50 Comments

Sing When You’re Winning

boxing-gloves

 

Big Marvin came up hard. Not inner city sump estate hard. A different kind of hard. Big Marvin grew up a part of the only mixed race family in a small hick mining town in the wilds of North Somerset.  He endured the name calling, the bullying, being singled out while those around him sniggered or just stared in slack jawed amusement at his plight. That was just the teachers. The other kids could be really cruel. Big Marvin took all they had to give and as a teenager began to grow. He grew at a rate that alarmed his former bullies and he became interested in sports. Not the kind that we enjoy; the sleek, elite racehorse type footballers who grace the Emirates turf. As if life wasn’t hard enough Big Marvin followed the maligned and appropriately derided clogging, huff puff of Bristol City. Football wasn’t his first sport though. The sport Big Marvin excelled at was boxing. He was a fierce competitor. He discovered the perfect balance between aggressive rage, powerful physique and control. Above all he trained hard and he listened to those who’d done their time in the ring. He listened, he absorbed the advice and he remembered it.

After coming out of the Army Big Marvin applied himself to studying. Never particularly academically inclined he now has a string of qualifications, multiple degrees and is employed as a lecturer at the college where I wander aimlessly through my working life. He often stops to chat, we have found we have some things in common, I find him a fascinating man. Something he said to me the other day came echoing back into my mind as I observed the various reactions  after our unwelcome opening fixture against Anthony Taylor. I had just complimented Marvin on his ability to hold his tongue, keep his temper and eat the shit the management feed their teaching staff in order to placate the disgraced and rightly derided body that is Ofsted. Big Marvin said he was happy to hear any criticism anyone could give him . Happy to have the positive energy he brought to bear on his work overlooked, ignored and any scintilla of a shortcoming picked at and chewed over. I told him I couldn’t take it. Don’t cope with criticism and as I’m pretty well perfect in everything I do that had never been a problem for me. Big Marvin smiled and placed a meaty paw on my shoulder. I felt that side of my body begin to slowly collapse under the weight.

“Stew” he said in a rumbling baritone which caused an emergency exit sign to fall from the wall above the door behind me “I remember my boxing coach once said something to me. I had just beaten another poor guy, hadn’t lost in fact since I started taking boxing seriously. I was feeling pretty good about myself and I said as much to my coach.”  I felt vertebrae popping and tried to show no pain as the weight of the enormous hand on my shoulder began to increase. “Well, the coach looked up at me and said, ‘Son, you don’t learn anything when you’re winning’ and you know what”  he gave my shoulder, numb now, the circulation long since cut off, a squeeze for emphasis. I was aware of a frightening crunching sound “he was right. I didn’t learn a thing when I thought it was easy. The first time I found myself lying on the canvas trying to blink through the blood in my eyes and wondering how I’d got there – that’s when I started learning about boxing”. I sagged with relief as the half stone of meat and gristle left my shoulder and took a moment to hope I never met the bloke big enough and hard enough to have put Marvin on his back that day.

Long after the physiotherapy had finished and my shoulder had recovered Big Marvin’s words remained with me. Or rather the words of his erstwhile boxing coach. You don’t learn when you’re winning. I’ve learned a lot about a lot of people after Mr Taylor’s virtuoso demolition of Arsenal yesterday. I have been adding to the pool of folk I follow on twitter and of course I’ve returned to this blog to be with the cream of our support and share the season with those who seem to be able to engage their thoughts before careering off out of control at the mouth. I’ve followed people who seemed not to be caught up in the tsunami of vitriol that consumed so many during the close season. Say something sensible about Arsene  or our players and I’ll follow you. It’s always good to have as wide a circle of friends as possible I thought.

