly, I can’t. Not because I don’t think he will continue to grow and improve but because I cannot imagine how good a player that would leave us with.  It defies imagination. If he simply remained at the same level he’s playing at now he’d be one of the first names on the team sheet but if he carries on his upward trajectory I do not think there is any limit to how far this young man can go nor to what he can achieve.

Of course over previous seasons we would expect several of these players to simply be poached by the financially doped teams around us. Now however, we are led to believe the purse strings are to be loosened. Let us please not blow it on trying to compete with the Oil Barons for other players. Let us rather use our new financial muscle to keep the stars we’ve already got and at long last reap the rewards of our investments.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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73 comments on “Sweet Flowers Are Slow, Weeds Make Haste

  1. Stew, your writing is just brilliant. A joy to read, obviously because of the content but I also I just enjoy your style immensely. Double his salary, George!

    After being treated to that incredible run-in, that impressive show of strength and steel from our boys, I find it hard to understand the “Yes, but…” people. “Yes, but we crashed out of both cups.” ” Yes, but there were so many individual errors earlier in the season.” “Yes, but we didn’t do enough to strengthen in January. ” “Yes, but Wenger relied too much on Diaby”. Good grief, people! If you can’t enjoy seeing your team pull off what they did, and be enthusiastic and optimistic about next season, I am not sure anything will ever make you happy.

    Steve_I, I get what you are saying about people who sort of enjoy complaining (although I hope for your sake your wife doesn’t read Arsenal blogs.) I work with a few people like that. I like them, and try to understand them, but lord, they wear me out. And I just have to distance myself whenever I can, because I can only take so much moaning. It’s why I spend my time here.

    And look! I didn’t say one thing about Aaron today. Except, wait, I just did. Dammit, I can’t help myself.

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  2. Well, hell, now that I’ve done it…

    Yes, ZP , I do see potential captain material in Aaron. So mature, and he sets such an example. Wonder if Chris Coleman is now wishing he’d been a bit more patient.

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  3. Nice writeup STEWW
    don’t worry about what the vocal minority is saying and how they keep moving the goalposts. We see the potential and the team spirit blossoming at ARSENAL and I for one will trust AW to do what is needed over the summer to strengthen this team whether by bringing In fresh blood and/or promoting Miguel, eisfeld and others from the youth set up. More than anything I KNOW he won’t abandon our model after so much sacrafice, blood and sweat and turn the club into another manure, shitty, chelski, pool, Newcastle or Tottenham. For what its worth i think he will be offered a new contract and he will take it to be with us at least until 2020. Good times Coming. Teams to watch next year. Chelski, ARSENAL
    to early to say who will finish top five .

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  4. OK KW, seeing as you’ve brought up the subject of our Welsh Wizard. I’ve noticed a real bonus which comes to those of us who stay positive when players aren’t performing to their full potential, those of us who back Arsene’s judgement when he stands by that player. Quite simply we feel a closer bond with them, a kind of an emotional investment in them so that when they begin to show what they are truly capable of (and Aaron is only just starting to show, he is young with creases still to iron out) we feel that’s our boy out there, he came good and boy doesn’t that feel good. It’s part smug vindication and vicarious pride and part sheer happiness for someone we’ve grown to care about.

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  5. @Steww 7:42 pm
    I think you have hit the nail on the head and driven it all the way through with that post. It explains perfectly why so many of us enjoy seeing the way Aaron has improved game after game after game this season. Especially because he was getting so much flak from our own quarters.

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  6. double canister

    i am with you on Ramsey.

    We haven’t seen even a tenth of what the boy is capable of. There can be no doubting a mentality/spirit like that.

    All his final balls indicate he is not calm enough during the most decisive moments, but then again, who at his age really is? cesc was a one off but he is struggling now ..really..some players have it naturally, most don’t.

    but what ramsey has nobody else has – which will make him stand out in the next few years..that much is crystal clear to me. and stand out he will, not just is our team, not just in epl, not just in europe but is the entire football world. it is so ridiculously obvious really 🙂

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  7. Arsene once said the players he respects the most are those who don’t have uber skills but are generally very very disciplined and make the most of their talents..and those who tend to over – achieve a little bit.