And then we lost. Horror of horrors. We lost a football match. I’m not being sarcastic here. For a fan losing at home on the opening day of the season is an horrific experience. You have the pent up frustration of those endless weeks with no football, the excitement as the big day approaches and then the despair, disbelief and a feeling not unlike having Big Marvin squeezing your testicles. And not in a nice way.  You don’t learn when you’re winning. Or when it’s close season and you’re not even playing it seems. So what did I learn about my fellow supporters in defeat? I swiftly learned that we all suffer in the same way and we all express ourselves in our own way. Some flew wildly into fits of rage others went very quiet, some seemed to throw away the good sense with which they’d protected themselves from the close season angst and in a frightening volte-face began demanding Arsene increase his bid for Luis Suarez. £60m £70m £80m whatever it takes, you listening Arsene? Maybe I’m missing something here but spending an obscene amount of cash on a player who would have been suspended and couldn’t therefore have been sent off by Anthony Taylor in any case wouldn’t really have influenced the outcome of Saturday’s match would it?

Sunday morning therefore found me whiling away a happy half an hour going through twitter unfollowing and blocking the worst of the knee jerkers. As I did so I reflected upon the good people here at Positively Arsenal and how immensely grateful I am to have found you all. I’ve learned when we’re not winning who the good guys are. The people who try really hard not to allow their despondency, their frustration and their despair get the better of them. People who don’t lash out at their own when they find themselves on the canvass but instead turn their guns on the real enemy. Because here’s the nub of the thing, the part which those we know as the haters, moaners, doomers, bannerwankers and black bag brigade fail to grasp. We who remain positive, optimistic, who refuse to ignore the truth about our great club and greatest ever manager, we still hurt just as much as everybody else when the team gets beaten. We take it just as much to heart, feel tears of outrage and frustration threatening to break out and we hate it to the depths of our football supporting souls every bit as much as the next fan does. The difference, and the lesson I’ve learned, is that the good guys, that’s you, try harder. You try not to start a fight just so you can have an outlet for your emotions. You consider the feelings of those around you and try to put on a brave face, try to keep that upper lip stiff and offer a helping hand to those around you rather than a fist.

It’s why I write for this blog, it’s why I value your company so much and its why you are the only people I want around me to share our inevitable success.

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.

50 comments on “Sing When You’re Winning

  1. People who don’t lash out at their own when they find themselves on the canvass but instead turn their guns on the real enemy

    bannerwankers

    ahahaha marvelous..

    aftr the game yesterday and outside the armoury there was this unbelievable character in his 50s holding a bottle of beer ..sidestepping..doing figure8s and stuff and screaming/yelling with spit coming out his mouth “WWVee want ar auwd orsenal baak” …..all over the place…screaming on his own….initially i was disgusted..then i laughed and went on to spend money on replicas..i got schezneys as a gesture of respect since we now know he can cover as central defender too if needed 😛

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  2. That was just what I needed.

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  3. beautiful 🙂
    “As I did so I reflected upon the good people here at Positively Arsenal and how immensely grateful I am to have found you all.”

    same here

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  4. Aww. This is what I’m talking about. I was gutted yesterday. This type of post makes me feel better. Thanks Steww.

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  5. Morning all. Rough start to the campaign thanks to that dimwit Taylor. They done crippled us with impunity. Crooked bas••••ds

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  6. Tremendous post – wise words my friends, wise words.

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  7. Thank you guys. I just hope Marvin approves.

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  8. Nice one Steww…

    But we have to be honest with ourselves
    We were clearly ripped off by Mr Taylor (from Manchester) BUT its nothing new
    (Arsenal have few “good ol boys” to count on in the PL referee’s club)
    Its the lack of backup players thats the angst.
    Borderline sadism, if you ask me.

    We’re tethering now, on the verge of losing every positive gained from last season’s great run. I agree with AW’s policy of non-profligacy but nothing explains our inability to add 1-3 more players knowing what’s @ stake this season.

    I do not buy into the “spend big” philosophy, Suarez or the “marquee-player” hype but after sending out Coquelin with the clear knowledge that Vermaelen was going to be unavailable for a while, why did we not buy the DM/CB that’d help keep things in check?Adding Ignasi to the loan out brigade further compounded the situation that we find ourselves in after just 1 game.

    Now its crisis management all over again.
    Should have been handled better.
    Rocket science, it’s not.
    We’ve learnt enough from flimsy losses.
    It will really suck if we end up playing on Thursdays.

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  9. Aman. I presume you mean we should have bought earlier, rather than to suggest that we wont buy at all?

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  10. corr:
    “We should’ve learnt enough from flimsy losses.

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  11. I have forgiven Mr Taylor – it is in his nature – he cannot help it

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  12. Aman I believe people at the club thought we could get through one or two games with a rather small squad, asking themselves “what’s the worst that could happen ?”
    Apart the doom and gloomers nobody though this was going to happen.

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  13. Yes Steww, much earlier.
    Early enough to “ginger” the spirits of players & fans alike.
    Early in the summer, there was a real feel-good aura around the club…
    now ..?

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  14. Christ I needed that…tell Liz your not allowed to go on holiday again,just stay here mate, stay here….

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  15. elmatrox,
    “going with a rather small squad” was asking to be buggered.
    There are more than enough sad people who get off & get paid off our losses (imagined or actual). We seem to keep feeding the monster.

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  16. Well done STEWW
    fine writeup.

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  17. Spot on Steww, spot on. Thank heavens we have your wisdom to remind us why we gather at PA. We are people “who don’t lash out on their own….but turn their guns on the enemy.” I can attest to that after a misunderstanding with my friend B7 on Twitter last night. In PA fashion we fixed and have the real enemy in our sights.

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  18. Beautiful. Well done stew. The myth of AKB’s only being that way because they don’t care is shite. I was lost yesterday didn’t know what to do with myself. Months in the waiting to be crushed by poor refereeing for the most part.

    I love this little haven here. I’m very much on the fringes of blogging and tweeting but time permitting this blog and the people that contribute ate the voices I respect and listen for. Good on you all. Truly first rate support. I was once told the communications manager of Sunderland AFC that the players read blogs and far more tweets than you’d ever know. He apparently states that SAFC aren’t a 1 off. If that’s the case I sure as fuck hope that our guys know of this and see that there is unwavering stunning support for them and the manager. Come on you gunners.

    One last thing. We are always only 90 minutes away from a full u-turn no matter the current stance. I hope this blows over with the current managerial team in place. That would be unforgivable.

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  19. moving forward, we have 2 weeks
    we (still) need:

    1. to get past Fernabache – c/o Santi, Poldi & Mozart.
    2. a DM/CB (or both) – preferably experienced
    3. a CF – not called Suarez, unlike Giroud/Sanogo

    ..asap.

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  20. Thanks Steww!

    As for buying players. Had offers been accepted, new players would be here. The loss was terrible but a lack of new signings was not the problem. For me, I feel good because I can get to see Arsenal play, new signings are only important to me when they are actually signed. I’m rolling with the current players.

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  21. Thanks steww,
    Your write-up was badly needed this morning to pick us all up off the floor.

    That game last week in Helsinki was a warning, they are going to kick the shit out us us this season, its the only way left to stop us advancing further up the League.
    I seem to recall it wasn’t that long ago in England that if a team picked up 5 yellows (and Villa should have got more than 5) it was seen as an outrageously dirty team.

    This is the ‘Reilly’ brand of English football now, back to the dark ages.

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  22. Good news that Frimmy and Sanogo are close to match fit;
    or else we didn’t have any players to fit on the bench at all.

    Jack needs to calm down a notch, he will be targeted because of it, England player or not. Rambo and Per needed to show the leadership that Mikael would have given us.
    Santi definitely hadn’t unpacked his suitcase from the away trip with Spain – he wasn’t at the races at all, nice chip all the same.