    I respectfully disagree.

    I think uber talented players who inspite of all their talent fight super hard and are generally very very disciplined and make extraordinary careers and be remembered for long long times should commend even more respect.
    These players with all the talent in the world are more vulnerable to lack of focus and attention as compared to that category mentioned in the first para. The players in the first paragraph literally have no other option but to play out of their skins to achieve greatness and hence in a way that is a logical course for them to take.

    However people like Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Iniesta and dare I say Van Persie (in the last 3-4 years at least) with all the infinite skill in the world but never took anything for granted are the players that everyone should aspire to be.

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  8. Oh well the point I was trying to make is – I see Ramsey as potentially one of THOSE players.

    He has technique and skill and he will not stop. Ever.

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  9. Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Jenkinson and to some extent Oxo and a little less extend Walcott.

    All these players have ONE thing in common. They never hide whatever the situation is. They never hide when things go horribly wrong. When they have just made a fool of themselves one sec the immediate next move they have their heads back up high. THEY KEEP TRYING.

    I think we are on course of seeing something truly sensationally special from OUR team in the near future. Fuck the trophies, they will come anyway. I expect much more than that. Really.

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  10. Oh fuck I can’t believe I rambled on for so long..Whisky is such a catalyst for me. lol.

    Sorry.

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  11. PG, the last mention by AW regarding AA23, referred to surgeries (?) I have been unable to drill down to any comments on Russian sites, regarding ANY malfunctioning this or that on AA23’s anatomy! Dental surgery, ingrowing toe nail surgery or of a similar discomfortable nature, would appear to be the problem?

    Arsenal Truth is an embittered old man, who would not give the correct time of the day, to any innocent enquirer! I came across the site a year or so back, as Arsenal Truth made a brave but completely foolhardy attempt, to construct a Payroll for The Arsenal. Needless to say, he has not the slightest idea of how to run a Payroll system.

    PG, with this site, we now know WHO the Alpha Arsenal supporters are! I was waiting for Limestone Gunner to appear, lo and behold – he has. Anicoll5, Mel the taxi-driver and YOU know who you are!

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  12. *sigh* Now you’ve done it, Stew. You’re going to get me started. Such a good post – I’ve never really thought about why I’ve gotten so emotionally invested in Aaron. But you’re right. When you choose to stand behind someone when it seems everyone else is writing him off, it does feel so good when he starts to show the naysayers what you always knew he could do. I am quite sure the joy on Aaron’s face when he scored against Wigan was reflected on mine.

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  13. Aaron can be guilty of sloppy passing, indecision, especially when he has too much time; cricketers call it poor shot selection, hurried is a good description, and somewhat adventurous; in itself not a bad thing. What marks him out is his all round positional play, and close quarter passing. He always positions himself to receive, moving, running into space; and always looking to attack. He harries and closes down when we lose the ball. In a sense he is not unlike Flamini, the grass he covers per match, just much better. But then watch his skill in the close passing game. It’s not as magical as Santi, yet, not as assured as Cesc, yet, not as free as Tomas, yet, but it is outstanding; mostly not noticed because it appears “workmanlike”. It’s how he got done in that injury.

    Expectations for Jack were unrealistic before his injury. Coming back second time, he was a little slower, less incisive, had a horrible short back and sides haircut and people quickly forgot what this lad can do with a ball at his feet in full flow.

    Both are at an age when improvement seems to happen in steps, all at once incredible progress, then nothing, then nothing, then all at once etc … it’s late-youth steep learning curve, not a straight line. It’ll be interested seeing how Wenger positions them. One way is Ramsey, Arteta Jack as a trio; Santi left, Theo right.

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  14. Direct quote from Tim Payton : “we need a couple of circa £30 million signings”

    Really Timothy? so “we” need to splash 60 million on two players…because it sends out the right message or summat, apparently. To whom exactly?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for world class signing(s), if they are available and they strengthen the squad, and maybe give it a lift, then I don’t see how anyone could be averse to it. The kind of thinking exemplified by Tim Payton above is purely facile though, based on naive assumptions, and from such a high profile supporter, not helpful to Arsene’s cause in the slightest. It ramps up the pressure on him to be seen to be spending “big” on “marquee” signings. I just want the manager to have the freedom to make the decisions he feels are correct…..because I trust him to do so.