    Onwards to Wednesday night.
    UTA

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  23. anicoll5 August 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    top top top quality comment. !

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  24. Doomers are such drama queens. Let’s focus on more important things like who is injured and who is available for the CL qualifier.

    Lol at the fat, drunk Chav in the expensive seats giving Koscielny shit for being double yellowed. The man represents everything that’s horrible about the reactionaries who call themselves Arsenal supporters.

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  25. clueless people gains69…utterly clueless….many were there waiting for something bad to happen to stick the knife in. a spokesman of the ownership structure needs to come out and put fans at their places. then the same person has to take on media and refs and ensure arsenal dont get screwed on the pitch. if ivan cant do it then lets hire martin keown to do it.

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  26. ha goonerkam so brave!!! and polite. ….

    funny how vitriolic attacks on the club are disguised as opinions now… haha

    so if 100 wankers are of the opinion that the club is failing and then that gets picked upon from media and magnified till it becomes fact…what will these shithead fans say then..that they were never part of it? it was their “opinions” that brought the poison… funny how they wont accept responsibility when manager;s position becomes difficult.

    its ok our ownership is strong, like fuck if they listen to blogs and other idiots who want to call themselves arsenal fans…. an arsenal fan DOES NOT even allow the idea to enter his mind that wenger is past it or has done us wrong.

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  27. After the worst possible start to the season, I’m beginning to realise the wisdom of all those who kept saying that AW should have bought some referees during the summer.

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  28. It’s so very Arsenal for the team to disband for international action, fly in from Ecuador or wherever, regroup over 48 hours or less, start with a shitty injury to a key player, and proceed to get an elbow in the eye socket from an unfathomably nasty referee and a dirty team with gung-ho about them. Makes not one jot of difference either.

    I consider it auspicious to start football with rotten luck, gets it out the way. I am a bit superstitious. From my playing days I knew a confident pre-game kick-about or first game was a harbinger of woe, very bad luck, and when we looked a bit stupid, beware.

    I can tell you already what comes after, but I don’t want to spoil your fun to come.

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  29. I want the fuckers to apply the same standards to our victories as they do to our defeats. So if we win in mid week, it means Wenger is a genius and the tema is not I’m crisis.

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  30. Hunter,
    The club need to show some balls and rescind some of the season tickets, where repeat offenders are found.

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  31. What a disappointing start to the season when I was feeling so optimistic. Hey, ho, it’s only one step on a very long road. Sad that even little JW has to ask the fans for their support, but they won’t find more staunch support than in this little corner of the internet. Thank you guys, and Stew in particular for being a sane oasis in a pool of poo. Onwards and upwards boys. Thank goodness the next game is away from the toxic atmosphere of our ‘home’ stadium. Those half time boos must have really gee’d up the opposition – what a great afternoon’s work.

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  32. double canister August 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    ha ..no no need to be as drastic…simply ignore them ..its the best… owners/directors etc to back the manager and ignore the fans and their hysterias …the doomers will stop coming to games….job done!

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  33. I just feel so bad for our players. Optimistic, upbeat, ready to go – dashed in 90 minutes of madness. What happened? I don’t know, I’m not that smart. But I’ll tell you this, all the armchair managers in the world couldn’t do a better job of figuring it out than Arsene Wenger. I am quite sure he’s made mistakes, what human being hasn’t? He took a risk that the light squad would hold out until the end of the month. It didn’t pan out that way. But no one wants this team to succeed more than he does. And I’ll leave him to figure out how to make that happen. My job is to support. And that’s what I’m going to do. And I love this place, because I know all of you feel the same way. I can’t do a thing about transfers, I can do nothing to stop or repair injuries. But I can support these boys, and think about what they need from me before I open my mouth.

    I sent messages of encouragement to most of the players who are on Twitter today. Will they see them? Probably not. Maybe there’s an agent somewhere who will let them know. But I can, and will, continue to shout to the rooftops that I am behind them, and encourage them, and say that I appreciate how they fight to the death every time they pull on the shirt. And I won’t bitch about no signings, or grumble about the board or the manager or the CEO. That does no good, it doesn’t make me feel better, and it would only serve to feed my own ego that my opinion matters one whit on those issues. Supporting the boys is all I have. And it’s what I’m going to do.

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  34. Exactly right. Job at hand is the game midweek. Can’t do a thing regarding the tangent fickle fans. Got a figure out all the able bodies that can contribute against the Turks. We simply have to get through over the two legs. Fener is not a push over.

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  35. Well said Kelly, and yes gk, there is a big big game in the offing.

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  36. Great post. keep it up

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  37. A guest post by the mighty Muppet tomorrow.

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  38. Great post Steww it was therapeutic. I have been unable to post anything worthwhile. I attended the game was perplexed. I think we looked unbalanced without Arteta. Villa were dangerous everytime our midfield broke down and they were allowed a free run at our back four. Villa made about ten forays into our half of the pitch and were dangerous in over half of them. The discussions about whether we do need a specialist defensive midfielder sprang to my mind and I would say yes.

    After 20 minutes or so I turned to the chap next to me and I asked whether he thought the referee was rather generous toward Villa and he said I was “putting it mildly”. I was alarmed at the performance of the ref.

    I am as postive as any on here. But I am now asking myself why have we not signed anyone yet? No pundit can explain it. Are they Arsenal haters?

    We have just ONE centre back now for our next league match!

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  39. Hello PA’s

    I’ve been reading the articles here for a few months. I’ve started to write comments but they’re so long, and quite emotional. (I don’t drink, though).

    I’m an “Untold-er”.

    I want to thank you for the continuing plethora of wonderful articles. This one today is what I’ve come to expect and love, and it has ‘done a job’ on me. A great job. Saturday was the very first time in my life I’ve attended an Arsenal match on the opening day of the season. As someone who watches the refs very carefully I couldn’t believe what I saw – right from the start. We know that’ll happen at Sunderland, Newcastle etc., when we play away at the start of the season, but I didn’t see it coming at the Em’s? (When watching live on TV I can guess what’ll happen from the name of the ref).

    I had a very bad night, and I actually had nightmares. I’ll spare you the details.

    I wish I could remember my favourite pieces from these pages, but there are so many – I just wanna thank you. Thank you all.

    And thanks for keeping away the people who want to spread the doom. I can read through the comments here. I can learn, appreciate, gasp, and recognise that I’m no-where near alone in having such positive feelings for all things Arsenal. This post and the comments are bathed in serenity and philosophy (and love).

    Steew, It was fashionable, years ago, to have one shoulder slumped, so whilst wishing your upper-body well, don’t worry if you’re more than ‘cock-eyed’.

    Keep on, please.

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  40. Only just read your piece Stew. Masterful writing. Really uplifting way to start a day. Cheers mate.

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  41. GP
    I was a bit perplexed at the BFG being so far up the pitch on occasions. It’s not like he could run back fast and recover his position.
    Without MA8, we looked shapeless.

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  42. @GP
    Here is my shot at explaining why we haven’t signed anyone.

    Higuain: we wanted him, we offered 23 million, everything was fine until Napoli came and offered 32. Now, at this point, probably a little fly told us about some funny clause in Suarez’ contract and, in all honesty, Higuain at 32 or Suarez at 40? Looking from a pure football ability level, that’s much better bang for the buck. So we went after Suarez and well, we know how much they dont want to sell him to us…

    Gustavo: Regular football (I think Arteta’s injury was after Gustavo changed clubs and I don’t really think he would’ve been first choice with a fit Arteta and Ramsey), being able to stay in Germany and a higher wage. Wolfsburg are rather rich and according to German reports they paid him more than what he was earning at Bayern. If we had offered similar terms he would’ve become our best paid player.