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  15. As if monetary value is an even remotely accurate evaluation of a player’s ability.

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  16. we don’t need to spend big just right which ARSENE is proven in doing.
    Most people can be split into those who say we were one Newcastle goal away from fifth and those who say we were one Everton goal away from third ( and Theo’s post ) football is about fines lines but I think generally were on the right path

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  17. Yep Alabama @6:55, it can be wearing and having an ‘out’ as in PA is invaluable. Nonetheless, whatever folk think of the doomers from fickleonia, (I’ll call them fickleonians having just thought that up as I type) they will remain. They will sit next to us at the stadium, in the pub, on the bus, at work and part of dealing with them is, imho, accepting them. Once you can do that and demonstrate insight that folk on ourside of the debate find so much easier, then it becomes less frustrating.

    and Nope, the wife doesn’t read such things . smile.

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  18. What happens if a £30m player, such as Cazorla, is available for the princely sum of £12m? Do we pass on him because it doesn’t send the right message?

    There’s a strange train of thought gathering pace; now that the club is beginning to come into money we have to radically change our spending habits. It has to be all £20m and £30m signings from now on. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And we might not be able to do it yet anyway! The new sponsor deals only come into effect next summer and whatever ‘advance’ we may be getting on these monies, if any, is anybody’s guess.

    Man Utd are a financial behemoth yet they have been pretty choosy when it comes to spending £30m on a player. The bulk of their buys are in the £15-20m bracket – De Gea, Jones, Carrick, Young, Valencia, Nani, Kagawa, Zaha. That’s where they feel they get the most value for money and it’s worked very well for them.

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  19. @ Harry and LeoS
    My thoughts exactly. People fixate on the price paid, not the quality of the player.

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  20. Double Canister, I’m glad you’re not the only person who sees a bit of Zidane in Aaron Ramsey. In the last few games he’s definitely taken his dribbling to a level I hadn’t seen before. He’s also a hell of a competitor like Zizou. That’s probably why he was made captain of Wales ahead of Garreth Bale.

    I hear a lot of people talking about us needing to buy someone, but I just don’t see the need for it. Not when we have the likes of Ox, Jenks, Wilshere, Nacho, Vermaelen, Rosicky, possibly Diaby, Gervinho, Djourou and Le Coq waiting in the wings. If Wenger buys any one, I hope it’s someone like Koscielny or Sagna. The typical Wenger signing which one would be negligent to let go to an opponent.

    Awesome post, Steww.

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  21. Leo, Nani, Kagawa, Jones, Young, Valencia and Anderson were incredibly expensive. On top of that, with the exception of Valencia, these players haven’t exactly helped United win anything. The players who do make United successful are either very expensive, like Rooney, Ferdinand, Van Persie, cheap like Vidic, Evra, Rafael, or academy products like Cleverley, Welbeck and Giggs. Carrick is the only player out of this lot who is worth the money they payed for, as Valencia would have left Wigan for a lot less than what Ferguson payed for him.

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  22. Gains @ 1:32 pm – Tend to agree with you. Utd are willing to pay over the odds.They have it and they flaunt it. Despite the enormous debt service obligations incurred by the Glazer leveraged buyout, their net cash flow blows everybody else out of the water. Their investment in expanding their stadium and leveraging the “brand” (i.e. commercial revenues) has really paid off.

    While their spending has helped significantly, their dominance in England has not been based solely on their annual outlay for stars. As the flagship of English football they enjoy enormous institutional advantages which Slur Alex exploited to the max. Fergie time, intimidating or incorporating (Mike Riley) the refs has in my opinion given Utd at least 6 pts every season. Losses to draws and draws into win make a significant difference at the end of the day. No wonder Rafa during his stint at Liverpool accurately gave a litany of “facts” showing the unfair advantages enjoyed by Utd. He was laughed at and made into a whinger but the facts were never seriously disputed.

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  23. Excellent piece, steww. And I agree regarding Ramsey – who knows how good he will be? Even when he wasn’t playing well he’s never ever hidden. Never stopped trying and that’s what I admire most about him…Plays the game with fire in his belly.

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