    And I think especially in the striker department it’s very difficult at this point in time to find an available player that would provide us with an upgrade. Most changed clubs for ludicrous amounts early in the transfer window (Cavani, Neymar, couple others) and those that are theoretically available either don’t want to move to us (Lewandowski, as an example, only wants to go to Bayern) or their clubs refuse to sell (Rooney, Suarez).

    It’s a funny situation we find ourselves in, flaunting our cash in the supermarket just to see all the aisles empty. Let us just hope the restocking workers get the job done before September 2nd.

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  43. @GP
    But I fully agree that losing Arteta has left us in a difficult position. I didn’t really understand how we set up, to be honest. At times it looked like Jack was playing deepest midfielder with Aaron in front of him? I would’ve expected us to do it the other way around.

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  44. GP, we have signed one player, no. However , we can look at United struggling to sign one central mid. I also think you have to go for who you really want and then if that fails move to the next targets, no? Maybe trying to get Suarez is wrong but this is what supporters have been asking for. Now that that has not come off people are saying that we need to spend. Well what the heck is trying it get Suarez?

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  45. As Wenger said, we did not lose because we did not spend. With that we should not pile that on top of what was an already horrid day.

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  46. Well steww, it’s a website now haha
    You know, i sometimes come here just to read the marvelous pieces on here and sit there with a content smile on my face- feeling all mushy to know that there are still sensible people all around me
    So much so that i forget to comment
    Up the(Positively) Arsenal

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  47. Evil, I believe Arteta’s injury was before Gustavo moved. Perhaps a small point in the end, really. The big issue is not explaining why it hasn’t happened so far except to figure out what we will have to do differently or better to at least plug the holes injuries and the clear out of players have conspired to leaving us short in the squad in defense.

    We are seriously going to miss Arteta. For me our most important player, while Cazorla is our most creative. I think normally Fenerbahce wouldn’t be so concerning. But right now this is a big game and a big challenge since many of those who are playing might not be at top fitness: Rosicky, JW, Ramsey, Sagna, Gibbs. Let’s hope they come through this with a big away victory. That would be tremendous.

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  48. Btw, has anyone seen Fenerbahce play last season or so far in qualifying? I have no idea what to expect other than that the atmosphere in Istanbul will be intense. From what little I have heard, they seem to have a porous back line and try to compensate by going all out in attack. Hopefully Theo and Podolski will have big games on counterattack, and I look for Ramsey and Jack to spray the ball upfield quickly to the wings. That that is pretty general.

    Here is my proposed lineup:
    Fabianski (this is now not just a provocative suggestion but a genuine belief that particularly in Europe and as an aid to possession, he might just be a better option to start in goal)
    Sagna/Jenk Mert Kos Jenks/Gibbs (I am assuming one of Gibbs or Sagna will be able to play! If not, Ramsey at RB with Jenks on left for Gibbs)
    Rambo (JW if Ramsey at RB) Rosicky
    Walcott Cazorla Podolski
    Giroud

    Bench:?!?!

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  49. I just heard something a bit more concerning, that Kos and Cazorla are ineligible due to suspensions from yellows carrying over from last season. Anyone know if this is true?

    If so, my lineup is going to be even more difficult to piece together much less the bench!
    Fabianski
    Jenks Sagna Merts Gibbs (hopefully possible)
    Ramsey JW
    Walcott Rosicky Podolski
    Giroud

    Hopefully that is possible.

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  50. Apparently cautions and pending yellow card suspensions don’t carry over to the next season. Very good news! Back to prior lineup, which I can see has engendered a huge amount of discussion (banned smiley face!).

    Is everyone just hunkered down in anticipation? To the club this is the biggest single tie of the season. I don’t know how others feel, but I really love European nights and would be very sad not to see Arsenal in the competition. I don’t think it would be as exciting to watch the early rounds of the Europa league at all.

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